If there were an Academy Award for truth in labeling, writer-director Michael Davis' deliriously trashy mash-up of John Woo and Loony Toons would be a lock.
Mysterious "Mr. Smith" (Clive Owen) is minding his own business at a late-night bus stop when a hugely pregnant woman (Ramona Pringle) lumbers past and waddles into an alley, pursued by a thug. Smith decides to intervene — she's a pregnant woman, for heavens sake! — and before he knows it he's fighting a pitched gun battle with one hand and delivering a stranger's baby with the other. She dies, reinforcement thugs arrive and Smith makes a daring rooftop escape, newborn in hand, as sneering, sadistic head villain Hertz (Paul Giamatti) gnashes his teeth in impotent fury. And that's just the pre-credits sequence. Smith press-gangs mournful hooker DQ (Monica Bellucci) into playing wet nurse (why consider baby formula when you can work a lactating beauty into the mix?) and sets about finding out why Hertz and his goons are so hell-bent on killing an infant. It all has something to do with a firearms tycoon named Hammerson (Stephen McHattie), an ailing presidential candidate (Daniel Pilon) with a gun-control agenda and a secret baby mill hidden upstairs from a skuzzy heavy-metal club, but the plot is hardly the point. The point is action. Preposterous, virtually nonstop action that may just reach its apotheosis in the lengthy skydiving sequence... or maybe it's the massacre at the gun warehouse, where Smith improvises a series of Rube Goldberg booby traps while Hertz yammers and Hammerson Frenches his dog. Or maybe it's the sex scene that takes place in the middle of yet another pitched gun battle — Mr. Smith's multitasking skills are formidable. In any event, the gleeful outrages never stop.
Did years of churning out kid stuff like BEANSTALK (1994) and PREHYSTERIA! 3 (1995) leave writer-director Davis with a powerful yen to bust out of the goodie-two-shoes corner, or did he just have an epiphany when he saw Chow Yun Fat with a gun and a chubby infant in HARD-BOILED (1992)? No matter: SHOOT 'EM UP is a blast of sheer, thrilling excess: Owen killing people with carrots — vegetables aren't always good for you — Giamatti snarling like a rabid wombat and bad guys so expendable they don't even have names — they're just "Killer Shot in Behind" and "Gunman Stabbed in Eye" (with a carrot, by the way). It's funny without being toothless, adrenaline turbocharged without being mean, and utterly deranged in the best sense of the word. leave a comment --Maitland McDonagh