A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that this over-the-top, gun-focused action movie brims with wild violence and its effects. Much of it is presented in a comic, cartoonishly excessive way, but characters are still left torn, bloodied, bruised, and broken. Violent acts are mostly shooting-related (one particularly extreme sequence features characters shooting at each other during a fall from an airplane), but there are explosions and car crashes too -- all with painful-looking results. Sexual content includes references to the heroine's work as a prostitute (she's introduced in brothel), plus shots of naked breasts and cleavage, and a prolonged sex act during a violent assault. Language is quite salty (primarily variations on "f--k") but probably not as plentiful as you'd expect -- mostly because so much of the screen time is spent shooting instead of talking.
What's the story?
Mr. Smith (Clive Owen) delivers a baby during a shootout and ends up the infant's guardian when the mother (Ramona Pringle) is killed. Super-skilled (he was trained by the U.S. military in his secret past), intensely focused, Smith is determined to save the baby, though he knows nothing about how to feed or clothe it (he uses newspapers for diapers and a dirty sock for little Oliver's head). He enlists the only lactating woman he knows, a prostitute named Donna Quintano, or DQ (Monica Bellucci). More worldly wise than her valiant ex-client, DQ goes along for the ride, falling in love with Smith and little Oliver on the way.
Is it any good?
Outrageous and antic, Shoot 'Em Up simultaneously spoofs and pays homage to everything from Bugs Bunny to Indiana Jones and James Bond. Smith is so fast and furious during his always-triumphant encounters with bad guys that he's deemed a "wascally wabbit" by the malevolent Mr. Hertz (Paul Giamatti). The pair's antagonism escalates exponentially, accompanied by all manner of gunplay and wild stunts. As Hertz puts it, the back and forth turns into "tit for tat," with each shoot-out, car chase, and torture scene a means for one side or the other to get even.
Of course, no such balance is possible. Every violent act leads to more violence. While the acceleration is demented fun here, the broader context is dire -- as indicated by what turns out to be the villains' awkward motivation: their work for a cadaverous-looking gun manufacturer (Stephen McHattie) and a corrupt U.S. senator/presidential candidate (Daniel Pilon). Both are involved in an imminent decision concerning gun control, but really, they're just distractions from the film's main business, which is shooting and more shooting.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the movie's cartoonish approach to violence. How does seeing the kind of extreme violence typical of Looney Toons shorts translated to live-action affect your opinion of both approaches? Is animated violence easier to stomach than its real-life counterpart? Why or why not? Why do we as filmgoers like to see things go bang and blow up? What are the consequences of violence in real life? What messages is the movie sending about guns and "gun control"?
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Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are created by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.