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The Way of the Gun
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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