Action movie Shoot ‘Em Up, which opened in the U.S. rather dismally last weekend, gives some hints of what Clive Owen might have been like as 007. True, his character here is purposely an anti-Bond, but some scenes in the movie might as well be Owen’s screen tests for Eon. (The actor denies actually doing any real screen tests for the role, or even being approached. There have been reports to the contrary, but I tend to believe him.)
In one scene, audiences are treated to one of the most unpleasant Fleming scenarios never filmed, with Owen sitting in for James Bond in the finger-breaking torture from Live And Let Die. (Roger Moore managed to escape that treatment in the movie.) Owen handles it well, but the scene lacks the intensity that Daniel Craig was subjected to in the filmed version of Bond’s even more brutal punishment from Casino Royale. In another scene, the actor recreates the pre-credits sequence from Moonraker, only upping the ante. In the film’s most spectacular setpiece, Owen jumps out of an airplane followed by parachuting baddies. Shoot ‘Em Up goes one up on Moonraker’s midair wrestling, though, with a whole midair gunfight! Still, the ‘79 version managed to seem more real, despite the unconvincing close-ups of Moore. CGI has just made it impossible to believe that stuntmen are actually doing what you’re seeing today.
Owen also delivers a succession of one-liners so groan-worthy they could have come from one of the recent Pierce Brosnan scripts. Granted, they’re supposed to be bad in Shoot ‘Em Up (I think!), but as with Brosnan it’s a little disappointing to see such a good actor saddled with such lines! Still, the movie is 80 minutes of pure, wild, nonstop action, and Bond fans will likely get a kick out of the ridiculously over-the-top shootouts. Plus, they get a glimpse at a Bond who might have been.... Personally, I'm 100% happy with Craig, but I'll always wonder what Owen would have made of the role.