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    By Josh Moss

    Some action thrillers only serve one purpose: to press the pedal and rev the old testosterone engine a bit. Shoot ‘Em Up, which opens Friday, slams that pedal through the floor and doesn’t let up until the last bullet is fired. It’s that warped aphrodisiac that arouses the oh-so-sought-after, 18- to 34-year-old male demographic. Everybody else? At least The Nanny Diaries is still in theaters.

                The mayhem in Shoot ‘Em Up, from writer/director Michael Davis (Monster Man), begins in an unknown city’s slums, where Mr. Hertz (Paul Giammati) and his gun-toting thugs are in hot pursuit of a distressed pregnant woman. Mr. Smith (Clive Owen), who sits on a bench nearby, stops munching his carrot and, reluctantly, decides to help the lady. In no time, Mr. Smith has jammed his carrot through a man’s skull (“Eat your vegetables,” he deadpans), delivered a baby boy and blasted through the umbilical cord with his six-shooter. Soon after, Mr. Hertz and his cronies have put a bullet in the mother’s head and are in a rooftop gunfight with Mr. Smith, who carries the newborn like a pigskin as he leaps through windows. Of course, it’s all to a heavy metal soundtrack.

                Obviously, Mr. Smith’s next stop is a brothel to recruit Donna Quintano (Monica Bellucci), to help protect the baby from the seemingly endless army of gunmen. (At least Quintano has the wherewithal to realize a bulletproof vest is a better investment than a crib.) That sums it up. It’s a steroid-fueled take on Elmer Fudd chasing a carrot-chomping Bugs Bunny and the baby he never had. Not to mention Bugs, er, Mr. Smith uses his carrots like daggers.

                Owen (Closer, Children of Men) and Giammati (Cinderella Man, Sideways) have generated Oscar buzz before, but that won’t happen this time around. It’s not supposed to. This is just a couple of A-list actors having fun (and cashing in) with over-the-top, almost cartoon-like characters. Owen even seems to be poking fun at his own roles in Sin City and Children of Men, in which he had the responsibility to protect Earth’s last pregnant woman. 

                That’s what this film does. It parodies the frenetic, unbelievable action flicks (read: Live Free or Die Hard) that roll in big box office paydays. With Shoot ‘Em Up we get the obligatory car chases, the unnecessary nudity, the sexually charged one-liners, the unrealistic storyline about a politician and baby harvesting, and even a mid-coitus shootout! It’s so ridiculous — and at times redundant and boring — that we can’t expect Shoot ‘Em Up to take itself seriously.

                There are some comments about gun control and the Second Amendment, but it would be foolish to believe Shoot ‘Em Up is rallying behind some deeper political agenda. This movie’s purpose is too simple for that. After all, as Mr. Hertz puts it, “Violence is one of the most fun things to watch.”

    2 out of 4        

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