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September 16, 2007

Two Very Different Shoot-em-Ups

Filed under: Entertainment,Movies — CPav @ 9:03 pm
Tags: , , , ,

Last weekend, I saw two movies which were, at their base, shoot-em-ups. That’s about the only thing the two had in common.

The first, 3:10 to Yuma, a remake of a 1957 Glenn Ford/Van Heflin oater, is a taut Western. Christian Bale (Batman Begins) stars as Dan Evans, a Civil War veteran who lost part of his leg in the war and is about to lose his ranch to debt and the intrusion of the railroad. When notorious outlaw Ben Wade (Russell Crowe, Gladiator) and his gang rob a stage coach near Evans’ land, Dan aids in his capture and agrees to join the posse which will escort Wade to Contention, where he will board the 3:10 train to the army prison at Yuma.

A battle of wills and bullets ensues, as Wade tries to convince Evans to let him go, and Evans determines to do the honorable thing and see to it that Wade gets on the train. With Evans’ son, who idolizes Wade as a result of pulp magazine stories, along on the posse, and Wade’s cutthroat gang trailing closely behind, the journey becomes a race not only against time, but against life and death as well.

With outstanding, nuanced performances by Bale and Crowe, as well as Logan Lerman (Jack and Bobby) as Evans’ son William, the movie makes it clear what the right thing is for Dan to do, but provides more than enough reasons for him to not do it. The action sometimes gets hard to follow, as the Bourne-style handheld camera work gets occasionally jerky. Otherwise, the cinematography is beautiful, and the film on the whole outstanding.

Shoot ’em Up, on the otherhand, is not a film I’d call outstanding. It is a lot of fun, if you accept the premise of a non-stop, totally unbelievable gunfight, and can get past the obviously fake baby who’s present through the whole shebang.

Clive Owen (Croupier,Children of Men) stars as the mysterious Mr. Smith, who stumbles on a crew of thugs roughing up a pregnant woman, then appoints himself protector of her baby when he’s unable to prevent her death. Add in Paul (Lady in the Water) Giamatti as Hertz, the henpecked leader of the gang, and Monica Bellucci as a lactating hooker (no, there’s no way that could be a typo), and you’ve got yourself…well…a shoot ’em up.

Hertz and his men are after the baby for a very complicated reason (which you may not understand even after watching the whole movie), but that doesn’t really matter. This movie plays as though someone took a pile of action movie scripts, took every scene that anyone threw out somewhere along the line with the words “too unbelievable”, and threaded them together. And, once you accept that no attempt should be made to actually understand the movie, and that no semblence of reality should be applied to the proceedings, you can sit back and enjoy it for what it is.

This movie has nothing to recommend it except that it’s an all-out, mindless thrill ride of implausibility upon implausibility that not only doesn’t ask you to think too hard about anything, but would prefer that you not.


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