Shoot 'Em Up
If the character of superspy Jason Bourne was a cinematic reaction to superspy James Bond, pitting realism and brutal hand-to-hand combat against fantasy and increasingly cartoonish buffoonery (this was prior to Casino Royale), then Clive Owen's gun-toting, carrot-chomping Mr. Smith in Shoot 'Em Up is now a reaction to everything the Bourne trilogy stood for. In fact, director Michael Davis' hyperstylized love song to Hong Kong cinema, especially John Woo, represents such a regression that the non-Connery Bond movies could be mistaken as documentaries by comparison. There is not one moment in Shoot 'Em Up that asks to be taken seriously as anything other than a reason to enjoy yourself. Sure, there are great actors like Owen, Paul Giamatti, and Monica Bellucci, who add unexpected dimensions to characters that probably read as one-note in the screenplay (also by Davis), but don't let that fool you into thinking there's also unexpected depth to the movie.
Things start off with a bang, when the loner Mr. Smith, busily eating one of his ever-present carrots--a nod to the Looney Tunes nature of the violence that even sees him kill two men with the vegetable--witnesses a thug chasing a pregnant woman into an abandoned building. A comical, elaborately staged gunfight ensues, in which Smith reveals himself to be even more talented with a pistol than any of Woo's gunmen. The mother is killed while giving birth, and Smith, against his better judgment, takes the baby into his care. He recruits DQ (Bellucci), a lactating hooker with the requisite heart of gold, to help him care for the kid as he tries to outsmart an FBI profiler-turned-assassin named Mr. Hertz (Giamatti) and outrun a seemingly endless army of gunmen whom Hertz has hired to help eliminate the impossible-to-kill Smith.
Who is Smith? Nobody knows. He's the Man With No Name from Sergio Leone's infamous spaghetti western trilogy, but with one-liners that will make you groan and laugh at the same time. And, oh yeah, he's good at wire fighting. And, oh yeah, he knows how to act in front of a green screen. This comes in handy while executing a complex skydiving gunfight that, again, is so over the top that it passes glorified B-movie status and onto the world of Kill Bill self-conscious filmmaking. Also like Kill Bill, Shoot 'Em Up offers nods to dozens of the same movies that get Quentin Tarantino hard--from the birth sequence inspired by Woo's hospital scene in Hard Boiled to a finale that takes more than a few notes from the finger-crushing conclusion to Sergio Corbucci's Django. Long story short: Shoot 'Em Up is why theaters started selling popcorn.