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Jan 2, 2008


The movie opens Mr. Smith (Clive Owen) sitting at a bus stop chewing a carrot when a woman in labour staggers past. Seconds later, a car broadsides into another parked vehicle and a hard-case gets out and follows the woman into an alley while brandishing a gun. Reluctantly, Smith follows.

Mr. Smith is to gunfights what Bruce Lee was to kicking people in the back of the head while standing in front of them. He's the last person in the World you want to see if you're about to cut a baby out of a woman with a hunting knife and for the guy who is about to do just that, Mr Smith is the last person he sees. More villains turn up and Mr Smith handles the problem of shooting bad guys and delivering a baby simultaneously. When he severs the umbilical with a well aimed shot, the movie kicks into high gear. Paul Giamatti turns up as Hertz, the leader of the killers. Time was when the villain in an action movie was a suave Alan Rickman Eurotrash thief. Giamatti looks like the kind of guy who spends all day in the public library, which is possibly why his character is such a good hitman.

If Smith is the angriest man in the World, Hertz is the smartest killer. When it comes to following clues he makes Basil Rathbone look like Bill Murray in Caddyshack. When the mother of the baby is killed, Smith is left with the kid and recruits Donna, a lactating prostitute played by Monica Bellucci to wet-nurse the baby, who as the plot unfolds is revealed to be the intended subject of the original hit.

Like all good action films, this one creates its' own reality. If you buy in to the bit with the umbilicus, you're in the movie's zone. Giamatti, Owen and Bellucci are excellent in what are essentially a string of action sequences laced together with a plot that doesn't, and doesn't have to make much sense. There are some dark and icky bits in it, especially when Hertz tortures Smith, but in general, this is a great popcorn and beer movie. Stylish gun-porn.

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