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The Way of the Gun

movie reviewvideo review out of 4 Movie Review: The Way of the Gun

Starring: Benicio Del Toro, Ryan Phillippe
Director: Christopher McQuarrie
Rated: R
RunTime: 118 Minutes
Release Date: September 2000
Genres: Noir, Suspense, Thriller

*Also starring: James Caan, Taye Diggs, Juliette Lewis, Nicky Katt, Geoffrey Lewis, Scott Wilson

Review by Harvey Karten
No Rating Supplied

Seems that every time a critic or a regular guy talks about this movie, the first words out of his mouth are "violent, man." Maybe I'm inoculated against shock from blood, whether it be spilling from a woman having a difficult birth (as does Juliette Lewis in "The Way of the Gun") or from landing like a prep- school high-jumper into a sandbox that has been laced with broken glass (as does Ryan Phillippe in the same feature) . What will separate those who go for Christopher McQuarrie's new film from those who stay the distance but are not wildly enthusiastic rests on one's craving for densely-plotted, cynical noir drama with twists and turns, in this case featuring a narrative so copious that two movies' worth of motifs are implanted--and not effortlessly. Mixing an oddly sentimental theme revolving around the feelings of several people for a nine-months' old fetus about to emerge, with an examination of the depths of ruthlessness to which some folks will go, "The Way of the Gun" is too weighed down by its strains to command unfettered attention. I can think only of the comment in Peter Schaeffer's play "Amadeus" by a nobleman who criticized Mozart by declaring his symphonies and concerti beset with "too many notes."

Still "The Way of the Gun" is nothing of the brain-teaser of Christopher McQuarrie's previous screenplay, "The Usual Suspects," in which five criminals are put into a police lineup for a crime they did not commit--a film that critic Leonard Maltin called "too clever for its own good." This--and not excessive violence--is the reproach one could correctly apply to "The Way of the Gun."

In the role of Parker and Longbaugh, Ryan Phillippe and Benicio Del Toro are a couple of scuzzy characters who simply refuse to look forward to a life of minimum-wage jobs. They cannot even land a few bucks for donating their sperm because they cannot resist wiseacre comments to the interviewer. They plan the big one even while sensing that their design has only a meager chance of succeeding. These are criminals who tempt the fates and have no fear of a violent death. They abduct Robin (Juliette Lewis), who is now nine months' pregnant--the surrogate mother of the wealthy Hale Chidduck(Scott Wilson)-- who shares a criminal outlook with the interlopers. Chidduck is hooked up with a mob, which includes his bag man, Joe Sarno (James Caan) and protects his family with two highly trained bodyguards (Taye Diggs and Nicky Katt) whose attire must come straight out of GQ.

Aside from the always competent acting of James Caan as a mysterious fellow whose loyalties seem always in question, the principal draw of the movie is McQuarrie's screenplay-- which features such aphorisms as "There's always free cheese in a mousetrap" and gives the cryptic Caan some key words to intone throughout such as "adjudicate." At one point, he tells the kidnappers--who from the moment they confront Joe Sarno know they're in over their heads--"I can promise you a day of reckoning that you will not live long enough to never forget."

Caan's proficiency as a noir actor cannot be matched by any of the others in the cast--who could be called his prey-- though Juliette Lewis comes away with an alternately tough and vulnerable role of a woman proceeding with a most difficult childbirth with only the most primitive operating conditions at her behest. More bullets, fewer words, and a shorter story could have made for a more entertaining night at the movies.

Copyright 2000 Harvey Karten

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