It’s a rare breed of film that causes us to question our purpose in life. Hopefully, we can see such a film coming and prepare ourselves for self-examination and philosophical postulation. On the night of Sept. 6 I was caught off guard by the appropriately titled “Shoot ‘Em Up” – so off guard that I was brought to the brink of an existential crisis.

Jessica Boullion
The man is totally relationship material. He is so comfortable with babies. And hookers. (Courtesy of New Line)

After deciding to take the night off from revelry and schoolwork, boredom consumed me. I realized I would eventually have to see “Shoot ‘Em Up” as a writer for the Daily, so I indulged the idea of seeing the movie just before midnight at our local Cineplex. A plan, a goal, a purpose.

None of my housemates would accompany me, so I drove out to Ypsi by myself. One of the ticket-takers offered me a special that would include a ticket to “Shoot ’em Up,” all-I-could-eat pizza and free video gaming for $15. I graciously declined only to receive an outburst: “Then my job is futile!”

As the sole audience member of the fated Theater 10, I listened to the National Amusements digital radio service encounter difficulties, never getting more than two minutes into a song before distorting the sound and cutting back to the beginning of a hellish loop.

Ten minutes after the show was supposed to start, I informed an usher they were behind schedule. Fifteen minutes after the show was supposed to start, I let the concession attendant know – becoming visibly irritated – that they were behind schedule (the usher, presumably, had gone home for the night). Twenty-five minutes after the show was supposed to start, I angrily complained to the manager they were still behind schedule (he appeared to be the only one left in the theater aside from yours truly).

During the previews, I started to think: Why am I putting up with all this? I don’t want to see this movie. I don’t really have to see the movie. And what was up with that ticket-taker’s self-doubt?

I didn’t know anyone who was eager, excited or even slightly enthused to see “Shoot ‘Em Up.” I began to doubt how many people actually read the Daily and would genuinely be interested in my review.

Sure enough, “Shoot ‘Em Up” was a constant flow of pointless violence veiled by its claim to satire. Why review pointless movies few people will even see? Reviewing for the sake of intellectual stimulation brings some level of fulfillment, but surely I could have stayed home and read a book that would have been twice as thought provoking as watching Paul Giamatti expound, “He who leads from the rear takes it in the rear.”

This applies to being a student as well: Why are we expected to read (in our opinion) irrelevant books, learn outdated theories, write analytical papers or take exams about seemingly pointless topics?

In this light, my self-aware quandary became much more manageable. I put up with the downsides of being a student and the futility of reviewing a movie that has no audience because someone – at least one person, be him a professor or director – deemed the content worthwhile.

I might not appreciate a movie on the surface or even its deeper morals or allegories – though, don’t get me wrong, “Shoot ‘Em Up” has nothing of the like – I feel it is necessary to ask oneself after engaging in art or entertainment, “Why would the artist or entertainer do that?” So, while watching Monica Bellucci play a lactating prostitute may encourage you to question life’s purpose, it should also inspire you to wonder why she chose the role, why the screenwriter saw the part as worthwhile, why the director created this manifestation of some vision and why the producer would front the money.

With that in mind, I’ve settled on an answer about why anyone would deem “Shoot ‘Em Up” worthwhile. Despite whatever humor may incidentally occur, the movie wasn’t made to be a comedy, and its political messages are so ham-handed and underdeveloped that the moviemakers were at best half-heartedly aiming to make a statement. With so much violence and gunplay, the movie’s about action. In other terms, it’s made to entertain and to wow audiences. In the bluntest sense, “Shoot ‘Em Up” was made for that classic consumerist and capitalist driving motivation: making money.

I won’t plead with you not to give in and spend your money on the movie. That’s your decision, and that’s not my point. Instead, I encourage you to think about what you’re supporting when you give your dollar to a theater that’s screening a run-of-the-mill shoot ’em up. Think about why you’re watching a film, your reasons as well as the filmmakers’ reasons for creating the movie.

But indulge me, if you will. If you actually read this article or my review of “Shoot ‘Em Up,” at least e-mail me to say you did so. It’s not about debate or anything complicated like that. It’s simple: I need confirmation that my endeavors were not without purpose.

– Zwiebel did in fact review this movie (guess the star rating for a prize) at michigandaily.com.

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