It's mindboggling that Shoot Em Up didn't merit a cinema release, because it is one of the most enjoyably deranged films I've seen in ages.
It succeeds both as a slam-bam action movie and as a satire on the excesses of the genre.
When he was pitching the movie, writer-director Michael Davis summed it up as “John Woo's wet dream” and this film has a lot in common with Woo's hyperkinetic Hong Kong action movies. The pace is breathless, the action tongue in cheek. I mean how seriously can you take a shootout during a sex scene?
The dialogue is a mix of the genuine wit and knowingly dreadful one-liners.
Clive Owen is Mr Smith, a hobo who used to be a super-agent. As the film opens he goes to the aid of a pregnant woman being hunted by ruthless gunmen. He delivers her baby – during a shootout – and the rest of the movie sees him trying to protect the little tyke from an endless army of killers.
They want the bub dead to protect their genetic-political-industrial conspiracy….ummmm……
The only person Mr Smith can count on for help is Monica Belluci's permanently lactating fetish prostitute – she's certainly handy to have around to keep junior fed.
Belluci plays her hooker straight-faced, which is some achievement, and Paul Giamatti happily steps out of his loveable schmuck routine to play the villain, Mr Hertz.
Owen, meanwhile, riffs on both his baby-saving duties in Children Of Men and the widespread belief that he, not Daniel Craig, should have been James Bond.
Mr Smith constantly chews carrots – when he's not stabbing people with them – and this tips us off that he's as much Bugs Bunny as he is The Terminator….
Shoot Em Up makes about as much sense as an umbrella made of ducks – and it revels in that fact. Did I mention that the baby's addicted to heavy metal music? Or that Mr Smith may actually be the Unabomber and/or a Nobel Laureate?
And then there's the title – Shoot Em Up: it's a perfect example of truth in advertising. As a full-tilt, laugh-out loud burst of movie madness, Shoot Em Up rates four stars. It's available now on DVD.