Let me give you a quick rundown of the plot.
BEGIN SYNOPSIS --The film opens with LONE WOLF, not the character's name but the character's type (Clive Owen), sitting at a bus bench waiting for public transit. Suddenly, a pregnant woman, quickly followed by a horde of thugs, runs by LONE WOLF. LONE WOLF follows, helps lady give birth to CUB (by shooting the umbilical cord with a gun no less), and enters into a 3-Day (90 minutes our time) gunfight while trying to protect CUB from the DAIMYO's assassin (Paul Giamatti) and his legion of underlings. While protecting CUB, LONE WOLF recruits LACTATING PROSTITUTE to feed CUB (CUB's mother dies early on in the continual gunfight) while the 90 minute gunfight ensues. The gunfight goes from one level of extreme action to another, raising the stakes as far as it can (sometimes to absurd levels), but finally reaching a plateau and arguably a decline after a parachuting gun battle where the thugs become a thunderstorm's worth of "corpse-drops." END SYNOPSIS
So far, the film sounds like it could be a great amount of mindless fun inspired by every action film we have ever seen. Everything from Hard Boiled to The Spy Who Loved Me are referenced in the action sequences (there's even a nod to Snakes on a Plane), which brings me to my criticism. This film cannot decide whether it is a rip roaring action comedy like Kung Fu Hustle, which plays with tropes, or if it is Hot Shots: Part Deux. The film stumbles between wonderful action and bizarre spoof.
Whether it is the name of the lactating prostitute, DQ -- you know for Dairy Queen, or the protagonists absurd addiction to carrots and Bugs Bunny quotation, the film continually inserts jokes which detract from the action narrative rather than add to it. The director can't even decide whether he is attempting to give us a visual argument why Clive Owen should have been James Bond or whether he is making fun of the Bond character (the opening gunfight has a Walther reference).
Even the action sequences, which are the best part of the film, finally reach a point of saturation. At some point the director ran out of ideas regarding how to out do the action in the previous scene. From my point of view, that would be about the time of the "corpsedrops" falling on my head scene. The parachuting gunfight is brilliant, but what follows seems dull in comparison. The film lacks a sense of pace and when the action stops, which doesn't include the sex scene during which the gunfight continues, it is to insert some really bizarre imagery. The highest example being when Paul Giamatti milks the breast of the dead pregnant woman. Another being the fact that the cause of the gunfight is due to the DAIMYO needing the baby for a marrow transplant and of his entire "baby factory" only one came out compatible.
If Shoot 'Em Up is an homage to John Woo, then it is an homage to the "Say You're Impotent" scene at the end of Hard Boiled which forgets that the best part of that film was the tension regarding the undercover cop and whether or not he will survive.
I like Clive Owen and Paul Giamatti and I think that Monica Bellucci is one of the most beautiful women in the history of the world. But even given those factors, I can't recommend Shoot 'Em Up unless you don't find being stabbed through the brain with a half eaten carrot to be to implausible. If that is the case, you might just enjoy it. As for saying, "I'll just catch it on DVD," let me just say the following. If you are going to see Shoot 'Em Up, make sure you see it on the big screen. It is a bad movie, that is only made worse by watching it on the small screen. Any scene that it has worth seeing, must be seen on the big screen.