In this extremely violent guilty pleasure of a thriller, Clive Owen is Mr. Smith, a tough guy in a long leather coat who comes to the rescue of a screaming pregnant woman being chased by a creep with a gun. A warehouse shoot-out and birth ensue, and before long, Smith is tucking the infant under his arm and running for his life, a snarling Paul Giamatti and an army of hit men on his tail. Writer-director Michael Davis freely admits to lifting the idea for Shoot ‘Em Up from the classic baby-in-peril hospital shoot-out in John Woo’s 1992 thriller Hard-Boiled, a strategy he expands by gleefully referencing Raising Arizona, The Matrix, and James Bond movies. Riffing on 007 is such old hat as to be a sign of lazy screenwriting, but the jokes take on new resonance with the presence of Owen. There’s no way to watch this Oscar-nominated Brit running, leaping, and firing a gun in a single, elegant bound and not wonder anew just how close he came to landing the big part.
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on August 28, 2007