Shoot ‘Em Up is two-thirds bad taste and a quarter stupid, and before you go questioning my maths, don’t – it didn’t add up to a whole film either. Everyone knows by now that computer games don’t make good films, but this takes things one step further by making a film out of a genre of computer games instead of a specific one. There’s probably something philosophic in that, existential or post-modern or smart-arsed, but I don’t know what. Maybe that’s the remaining… er… bit in the equation.
Clive Owen… sigh… plays one Mr. Smith, a carrot-crunching bystander who takes exception to an armed man about to murder a heavily pregnant woman (obviously) and winds up delivering a baby while shooting twenty or so other armed men before coming face to puffy ugly face with Paul Giamatti, a disgusting former-government sociopath and disgruntled husband whose plan to get home for his son’s birthday is being scuppered by this newly made mother, her gruff do-gooder midwife and their collective reluctance to conveniently die.
Inconveniently die is what the new mummy soon does however, leaving Ooor Clive holding the baby and paving the way for top level quips along the lines of “I’m a British nanny, and I’m dangerous” – remember what I said about taste? He quickly makes a bee-line for a busty, lactating novelty-hooker (Monica Bellucci) who is forced by gun-totting circumstance to throw in her lot with the pair of them, although she resolutely refuses to share the goods with little Oliver, as they choose to name him – Oliver Twist being one of the few things Mr. Smith doesn’t hate.
Of the many things he does hate it seems “other men” is high on the list, as the running time in minutes is playing catch up on the body count from very early on – and basically that’s all there is to it. There’s a reasonably offensive explanation for why the bad guys are so keen to ice the ankle-biter, but its little more than an afterthought amidst the carnage, of which there is more than plenty… too much more to be honest. It all gets a bit boring after a while, with the exception of a couple of amusing highlights. Well, one that I can think of. It has been a couple of hours now.
The problem… the principle problem… the societal fuck-up that is at the heart of S’EU is that everyone involved thought they were making a film when they weren’t. Anyone who has ever played an actual shoot ’em up computer game will know that it can be fun – you get to kill things, sometimes people, without being punished in any conventionally significant sense of the word. Anyone who has ever watched someone else play a shoot ’em up will know that it can be fun, for a while, because you can at least go “ooh, there’s one” or “in the corner” or “nice shot” and feel like you are contributing something to the experience; but these people will also know that it gets a bit dull after a while, and they will start reading the game manual, or looking around the room, or begin conversations with someone who won’t make eye contact with them and only say “yeah” or “uh-huh” or “hang on, this bit is a fucker” because they don’t want to be killed by a piece of graphic.
What then the experience of watching no-one play something which looks like a very sophisticated computer game, but isn’t one (and so isn’t really a film either)? Well, hard to say. If shooting sprites is to killing someone what having a wank is to sex, then the experience of Shoot ‘Em Up is a bit like watching porn with your hands tied behind your back. Glossy, repetitive, occasionally funny but deadening to the imagination, and if it goes on for more than an hour and a half, quite frustrating. Fortunately it doesn’t, but I can’t really recommend it for that.
Alternatively, you can have a sense of humour about the whole thing, thrill to Owen’s non-stop novelty gun-play, laugh at Giamatti’s unusual take on comic-villainy and gaze long into Bellucci’s abyssal cleavage, while reminding yourself that it’s just a bit of fun, innit, just a bit of fun, gowan, just a bit of fun. In which case… even by that standard its not much cop.