Shoot 'Em Up Blu-ray Review
PictureShoot 'Em Up comes blasting to Blu-ray with a superb video rendition in glorious 1080p High Definition, presented in the movie's original theatrical aspect ratio of 2.35:1 widescreen. Detail is superior throughout, with close-ups showcasing everything from Clive Owen's rugged stubble to Monica Bellucci's perfect... smile. There's close observation of the grimy set-pieces - the red-strewn brothel, the dirty warehouses and cribs, and so forth, although the settings do vary quite dramatically, and the aerial conflict and frenetic street-chases also look fantastic. Clarity is perfect throughout, with no softness and absolutely no unintentional grain - even though it is clear they used some grain-inducing filming techniques to give the movie grittier look. Colours are accurately represented throughout and blacks are top notch, making for great shadowing, which is ideal for a movie that is more often than not set at night. Overall it's an absolutely outstanding video presentation, with that all-too-important (and all-too-rare) 3D quality that High Definition fans enjoy with the best of the best out there.
SoundTo accompany the stellar video presentation we get an equally superb DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1 sound mix that will probably actually be too cutting edge for most enthusiasts Home Cinema equipment. Dialogue is clear and coherent throughout, from Owen's gruff one-liners to Giamatti's strained desperation, with screams, babies crying and the rest to pad out the offering. It all comes predominantly from the fronts and centre channels, unless required to hit you from a different angle. Which brings me to the effects, that are both furious and dynamic, bullets whizzing around almost throughout the proceedings and bringing every one of the many stylish action sequences to life right in your living room. There are some thundering car crashes and the bass gets plenty of action, but it's the all-encompassing feel to the mix that really gives you a good atmosphere during this feature. The score is all frantic rock and noise, perfectly suited to the proceedings and igniting every action scene as much as the effects. It really is one of the best, more enveloping mixes that I have heard for any movie, up there with the best.
ExtrasRelatively new to Blu-ray (but not to HD DVD) we get a Blu-ray exclusive Enhanced Visual Commentary, which gives you the box in the corner of the screen throughout the movie, which houses various different commentators who contribute their ten cents' worth on this production. We get the Director, the main stars (Owen, Giamatti and Bellucci), as well as numerous crew members (including the mother of the babies used in the movie) all talking about the story, the humour, the action, the characters and various funny behind-the-scenes incidents. We hear about what the mother would allow the babies to endure for the production (thankfully nothing excessive), what Clive Owen had to learn to do the movie (reloading and shooting shotguns single-handedly, firing machine-guns whilst rappelling etc.) and what pranks were played on set (often by Owen himself). Whenever the Commentary digresses into something off-topic, there's always someone a little more technical on hand to bring it back to direct relevance with the on-screen action. Some may find it a little too insignificant in terms of actual production trivia, but it is actually quite interesting nonetheless and worth checking out.
If you haven't gleamed enough technical information from the Enhanced Video Commentary then you can always check out the Audio Commentary with the Director and Writer of Shoot 'Em Up, Michael Davis. He discusses his debt to John Woo he has - Hard Boiled's hospital baby shootout being the inspiration for this movie, how happy he was to finally get to work with Clive Owen, getting the financing for the film (the script for which had been shelved for several years since the incident in Columbine) and bringing it all together in a way that he hoped had not been done before. Never too over-zealous about his own work, he makes for an interesting Commentator, offering plenty of dry, more informative visual effects and production trivia amidst everything more general that he has to say.
Ballet of Bullets - Making Shoot 'Em Up is a near-hour-long Documentary split into five almost indistinguishable segments: Lock and Load, Armed and Dangerous, Itchy Trigger Fingers, Safety's Off and Muzzle Flash. If their titles offer no help then broadly they cover the movie as a whole, the characters, the action, the baby and the effects. Each offers plenty of cast and crew soundbites, some behind the scenes footage of scenes being filmed or stunts being done and insight into all of the tricky concepts, from having the baby during the action scenes (often using animatronics) to generally making this a new breed of action movie in such an over-populated genre. Unfortunately almost all of the material here has been used (and to more easily digestible effect) for the Enhanced Commentary, so it is merely here for the sake of completeness.
We also get no less than sixteen animatics, which goes to highlight just how prepared the Director was before finally shooting this movie (Owen discusses this point on the Visual Commentary). They apply to all of the most noteworthy action sequences and there is even the option to watch the final filmed versions of the relevant scenes for comparison, although a split-screen facility would have made it easier. All available with optional Commentary by the Director, they are quite an interesting (if basic) look at the pre-shooting animated drawings. We're not talking CG animatics here, just simple sketches, but they are surprisingly close to the final product and worth dipping into.
There are also some nine Deleted Scenes, again with the Director's optional Commentary. All fairly brief, most of them could have been left in - the Gum Chewing scene is an added bit of humour, there's some nice Crib Machine Gunning and the Wall Escape was innovative - and they are all certainly worth checking out here. None of them would have made the movie a masterpiece, but leaving some of them in would still have probably been beneficial. Finally we get three of the movie's Trailers, including the AddictiveTV Remix Trailer, which is sort of a Music Video, and the R-rated Red Band Trailer.
VerdictShoot 'Em Up may not be to everybody's tastes but it's still a cut above the usual action-vehicle that you may have expected from the title. With a cheeky dark wit and some surprisingly and refreshingly new concepts, the proceedings are likely to engage you on more than just a visceral level. Clive Owen proves his action chops, Paul Giamatti surprises as a manic villain and Monica Bellucci looks as good as ever. This is silly, noisy but thoroughly entertaining stuff. The Blu-ray release comes with benchmark video and audio presentations as well as a superb set of extras, including an exclusive PIP Commentary. If you liked the movie then you really should be chuffed with this release and it should already be in your shopping cart, if you didn't then you still might want to pick this up just to showcase your home cinema setup. If you're undecided then this spectacular release may just sway you.
Suggested retail price when reviewed: £24.79
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