Shoot ‘Em Up is an awful movie, whose only vague virtue – very vague – is that Clive Owen parodies his self-serious role in Children of Men as a protector of a child. But Shoot ‘Em Up reminded me of an important thing.
I have to stop being lazy. Like many people, especially comic book fans, I have been known to review things by simply listing off thing I feel are self-evidently awesome. Ninja Man-Bats, Monkeys and Robots, Giant Apes, lesbian assassins, Russian bears with Jet Packs. But you can see, watching Shoot Em Up, that this is exactly how these guys imagined their own project. Clive Owen delivers a baby while shooting a million gunmen with crazy acrobatics – flipping over a table to use it as a shield, then, when it lands on the toolkit that was once on the table, using it as the ramp it has now become, for example. The baby’s umbilical cord is severed with a gun blast. Clive Owen has sex with Monica Belluchi, and fends off a second host of gunmen while continuing to have sex with her in various positions. There is a gun with a thumb-print safety on one of the bad guys, but our hero figures out how to use it by cutting the guy’s hand off and bringing it with him. Bullets are fired with strings and carrots, and at one point, no gun at all. There is a sky-diving shootout where someone lands on helicopter blades. I have to stop using one of my favourite Blake lines in my reviews – “Exuberance is Beauty.” Because Shoot ‘Em Up is exuberant, I suppose, but it is still awful.
Shoot ‘Em Up reminds us that it is all in the execution. Matt Fraction may say of Iron Fist “Kung-Fu billionaire – how is this not on issue 600 by now?” but that is false modesty. The book is not good because it features a Kung-Fu billionaire. The Kung Fu billionaire seems like something inevitably awesome because Matt Fraction and company are writing the thing. Exuberance is not beauty. Flawless execution is beauty – and will make it look like it is just the ideas that sell themselves.