Back in the summer of ’89, a popular action flick was calling my name from the shelves of the local video rental store. It was Young Guns, and I’d heard it was wild, gun-toting ride from start to finish. Problem was, I was eight years old and there was no way my folks were going let me see such a violent movie, for fear two hours with Billy the Kid would make me a career criminal.
Boy, have times changed. Granted, Young Guns wasn’t the baddest film on the block 18 years ago, but it was reflective of the then-current action standards. In 2007, we’ve got stuff like Shoot ‘Em Up, a film so over-the-top violent that the tables have turned — I wouldn’t let my parents anywhere near it, for fear they’d have simultaneous, massive myocardial infarctions.
Think you can handle a taste of the old ultraviolence? Read on.
Shoot ‘Em Up stars Clive Owen (Children of Men) as a vigilante hobo with an incredible knack for human destruction, Monica Bellucci (The Matrix Reloaded) as a lactating prostitute and Paul Giamatti (Sideways) as the depraved leader of a gang of assassins. Mr. Smith (Owen) stumbles into saving a pregnant woman from a team of killers, managing to deliver the baby whilst gunning down bad guys, but losing the woman in the process. So he’s stuck with the baby, and Hertz (Giamatti), the gangster, is dead-set on killing the newborn, so Smith is forced to protect it. Oh, and Smith gets Donna (Bellucci) involved, ’cause the baby’s gotta eat.
Plot-wise, that’s about all you need to know. Everyone in the film is crazy, violence erupts everywhere and anywhere, and the body count hits double digits before the three-minute mark. It’s called Shoot ‘Em Up, and that’s exactly what is. Forget about logic or reason or character motivation — any of that is purely accidental. This movie is clearly just an excuse to string together the most outlandish action sequences its makers could dream up. Depending on your tastes, that may or may not be a bad thing.
Just to be clear, Shoot ‘Em Up is not a serious film. It’s a send-up of the action genre, so while it’s one of the most violent movies you’ll ever see, it also has plenty of humor, much of it derived directly from the action. As for its success as a spoof, it’s a solid effort, but it doesn’t approach the genius of Naked Gun.
So, how’s the DVD?
Shoot ‘Em Up is presented on a single disc, in 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen format. It looks really good. The movie has a film-noir feel, so there’s some stylistic darkness and grittiness to the visuals, but also a lot of rich colour and detail. There are no compression issues, even with the film’s bounty of frenetic action, and source artifacts are non-existent. I’m very pleased with this transfer, and I’m sure you will be, too.
The film’s main audio is 5.1 Dolby Digital EX, and it sounds even better than it looks. Toss this disc into your player of choice, sit back and let your sound system assault you for 86 minutes. Everything is big and loud, with a ton of ricocheting bullets, explosions, screams and just about every other violent sound you can think of. Shoot ‘Em Up throws in everything and the kitchen sink, giving every channel plenty to do. Oh, and the levels are well managed, so you won’t need to worry about picking up the bits of dialogue mixed in with the action.
Subtitles are available in English and Spanish.
Thankfully, this single disc is also packed with bonus material. If you enjoyed the film, you’ll be happy to find the following extras to take in while you recover from the shock of all the violence:
- Audio commentary: with writer-director Michael Davis (100 Girls), who obviously really enjoyed doing this project.
- Deleted/extended/alternate scenes: with optional commentary, again by Davis. These are all worth watching, though were definitely best left out of the final cut.
- Making Shoot ‘Em Up: running about 30 minutes, this making-of featurette is divided into five parts, covering everything from script development to special effects to the final production. Good stuff here.
- Animatics: this one’s pretty neat — Davis animated (roughly) some of the film’s creative action sequences. Playable with our without Davis’ commentary.
Shoot ‘Em Up is one crazy, over-the-top action extravaganza. While I took guilty pleasure in some of the action sequences and one-liners, overall the film proved just too much for my taste. That said, I’m very pleased with the presentation — this is one of the best single-disc releases I’ve seen in months. Kudos to New Line for that.