The film tells of a dystopian future when emotions are controlled by drugs to maintain order under ‘Father’, the Big Brother figure (if you’re thinking that sounds familiar, you’d be right. It lifts themes and ideas from every oppressive future society story there has even been!).
Anyone or anything that flouts this emotionless norm is hunted down by Grammaton Clerics, Fahrenheit 451 style, and those chaps don’t mess around.
Bale plays Cleric John Preston, who starts to doubt the system – leading to … well, watch this, and you’ll get the picture as Preston takes on soldiers and his fellow Clerics. The great sci-fi moment comes after five minutes and 40 seconds or so.
WHOA!!! Have that!!
As I have joked several times since, in fact every time I watch that bit of the film, it is one of the most jaw-dropping deaths in cinema history. Jaw dropping! Geddit!
I can’t help but giggle stupidly when Bale rips through a corridor of guards armed with machine guns too. I mean, they seem bad ass but evidence shows a black motorcycle helmet marks you out for death in the same way as a red shirt does in Star Trek.
The quite frankly fantastic martial art Bale uses is called Gun Kata and was made up by the film’s creator, Kurt Wimmer (for made up, see massively influenced by The Matrix and Honk Kong action films).
Basically it uses geometric statistics to position the shooter’s body in such a way as to maximise the damage he can do, while getting out of the way of the statistically predicatable return fire from whoever you’re fighting. Although I suspect anyone using it in real life would statistically die, quickly, on screen it is the best thing about the film by a mile.
How fighting with guns translates to sword fighting I don’t know, but I’d say it was beneficial judging by the scene above.
Clearly Bale’s character thinks so as he kills 118 people in the film, half of all the on screen deaths and the third highest tally by any single character in one film in history. (Number one is Ogami Itto (played by Tomisaburo Wakayama) in ‘Shogun Assassin: Cold Road to Hell’ with 150 kills. Clive Owen is second with 140 kills in Shoot Em Up)
The film itself falls apart if you look at it too closely, which is probably why it didn’t get much of a cinema release as once it made a profit, Miramax pulled the plug to protect their investment.
However it lives on in dvd and is well worth a watch for fans of guilty pleasures, not just for the fighting but also for Sean Bean who puts in a classy cameo as a Cleric who is originally teamed with Preston.
And, to top it all, Brian Conley is in it! Brian ‘it’s a puppet’ Conley, a comedian/ TV host come West End musical actor, who wins the Scyfi Love award for ‘most unlikely appearance in a sci-fi film, ever’ for his blink and you’ll miss it role as Reading Room Proprieter.
If you do watch it, make sure you switch off after Taye Diggs is iced though, as Bale’s fight with a clearly out of shape Angus Macfayden almost ruins all the good work that has gone before. Should have spent more time down at the gym mate, and less spouting vaguely Communist claptrap.
That’s a little tip for any dictator out there who is at risk of being offed by one of the elite guard he helped to train.