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Notes from the back row

It’s Shoot-em-up Week



Have you been craving some serious gunplay? Feel like sitting down and eating popcorn and M&Ms amidst a slow motion fury of bullets and carnage? Well this is the week for you, dear readers — It’s Shoot-em-up week.

First, a western. The western genre, which elevated gunfights to new levels in the late ’60s with the Clint Eastwood/Sergio Leone spaghetti westerns and Sam Peckinpah’s Wild Bunch , has all but disappeared since then. Luckily, 3:10 to Yuma opens Friday at the Village 8, the first of two westerns coming this fall.

A remake of a 50-year-old film of the same title, Yuma is a morality tale about the dualism of manhood. Russell Crowe stars as Ben Wade, a cocky, likeable, old-west outlaw who’s captured at the start of the flick. His foil is Dan Evans, an honest, law abiding, one-legged civil war vet whose ranch is about to be foreclosed if he doesn’t come up with some cash real quick like. The incredibly skilled Chirstian Bale plays Evans, a one-time sharpshooter who, for 200 bucks, joins the posse charged with escorting Wade on a three day trip to Contentation, where he’s to placed on the train to Yuma, and later tried and hanged. Evans’s wife and oldest son are fed up with being poor and pushed around by people who want to build a railroad through their land so for Evans, the journey, upon which they are constantly pursued by Wade’s gang and attacked by bloodthirsty Apaches, is a chance to dig deep and find reserves of strength and goodness he forgot he had. For Ben Wade it’s a last chance to charm/weasel his way out of the noose, and then, ultimately, realize the value of possessing the good honest characteristics of Evans.

Ultimately the film portrays Wade and Evans as the two sides of manhood and that the best man is a bit of both. This is ground the western genre has ridden over before ( Shane, Unforgiven, every John Wayne flick) and the film doesn’t totally succeed in setting up enough of what really makes Wade a bad guy. Plus, the ending and final character-shifting was a bit far fetched (Wade seems to suffer from Stockholm Syndrome) but both Crowe and Bale are fantastic and there’s a climactic 30-minute gunfight to help draw things to a close, so that kind of rules.

Not as much as an 82-minute gunfight though, which is what Shoot Em Up , also dropping Friday, is. Clive Owen stars as a noirish anti-hero named Mr. Smith but he could have also been called Bugs Bunny as the film is utterly cartoonish in its levels of ridiculousness and violence. It’s Looney Toons meets your favorite shoot ’em up video game with some Sin City and Children of Men tossed in — only without any kind of decent plot/theme. Mostly it’s just bullets, carnage, and ultra violence as Owen shoots his way through a childbirth (severing the umbilical chord with a bullet) and then rushes through numerous battles with this newborn baby (shooting all the way) which he finally gives to Monica Bellucci, a lactating hooker with a heart of gold. Along the way there are half ass attempts at political intrigue, a gross baby-bone marrow factory, a dumb looking parachuting scene, and Paul Giamatti as the Elmer Fudd/Wile E Coyote type who won’t die no matter how many times he gets shot and delivers awesomely funny one-liners like, “Well f*ck me sideways.”

Almost a Hard Boiled tribute, Shoot Em Up is perfect for teenage boys and anyone else who can appreciate a steamy sex scene/gunfight that ends in orgasm and the line, “Talk about shooting your load.” It’s stupid, but I dig it.

AT VILLAGE 8 Sept. 7-13: Shoot Em Up; 3:10 to Yuma; Bourne Ultimatum; Superbad; Hairspray; Nanny Diaries; Balls of Fury; Mr. Bean’s Holiday; Halloween.

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