Shoot 'em Up on Blu-ray Disc
Ever wondered what a Bugs Bunny cartoon might look like if it were directed by Sam Peckinpah or Quentin Tarantino?
If so, "Shoot 'em Up" may provide your answer. It's brash, loud, graphically and gratuitously violent to the extreme - and yet it's surprisingly entertaining and compelling at the same time.
It's a 24 carrot adventure in which Bugs, in this case Mr. Smith (Clive Owen) spends the film's running time trying to save a newborn baby who happens to fall into his hands (literally, since he delivers the kid) from a bunch of vicious thugs led by Elmer Fudd (a.k.a. Hertz, an entertaining and surprisingly human villain played deliciously by Paul Giamatti). On hand to help Smith, provide the requisite love interest, and generally add some welcome decoration to the blood-soaked proceedings, is Monica Bellucci as a lactating hooker who provides the baby's breast, er, best chance for survival.
We won't give away the plot, which is actually better than we had expected going in and knowing little about the movie other than its title and basic premise. Think Bugs versus Elmer, in which little Bugs is busy minding his own business when Elmer (or perhaps Daffy Duck) comes along and throws his life into turmoil - "Of course you know, this means war."
Yet we can't remember the last time Bugs used a carrot as a weapon (we seem to remember fake carrots being filled with explosives, and shticks like that, though). On the other hand, some of the action here is quite reminiscent of Looney Tunes, where bulls can float long distances through the air while a Rube Goldberg-style fate is being inflicted on them - or in this case where Smith slides along a conveyer belt (and a variety of other things) offing a plethora of punks with his perfect pistol packin'.
If you watch the movie with your tongue firmly in your cheek, keeping the Looney Tunes aspect uppermost in your mind, you can have a really good time during this bloodbath. It isn't a great movie by any means, but it is a heckuva lot of fun as long as you aren't gentle of heart.
Heck, even the main bad guy is likeable in his own way, and Owen's character is more three dimensional than you might expect from a film such as this - it appears that he has even read a book! And if you like the kind of one liners thrown away by the protagonist in just about any Bond movie, you'll appreciate the wit of "Shoot 'em Up."
The violence doesn't begin in the first frame, but you're getting into it in the first minute or two, and from there until the end it doesn't let up for more than a couple of moments at a time. It's graphic, but basically comic book or schlocky martial arts movie-type.
We lost count of the number of rounds expended by about the five minute mark, but we enjoyed Smith's imaginative strategies (which are also very - too - convenient, as when a cartoon character reaches out of frame to pull into view a prop that wasn't there a second ago when the shot was a little longer), the car chases and even the rather derivative ("Moonraker") skydiving sequence. Put your brain on hold and hold on tight to your home theater chair's arms, and let the roller coaster roll.
The Blu-ray is excellent. Picture quality, which of course is 1080p, is razor sharp and shows good depth. It isn't as "reach into the screen and touch the characters" deep as some, but this is due in part to the overall look, which is a tad cartoonish as opposed to realistic (and appropriately so). But it looked great on our 1080p projector.
Ditto for the audio, which is presented in the 7.1 dts-HD Master Audio format. We experienced it in a 5.1 setup, and it was very satisfying. The bass rumbles nicely (which comes in handy when there are plenty of rounds expended, cars crashing, etc.) and the ammunition whizzes around the room very well.
Extras abound, including an audio commentary from writer/director Michael Davis and a demo of the film's concept he animated himself to try getting the film sold (apparently, he was successful). There's also a selection of deleted scenes (with optional commentary), an interesting and nearly hour-long documentary on the making of the film ("Ballet of Bullets," which describes the movie pretty well), and some trailers.
Pop the corn, put your brain in neutral, and get ready for the ride. It's a guilty pleasure, indeed, but one that brought far more pleasure than we expected - and now we feel guilty about it.
Shoot 'em Up, from Alliance Atlantis Home Entertainment/New Line Cinema
Jim Bray's columns are available from the TechnoFile Syndicate.