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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

Reviewer Roundup
1.  Steve Rhodes review follows movie reviewmovie review
2.  Edward Johnson-Ott read the review movie review
3.  Harvey Karten read the review ---
4.  Susan Granger read the review movie reviewvideo review

Review by Steve Rhodes
2 stars out of 4

WAY OF THE GUN, written and directed by Oscar-winning writer Christopher McQuarrie (THE USUAL SUSPECTS), is a migraine headache of gunfire. With thousands of expended bullets, the movie is a Quentin Tarantino-like fantasyland of two-bit hoods, bagmen and organized crime, all firing at each other with a vengeance. Interrupted by regular spurts of video-game shoot-'em-ups, the uneven film generally drags along as if it were trying to approximate slow motion without actually resorting to modifying the speed.

An ambitious movie with a dense storyline of competing characters who have complicated allegiances, it promises more than it delivers. The setup and the action sequences are imaginative, but, overall, first-time director Christopher McQuarrie shows more skills as a writer than a director. Key sections of the movie sag when they should sizzle. Others sizzle but are allowed to overcook.

The plot features a couple of low-life losers, Longbaugh (Benicio Del Toro) and Parker (Ryan Phillippe), who figure that they are bound for a minimum-wage job or a life of petty crime unless they go looking for the fortune that is looking for them. Visiting a sperm bank to raise a little cash, they hit upon their big idea. They hear about a woman, Robin (Juliette Lewis), who is carrying a rich couple's child so that the biological mother will not have to be bothered with the pain of pregnancy and childbirth. Our two Einsteins (Longbaugh and Parker) figure that all they need to do is kidnap Robin and demand a fortune for her return. They take the time to find out that the baby's father is an A-list bad guy.

The frequent stupidity of the kidnappers is a plot thread that never really pays off, save providing fodder for one of the film's best lines. "Is he the brains of the outfit or you?" Joe (James Caan) asks Longbaugh about Parker. "To tell the truth, I don't think this is a brains kind of outfit," confesses Longbaugh. In general the story's tone is deadly serious, which is underscored by sober music, heavy on the low registers. The few comic lines are welcome changes of pace.

The best sequence in the movie is the opening bar fight set outside a nightclub. As Longbaugh and Parker sit on a long-haired guy's new Mercedes, the owner and his girl friend threaten them. Using non-stop profanity, the guy and his girlfriend tell them just what they will do to them if they don't move immediately. The resulting action is surprising and hilarious. And, like the rest of the film, very gory. McQuarrie seems to pride himself on devising new ways to make the audience squirm. His staging of an "operating room" scene may have even those with the strongest stomachs heading for the exits.

But even with its many problems, WAY OF THE GUN isn't a bad film. The story is intriguing, and we are never quite sure what will happen next. McQuarrie does a masterful job of creating an unusual mood and atmosphere for the movie. The actor's performances are all good in revealing so little of their unsympathetic characters that we want to know exactly what they are thinking.

After about an hour or so, we are more than ready to bid our players goodbye. The concluding part, when it finally arrives, feels like it will never end. We want everyone to die in the final bloodbath so we can finally get the movie over -- its intrigue having long-since given way to tedium.

Copyright 2000 Steve Rhodes

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