Big gun blockbuster is amusing, but full of holes

Even though school has started, it still feels like summer because of the unbearable heat. In theaters it still feels like summer because studios are dumping the last of the season’s typical light fare. “Shoot ‘Em Up” is one such movie, sending the summer off not with a bang, but a fizzle.

If you haven’t seen the ads, fret not because all you need to know about “Shoot ‘Em Up” is conveniently stored in its title. Protagonist Smith (Clive Owen) is just minding his own business, snacking on a carrot, when he is forced to save a baby from antagonist Hertz (Paul Giamatti) and his endless stream of nameless thugs.

Smith picks up a love interest (Monica Bellucci) at one point, but like the rest of the movie their relationship seems rushed. More like a video game than anything, it’s a series of action set pieces loosely thrown together by a story that would be ludicrous if it weren’t so irrelevant to the movie.

The film tries to play up the cheesiness, but the flops in tone between Looney Tunes violence and a secret plot about blood banks and gun control are so jarring that you don’t know how to feel. Even when humor is clearly intended, the film never rises above passing amusement. Owen’s one-liners aren’t funny; the farcical nature of the stunts quickly wears thin; and the callous sexual themes are unpleasant. Worst of all, the scenes without guns are so brief and are so muddied by the plot that the characters become paper-thin.

Credit should be given for the creativity of some of the stunts, and Giamatti is an entertaining villain. While “Shoot ‘Em Up” may sound like a fun time, it is so devoid of substance that you will forget it before fall really starts.

Gabe Habash may be contacted at