Reviews of Shut Up and Shoot Me

Eddie Cockrell, Variety,"Shut Up and Shoot Me" "Sklapni a zastrel me" Apr. 27, 2006.

(U.K. – Czech Republic) A Hollywood Classic Entertainment release (in the Czech Republic) of a Hollywood Classic Entertainment, Continental Film presentation of a Storitel (U.K.), UFO Pictures (Czech Republic) production, in association with Peligroso Prods. (International sales: Moviehouse Entertainment, London.) Produced by Paul Sherwood. Co-producers, David Rauch, Jeffrey Brown. Directed, written by Steen Agro.

Pavel Zeman – Karel Roden
Colin Frampton – Andy Nyman
Liba Zeman – Anna Geislerova
Robert Polo – Karel Karlovic
Maggie Frampton – Klara Low
Veronica – Denisa Knoblochov
Receptionist – Petr Vanek
Old Lady – Frantiska Jandova
Bibi – Jackie
Upstairs Neighbor – Matej Ruppert

A jet-black comedy about a grief-stricken British widower who wants to die and an Eastern European everyman who can’t quite accommodate him, "Shut Up and Shoot Me" is tentative yet entertaining proof that Euro-made, English-lingo genre pics, when decently written and astutely cast, can work. This Czech variation on "Fargo"-ish deadpan merits moderate fest attention, with some international theatrical play feasible prior to tube and disc playoff.

On vacation in Prague with his pretty wife Maggie (Klara Low), tubby British fussbudget Colin Frampton (Andy Nyman) is devastated when, during a stroll around town, Maggie is crushed, Monty Python-like, by a statue. The driver assigned by Colin’s hotel to take him to the morgue is Pavel Zeman (Karel Roden), a seething bundle of resentment hen-pecked by shopaholic wife Liba (Anna Geislerova) into working odd jobs to finance her dreams.

With no one to help him and nowhere to turn, the timid Brit, clutching the urn with his beloved’s remains, begs the cash-strapped Czech to kill him, offering a large sum of money. When Colin naively whips out his plastic, Pavel realizes this job won’t be easy.

Soon the body count is rising – but none of them belong to the persnickety tourist. Through a series of coincidences, the Mutt and Jeff duo become enmeshed in the violent doings of oversized, monosyllabic hoodlum Karel Karlovic (Robert Polo).

Things finally come to a comically violent head via a Rube Goldberg-like denouement in the Zeman flat involving the principals and such unlikely props as a plate of poisoned dumplings and Karlovic’s pint-sized dog (Jackie).

Though not as rat-a-tat as this type of comedy demands, script from debuting Helmer Steen Agro, an Anglo-Danish-Italian adman-theater director now living in Prague, comments shrewdly on the determinedly practical Czech character via the plot's bleaker aspects. Explaining why Liba is in the car with them, Zeman tells Colin "first we will take her to the beauty shop, then we will kill you. "

Agro’s ace in the hole, however, is the instant and palpable chemistry between the heretofore little-known Nyman and Czech industry vet Roden, best known in the West for his heavy turns in "15 Minutes" and "The Bourne Supremacy. " They ain’t Lemmon and Matthau, but their spot-on timing is on par with, say, the interplay between Robert De Niro and Charles Grodin in "Midnight Run." "Zelary" star Geislerova vamps her way through a thinly written character.

Tech credits are pro.

Camera (color), Howard J. Smith; editor, Michal Lansky; music, Frank Gough; art director, Roman Chochola; costume designer, Zuzana Brozova; sound (Dolby Digital), Lukas Moudry. Reviewed on DVD, Sydney, Australia, April 19, 2006. (In Finale Pilzen Film Festival – competing.) Running time: 86 MIN. (English, Czech dialogue.)

John P. Meyer, Pegasus News, AFI Dallas Film Fest movie review, March 30, 2007

The film follows the darkly-comic antics of a pair of reluctant accomplices in mayhem: Colin Frampton (Andy Nyman), a British vacationer in Prague whose wife ends up flattened like a pancake in the first reel, and Pavel Zeman (Karel Roden), the jack-of-all-trades-by- fiscal-necessity assigned by the hotel to act as his chauffeur.

Mr. Nyman excels at playing a nerdish yet stubbornly determined innocent bystander who loses all interest in living – in fact, actively pursues his own demise – after the death of his devoted wife. By his continued presence (for, like a pesky housefly, he refuses to exit through the open window) he becomes increasingly annoying and eventually downright dangerous to the Zeman family’s well-being, with the result that Pavel grudgingly agrees to kill the poor bastard in return for a large quantity of pounds sterling. Bonus: it will be a relief to be rid of the bloody great whiner.

You’ll recognize Karel Roden from his numerous hiss-inducing screen portrayals of Eastern European heavies in films like 15 Minutes, Bulletproof Mon k and The Bourne Supremacy; with the role of Pavel, Roden steps away from the sneering natural-born killer mold and establishes that he can also play a world-weary wife-whipped working bloke who only takes up killing as a sideline – more or less as another of his various odd jobs (butcher, deliveryman, sidewalk poop-scooper... contract killer).

The manner in which Pavel orchestrates Colin’s demise is so convoluted as to provide a built-in argument for his unsuitability for the profession of hit man. Although he expends considerable effort, the results prove less than satisfactory – particularly when, in retrospect, a bullet to the brain would have been so much more expedient. (Trouble is, Pavel simply doesn’t have the stomach for it.)

Through a multiplicity of comic homicidal misadventures – during one of which we discover that Pavel’s two-timing wife, Liba (played with cold-blooded calculation by lovely blue-eyed and befreckled Anna Geislerova) has prepared poisoned dumplings for their unwanted house guest – the two men (Pavel and Colin) develop a species of friendship and mutual respect. While there may indeed be no honor among thieves, in the case of these incidental killers there develops at least a shade of forbearance and a modicum of trust.

Liba's unquenchable taste for expensive footwear leads to unwanted attention from the most lethal of local personages, a Humvee-driving, drug-dealing, pain-bringing slab of beef named Karel (who's referred to colloquially as "The Butcher of Prague"). Karel’s trademark approach to a "job" involves rapid deployment of his Jack Russell Terrier-on-a-handle by means of a quick-release lever. This shtick must be seen to be appreciated; an audience member later suggested to Mr. Brown that the device be patented, with the thought that sales from the doggy carrier might equal or exceed the film profits.

Co-producer Brown – who married a nice Czech girl, if I’m getting my story straight (some of this comes from the nice lady seated next to me, who is a friend of Brown's sister – yikes, this is starting to sound like a gossip piece) – was in the Czech Republic during production of the film leading up to its completion and release in 2005, and had a number of interesting tidbits to relate about the production and his own experiences. To wit:

They shot on Super 16 and digitally enlarged to achieve the finished 35mm print.

Mr. Brown had a previous acquaintance with Mr. Roden which contributed to securing him for the part.

The actor portraying Karel ("The Butcher of Prague"), Robert Polo, is – per Mr. Brown – not the greatest emoter on the planet, and thus they wrote his part so that he seldom had to speak – he mostly just postures about looking mean and carrying his terrier.

A key plot element necessitated that filming be done on a frozen-over lake; unfortunately, the production's insurance provider balked at the idea, and furthermore the cameraman – who in all other respects essayed a devil-may-care, tough-guy persona – had a deathly fear of stepping out onto the ice. In the end, all parties came around and the lake stayed solidly frozen for filming.

HARD TO SAY: "She looks terrified. What did you kill her with?" – Colin

‘I don't know. Soup, maybe?" – Pavel.

Daniel Saney, Digital Spy, Shut Up and Shoot Me, Posted: August 23 2006.

Edinburgh International Film Festival – Director: Steen Agro Screenwriter: Steen Agro.

Colin (Nyman) is a neurotic British tourist on holiday in Prague with his wife, though we don't see much of the latter, since she's squished by a falling statue within the first few minutes and spends the rest of the film in an urn. Distraught and convinced that life is no longer worth living but too cowardly and inept to do anything about it himself, the bereaved Colin asks the only person in Prague he knows, his driver Pavel (Roden), to kill him.

Pavel, who keeps up a number of unappealing jobs in order to allow his consumerist wife (Geiselrova) to maintain the shoe-buying lifestyle to which she has grown accustomed, reluctantly agrees for financial reward. However, their ill-fated attempts to finish Colin off turn upside-down the world of all those surrounding them as they anger gangster Karel, the Butcher of Prague (Polo).

What, on the premise, could have ended up pure slapstick is elevated to a more blackly comic and witty affair by some sparkling chemistry between the two leads in what has elements of a buddy movie, a gangster film and domestic drama. Andy Nyman gives a good performance as the whining and indecisive Colin, pushing the character to the point that by the end of the film we're as frustrated by him and his indecision as Pavel is.

Despite Colin’s loss and plight, it's the hen-pecked and increasingly haggard Pavel for whom Karel Roden makes us feel more sympathy. Working his fingers to the bone to keep his ungrateful, unfaithful wife happy, both the audience and eventually Colin realise that Pavel possibly has it worse.

Well shot and well acted, the only drawback to the film is that not quite all the humour hits home. That said, even where the script has a rare dodgy patch, the delivery and chemistry is still enough to pull it through.

All in all, Shut Up and Shoot Me is a well executed, deliciously dark comedy and an impressive feature debut from Agro.