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This summer, we are counting down our 25 favorite movies that didn’t connect with audiences on their initial release! View the whole series here.
10. Shoot ‘Em Up (dir. Michael Davis, 2007)
A live action, R-rated, Looney Tunes episode, Mr. Smith (Clive Owen) and Mr. Hertz (Paul Giamatti) are a Bugs Bunny and Elmer Fudd in the middle of a bloody gun control debate.
The movie isn’t too concerned with plot, but for those who need a refresher: a mysterious gunman delivers a baby in the middle of a gruesome shootout. With the baby’s mother dead, Mr. Smith is on a mission to save this mysterious child from a group of mercenaries, lead by Mr. Hertz, who want to harvest the baby’s organs to keep and old, crusty, presidential hopeful alive. Aided by a lactating prostitute named Donna Quintano (Monica Bellucci), Mr. Smith spends 86 fast-moving minutes destroying every person after him in new and gruesome ways.
It doesn’t get more complicated than that. We know who the bad guys are and who the good guys are. The baby is named Oliver after Oliver Twist, because orphan. There are a lot of “carrot kills” and they are all giggle inducing. The conspiracy at the heart of the conflict is found out quickly and the film plays as a jump cut from action scene to action scene. Each new location brings new kills into the equation. It’s gross and extreme and corny, and because of that it is darkly funny. I laughed a lot in the way that only things pushed to 500 million can make you laugh.
The characters are caricatures. The hero with super-powered gun slinging abilities. The sociopathic evil boss who will stop at nothing to kill our hero and his helpers. Our hooker with a heart of gold. The two women in the movie are treated like mothers or symbols of maternity and not much else, although Donna is a playful badass. There’s even a shoot out while Smith and Donna are having sex. Donna doesn’t seem to mind.
Sometimes these symbols are subverted. For example, Donna gives a back-alley blow job to make some money and buy little baby Oliver a bullet proof vest instead of a blanket. Oliver sleeps to the soothing sounds of heavy metal music. Mr. Hertz fields phone calls (set to the ringtone of Wagner’s “Flight of the Valkyries” aka “Kill the waaaabbbit, kill the waaabbbit, kill the waaabbbiiit”) between blowing dude’s heads off to tell his wife he’ll be home for dinner. Giamatti is also not the imposing figure we expect from a movie villain. He’s just some dude. He could be anybody. That makes him all the more terrifying.
This movie is certainly not for the faint of heart. If you’re looking for thoughtful cinema about gun control and the harm extreme violence can do in society, this isn’t it. If you’re looking to see the kind of garbage the world can become if we have no compassion and allow the rich to control the gene pool to save their crusty selves, the movie kind of explores that. If you’re trying to turn your brain off and let something wash over you, this is that movie.
Re-post from Cinema76.com