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Douglas Pratt

By Douglas Pratt

Shoot ’em Up

Outrageous on purpose, Shoot ‘Em Up, from New Line Home Entertainment, is a serious 2007 spoof on action films that are forever trying to top what came out the month before, but it works because it uses story and character logic to push its way from one set piece to the next. The hero is sitting on a bus bench one night, chewing on a carrot, when a very pregnant woman runs by, followed shortly thereafter by a ruffian with a gun. He thinks about it for a moment, decides that he can’t live in a world where people shoot pregnant women, and goes to help her, eventually getting chased all over the city (it was shot in Toronto, but pretends to be a generic American metropolis) with the newborn baby in his arms. Clive Owen is the hero, Paul Giamatti is the villain, and Monica Bellucci is an acquaintance the hero solicits to help with the baby (in perhaps the movie’s most outrageous sequence, they are making love and continue to copulate while Owen’s character shoots a dozen attackers that have barged into their hotel room). As the story barrels forward to its inevitable final showdown, the action scenes are wild to a Rube Goldberg degree, the violence is invigorating, and the humor is always lurking beneath the blood and gore. You wonder, however, what they can possibly come up with next month.

The picture is presented in letterboxed format only, with an aspect ratio of about 2.35:1 and an accommodation for enhanced 16:9 playback. A few of the special effects sequences are a bit cheesy (there is a lengthy gun fight among parachutists), but for the most part, the picture is crisp and finely detailed, and is always an accurate representation of the cinematography. There is a 5.1-channel Dolby Digital track with EX-encoding, and a DTS track with ES-encoding. There are plenty of surround details and directional effects, but the mix doesn’t really get into the spirit of the film-it would be more fun if it were as exaggerated as everything else is. The 86-minute program has optional English and Spanish subtitles, 8 minutes of smartly deleted beats, 53 minutes of decent production featurettes, and 3 trailers.

The director, Michael Davis, made self-animated versions of each action scene, not just to prepare for the shooting, but to actually sell the project (and his skills as a director) to begin with. The 20-minute reel of these animatics is presented on the DVD, with an optional commentary. “I ended up doing the drawings on my Wacom Tablet, hooked up to my computer, and I would save every sketch as a ‘.pic’ file, and then import it into my i-movie program on my Macintosh, and I would just tell them to ‘assign three frames, two frames, whatever,’ for each drawing, and ended up animating out ten to eleven of the big action scenes.” Davis also supplies commentaries for the deleted scenes and the film. He’s very proud of the movie and speaks excitedly about the film’s wildest and freshest action ideas. He also talks a little bit about the movie’s staging, working with the cast, and, by our count, says, “Rube Goldberg,” four separate times.

February 12, 2008

– by Douglas Pratt

Douglas Pratt’s DVD-Laser Disc Newsletter is published monthly.
For a free sample, call (516)594-9304 or go to his website at

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It shows how out of it I was in trying to be in it, acknowledging that I was out of it to myself, and then thinking, “Okay, how do I stop being out of it? Well, I get some legitimate illogical narrative ideas” — some novel, you know?

So I decided on three writers that I might be able to option their material and get some producer, or myself as producer, and then get some writer to do a screenplay on it, and maybe make a movie.

And so the three projects were “Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep,” “Naked Lunch” and a collection of Bukowski. Which, in 1975, forget it — I mean, that was nuts. Hollywood would not touch any of that, but I was looking for something commercial, and I thought that all of these things were coming.

There would be no Blade Runner if there was no Ray Bradbury. I couldn’t find Philip K. Dick. His agent didn’t even know where he was. And so I gave up.

I was walking down the street and I ran into Bradbury — he directed a play that I was going to do as an actor, so we know each other, but he yelled “hi” — and I’d forgot who he was.

So at my girlfriend Barbara Hershey’s urging — I was with her at that moment — she said, “Talk to him! That guy really wants to talk to you,” and I said “No, fuck him,” and keep walking.

But then I did, and then I realized who it was, and I thought, “Wait, he’s in that realm, maybe he knows Philip K. Dick.” I said, “You know a guy named—” “Yeah, sure — you want his phone number?”

My friend paid my rent for a year while I wrote, because it turned out we couldn’t get a writer. My friends kept on me about, well, if you can’t get a writer, then you write.”
~ Hampton Fancher

“That was the most disappointing thing to me in how this thing was played. Is that I’m on the phone with you now, after all that’s been said, and the fundamental distinction between what James is dealing with in these other cases is not actually brought to the fore. The fundamental difference is that James Franco didn’t seek to use his position to have sex with anyone. There’s not a case of that. He wasn’t using his position or status to try to solicit a sexual favor from anyone. If he had — if that were what the accusation involved — the show would not have gone on. We would have folded up shop and we would have not completed the show. Because then it would have been the same as Harvey Weinstein, or Les Moonves, or any of these cases that are fundamental to this new paradigm. Did you not notice that? Why did you not notice that? Is that not something notable to say, journalistically? Because nobody could find the voice to say it. I’m not just being rhetorical. Why is it that you and the other critics, none of you could find the voice to say, “You know, it’s not this, it’s that”? Because — let me go on and speak further to this. If you go back to the L.A. Times piece, that’s what it lacked. That’s what they were not able to deliver. The one example in the five that involved an issue of a sexual act was between James and a woman he was dating, who he was not working with. There was no professional dynamic in any capacity.

~ David Simon