Film Reviews

THE WAY OF THE GUN

By • Sep 8th, 2000 •

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This is my kind of film: nasty, gritty, dirty, hardbitten, with heavy guns blazing, and meanspirited characters. It has clever dialogue, imaginative criminalcraft, and a prolonged bloody cesarean in a Mexican motel room that I could not watch.

After a summer of dull, lifeless movies, this movie rocks!

Christopher McQuarrie’s directorial debut, THE WAY OF THE GUN, (which he also wrote) has the kind of dialogue, characters, and twisting plot that made his Academy Award-winning script for THE USUAL SUSPECTS so bewildering and entertaining. This one, thank God, has a more straightforward plot.

Mr. Longbaugh (Benicio Del Toro) and Mr. Parker (Ryan Phillippe) are lowlife career criminals who stumble upon a plan to kidnap a very pregnant young woman (Robin, played by Juliette Lewis) who is carrying a child for a dangerous, shady character and his spoiled wife. Robin is bodyguarded by two sleek, Armani-wearing thugs (Taye Diggs and Nicky Katt) who lose her in a gun fight to Longbaugh and Parker. In comes “the bagman,” Joe Sarno (James Caan), to get the girl back and clean up the mess. McQuarrie bestows all his characters, especially Caan, with terrific dialogue. It’s a McQuarrie trademark.

Caan knows a good line when he reads one and watch how he takes his time savoring them.

Remember Verbal (Kevin Spacey)’s response to Det. Kujan (Chazz Palminteri)’s question: “Do you believe in God, Verbal?” He answered: “No. But I’m afraid of him.” Here, my favorite line out of many is delivered by the wonderful Del Toro, who states: “Karma is merely justice without satisfaction.”

Ryan Phillippe has thankfully bulked up and hardnosed his lost fey-boy image (Didn’t he pout and prissy-mouth his way through both CRUEL INTENTIONS and 54?) to solid effect. He really redeems himself here and plays a full-blown character with a sympathetic edge. Benicio Del Toro nods and smiles at Parker so convincingly that we truly believe they have spent years committing crimes together.

McQuarrie not only invested his characters with nasty charm and compelling ruthlessness, his direction is confident, original, and satirical. When Parker hurls himself into a dried up fountain during a hellfire shoot-out, he lands on top of a broken beer bottle arsenal. And is sliced into ribbons of bloody flesh.

McQuarrie exhibits a sure hand demonstrating exactly how he wants to convey his story. He either thought about his script a lot or has a natural talent for bringing his personal vision to the screen. Bruce Paltrow: There’s more to directing than making the deal.

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