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A hail of bullets reins in a budget

September 03, 2007|Susan King

Michael Davis, the writer-director of the eccentric action film "Shoot 'Em Up," opening Friday, isn't sure how many guns, bullets or gallons of fake movie blood were used during production. "But there are 11 or 12 scenes that involve gunplay," he said.

"One of my theories is that a lot of these [action] movies have maybe three or four key action set pieces, but sometimes they go 20 minutes or a half-hour without that adrenaline rush. I decided that since I didn't have an exorbitant budget, I'd make the set pieces just a hair shorter and give you more of them."

And make each one distinctive. In the tongue-and-cheek film, Clive Owen shoots it out with the bad guys while delivering a baby, making love to Monica Bellucci and even while sky diving.

In "Shoot 'Em Up," Owen is the mysterious Mr. Smith, described as the angriest man in the world, who eats carrots and has a pet rat trained to unlock the door to the building he's illegally living in. When bad guys come after an expectant mother, he finds himself delivering a baby in the middle of a gunfight. Later, Smith is forced to take care of the infant.

Paul Giamatti plays the chief baddie; Bellucci is a hooker who helps Smith.

Davis used his background as a storyboard artist to sell "Shoot 'Em Up" to New Line: He made 17,000 drawings to create 15 minutes of animation for several of the film's action sequences.

New Line executives, Davis explained, liked his script but didn't know if he could direct it. So when he walked in with the animation reel for a meeting, Davis recalled, "their jaws dropped. They could see the movie, shot by shot. The animation ended up on [New Line head] Bob Shaye's desk, and he saw the animation and said, 'I want this movie greenlit.' "

So after 17 or 18 years in the business, Davis quipped, "I was an overnight success. They were offering me every great actor you could possibly imagine."

Including Owen, who was always Davis' first choice. "Because the movie is a little bit twisted, I felt I needed a fresher actor, somebody everybody wanted to see in an action film. I had seen Clive in 'Croupier' and felt he was the right combination of part-Humphrey Bogart, part-Harrison Ford and part-James Bond."

-- Susan King

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