Shoot 'Em Up (film)
Shoot 'Em Up is a 2007 American action film written and directed by Michael Davis. It stars Clive Owen, Paul Giamatti, Monica Bellucci, and Stephen McHattie. The film follows Smith (Owen), a drifter who rescues a newborn from being killed by assassin Hertz (Giamatti) and his henchmen. Smith flees from the gang, enlisting the help of prostitute Donna Quintano (Bellucci) to keep the baby safe as he unravels the conspiracy.
|Shoot 'Em Up|
Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||Michael Davis|
|Written by||Michael Davis|
|Music by||Paul Haslinger|
|Edited by||Peter Amundson|
|Distributed by||New Line Cinema|
|Box office||$26.8 million|
According to Davis, the idea for the film came about after he saw a gun-battle scene from John Woo's critically acclaimed Hard Boiled in which Chow Yun-fat rescues newborn babies from gangsters. Desiring to make an action film centering on guns, he expanded the idea into a screenplay in 2000, accompanied by an animated footage with 17,000 drawings for the action scenes. After a deal with New Line Cinema, filming began in Toronto which was overseen by cinematographer Peter Pau.
Before its September 2007 release, the film was previewed at that year's San Diego Comic-Con and received a positive response. Despite a mediocre commercial performance (recouping less than its budget), some critics gave the film a positive review—including Roger Ebert, who described it as "some kind of legend in the murky depths of extreme action".
At a bus stop in a rough part of town, a drifter named Smith sees a pregnant woman on the verge of giving birth while fleeing a hitman. Following them into a warehouse, Smith kills the hitman by stabbing him in the face with a carrot and retrieves the woman's pistol. As more thugs arrive the woman goes into labor, and Smith delivers her baby boy during a shootout. Pursued by head assassin Hertz, the woman is shot and killed; Smith narrowly escapes with the newborn.
Leaving the baby in a park, Smith hopes someone will adopt the child but a passing woman is killed with a shot from Hertz's sniper rifle. Realizing that Hertz is trying to kill the baby, Smith saves him and tries unsuccessfully to leave him with a prostitute named Donna Quintano. Hertz soon arrives at the brothel and tortures Donna for information; Smith returns and kills his henchmen. After a brief confrontation in the hallway, Smith shoots Hertz and leaves with Donna and the baby. Having secretly worn a bulletproof vest, though, Hertz is alive albeit wounded.
Taking Donna to his hideout, Smith realizes that the baby (whom he names Oliver) stops crying when he hears heavy-metal music; he concludes that his mother lived near a heavy-metal club. Pursued by Hertz, Smith shoots his way out of the hideout and he and Donna head to a nearby club. Above the club they discover an apartment with medical equipment and two dead, pregnant women; Smith concludes that the women were all impregnated with one man's sperm so they could give birth to matching bone marrow donors.
While they are having sex in a motel room, Smith and Donna are attacked by masked men; Smith notices that his assailants' weapons are Hammerson models, unavailable to the public. He brings Donna and Oliver to a war museum and hides them in a M24 Chaffee tank for safekeeping. Smith infiltrates the Hammerson factory, seeing Hertz and Hammerson saying that they do not want the right to bear arms in accordance with the Second Amendment repealed by the next President, and notices that Hammerson owns a German Shepherd named Duchess. Smith booby-traps the facility with an array of firearms, allowing him to kill the thugs and escape.
He sees an article about Senator Rutledge, a Democratic presidential candidate who favors stricter gun laws. Smith deduces that Rutledge has cancer and requires a bone-marrow transplant, which is why he had surrogates impregnated with his sperm (and why Hertz and Hammerson want Oliver dead). If the infants die, the senator would not receive a transplant and would be unable to run for president. Smith tells Donna to leave town and contacts one of Rutledge's henchmen to request an appointment. Meeting on a plane, the senator confirms Smith's suspicions and Smith notices dog hair on Rutledge's trousers.
Deducing that the hair belongs to Duchess and the senator made a deal with Hammerson, Smith takes Rutledge hostage. Hertz emerges from the cabin and divulges that he and Rutledge had reached a mutual agreement to push gun ownership rights when the senator is elected president before dying from cancer. To reverse the deal, Smith kills the senator, and parachutes from the plane to escape from Hertz. He kills several pursuing henchmen, is himself shot and collapses after he lands. Smith awakens in Hammerson's mansion; Hertz tortures him, breaking his fingers to learn where he sent Donna and Oliver. As Hertz prepares to cut Smith's eyes, Smith breaks free and kills Hammerson and several thugs. Cornered and struggling to use his gun, Smith places live bullets between his broken fingers and detonates them with a fireplace, critically wounding Hertz. As Smith and Hertz grab pistols and struggle to kill each other, Smith fires first and kills Hertz.
He boards a bus with Duchess, and stops at an ice-cream parlor where Donna works as a waitress while watching Oliver. A group of amateur armed robbers enters the parlor; his hands in bandages, Smith shoots them by using a carrot to pull the trigger.
Michael Davis, Shoot 'Em Up's writer and director, had always wanted to make an action film which focused on guns and was devoid of explosions. He conceived the film after seeing a scene from John Woo's critically acclaimed action film, Hard Boiled (1992), in which star Chow Yun-fat rescues newborn babies from gangsters while engaged in a gunfight. Davis felt that the scene could be expanded into a feature-length film, a "gun-like" version of Run Lola Run (1998). By 2000 Davis began writing the screenplay, and put together a fifteen-minute reel of animated footage (17,000 sketches of action scenes) with a Wacom tablet and the iMovie app.
The protagonist, known only as Smith, is an homage to the Man with No Name of Sergio Leone's spaghetti Westerns. Smith's no-nonsense personality derived from Davis' frustration when his 1989 script about Alfred Kinsey failed to materialize as a feature film. His research about Kinsey and human sexuality in general inspired the character of Donna Quintano, a prostitute and Smith's eventual love interest. Hertz, who lives a double life as an assassin and a family man, pursues Smith. According to co-producer Susan Montford, the antagonist was modeled after the BTK Killer. Hertz's feud with Smith has been compared to that of Bugs Bunny and Elmer Fudd in Looney Tunes because Smith (like Bugs) spends considerable time eating carrots in the film. Davis acknowledged that the Looney Tunes reference was deliberate.
Davis sent the script to Don Murphy, a film producer he met at the USC School of Cinematic Arts. Murphy enjoyed the script because it "pokes fun at America's big obsessions – guns and breasts and violence, in that order", and helped him pitch the film to studios. He submitted the script to New Line Cinema executives Jeff Katz and Cale Boyter. Both of them liked it and passed it on to Toby Emmerich, who greenlit the project.
Davis' first choice to play Smith was Clive Owen, who signed up as the lead because the script impressed him. The role of Quintano went to Monica Bellucci, who liked the character: an independent woman who "does dangerous, dark dirty things in a playful way". The multilingual Bellucci dubbed herself in the film's French and Italian versions. Davis cast Paul Giamatti against type because, as in Sideways (2004), the actor usually played a "nice guy" role and he wanted to break the stereotype of a large villain.
Shoot 'Em Up was produced on a budget of $39 million. Principal photography took place in Toronto and lasted fifty-five days, overseen by Hong Kong cinematographer Peter Pau. Before filming, Owen and Giamatti were trained in firearms. Although he found the stunts physically demanding, Owen resolved to perform most of them himself. In the skydiving scene, he was aided by a Cirque du Soleil safety harness. Eighty firearms were used during production, and $70,000 of the film's budget was allocated for 6,000 squibs.
The score for Shoot 'Em Up was composed by Paul Haslinger and recorded at NRG Recording Studios in North Hollywood, California. It was made available for digital download and CD on August 28, 2007 by Varèse Sarabande. A soundtrack album of nu metal and rock songs by various artists was made available on February 12, 2008.
In July 2007, Shoot 'Em Up was publicized with a guerrilla marketing campaign by the London-based agency New Media Maze. The campaign included a viral video and a website selling bogus items ranging from bulletproof strollers to riot helmets for infants. A video was released on YouTube in which the company claimed to test the bulletproof stroller by shooting at it with a submachine gun while a baby was in it. The baby was then removed from the stroller unharmed. The hoax campaign was taken seriously by global media and the blogging community; Aftonbladet, Sweden's largest evening tabloid, carried the story on its online edition for some time.
Although Variety reported a planned release during the 2006 holiday season, Shoot 'Em Up was previewed in September of that year. The film was released in American theaters on September 7, 2007. Audience response to a screening at the 2007 San Diego Comic-Con was positive.
Shoot 'Em Up opened in fourth place on its first weekend, earning $5,716,139 at 2,108 locations. Overall, the film grossed $12,807,139 over six weeks in North American theaters and $26,820,641 worldwide. It was regarded as a box-office failure, recouping less than its budget.
The film's DVD and Blu-ray versions were released in January 2008 by New Line Home Entertainment with a behind-the-scenes featurette titled "Ballet of Bullets", 17 minutes of animatics and audio commentary from director Michael Davis, trailers and deleted scenes. New Line released another DVD and Blu-ray of the film in a two-disc version in August 2011.
The review-aggregation website Rotten Tomatoes gives Shoot 'Em Up a 67% rating based on 163 reviews (an average rating of 6.2 out of 10) and the consensus, "As preposterous and over-the-top as Shoot 'Em Up may be, its humor and non-stop action make for a very enjoyable film." Metacritic, another review aggregator, gave a score of 49 out of 100, based on 23 reviews, indicating "mixed or average reviews". Audiences polled by CinemaScore during its opening weekend gave the film an average grade of "B-" on a scale ranging from A+ to F.
Shoot 'Em Up's action scenes had positive reactions from critics, including Roger Ebert, who believed it to be "some kind of legend in the murky depths of extreme action". Peter Travers called it a "wet dream for action junkies". Although Lou Lumenick from the New York Post said the director "handles the material with great style and wit", a scathing review by A. O. Scott in The New York Times called the film an example of "witless, soulless, heartless movies that mistake noise for bravura and tastelessness for wit". Ty Burr of the Boston Globe called it expertly made and (tongue-in-cheek) the "Coen Brothers for Dummies". In 2016, Shoot 'Em Up made the list of "25 great action films that are 90 minutes or under" compiled by Nick Horton of Den of Geek!.
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