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WAY OF THE GUN, THE

SYNOSPIS:
Parker (Ryan Phillippe) and Longbaugh (Benicio Del Toro) are a couple of itinerant petty criminals always on the lookout for a way to make money. They kidnap surrogate mother Robin (Juliette Lewis) who is heavily pregnant with a child fathered by shady businessman Hale Chiddick (Scott Wilson). Chiddick's bodyguards Jeffers (Taye Diggs) and Obecks (Nicky Katt), his doctor, Allen Painter, (Dylan Kassman) and professional enforcer Joe Sarno (James Caan) are despatched to bring the baby back safely and eliminate the kidnappers.

“Christopher McQuarrie, who won an Oscar for his "The Usual Suspects" screenplay, has concocted another serpentine plot for his directorial debut. He's been too clever by half as this overly-complicated thriller unfolds with too much gunfire and too little sense. It's a shame because McQuarrie also offers some fresh and inventive touches as this assortment of low-lifes shoot it out in a series of flea pit motels and bordellos down Mexico way. A car chase that slows to a crawl, a depressed hit-man sitting at home playing russian roullette and and a great drinking scene between Del Toro and James Caan, ending with a handshake and the quiet understanding that one of them must inevitably kill the other, are highlights of a wildly uneven film that plays best when guns are holstered. Unfortunately they're blazing far too often and by the time we reach the Wild Bunch/Butch Cassidy inspired climax most of us will have had enough. For all its overkill in the ballistics department and too many tricky twists involving Chiddick's bodyguards, his almost silent but deadly wife, a surrogate mother whose maternal instincts are outstripping her financial ones (Lewis is excellent in the role) and his doctor son who's expected to deliver the baby amid the gunfire, The Way Of The Gun is never dull and with another draft supervised by a ruthless script editor this might have been exceptional. Among the players James Caan is the standout as veteran enforcer Joe Sarno (could his name be a reference to the artsy sexploitation director Joseph Sarno of "The Love Merchant" and "Wall Of Flesh" notoriety - I hope so). He delivers lines like "the only thing you can assume about a broken down old man is that he's a survivor" with the wise air of a veteran actor who's done it all and is settling comfortably into old age on screen. His work here and in The Yards is among the best he's ever delivered. Del Toro and Phillipe are hardly likeable - they kill far too many innocent people - but they make a fairly dynamic duo who, as Phillippe tells us in voice over at the start, "had nothing to offer the world" and "went looking for the fortune we knew was ours". Whether or not they found it for you to decide. I couldn't help feeling their quest was simply too overloaded and bullet-riddled to do a potentially enthralling, hard-boiled crime thriller the justice it deserved.”
Richard Kuipers

“The arty crime film to end all arty crime films, The Way Of The Gun boasts numerous queasy fascinations, including a couple of impressively gruesome action sequences and the unlikely team of Ryan Phillippe and Benicio Del Toro as existentialist hoodlums who like to discuss the existence of God in between torturing and shooting people. Mumbling attention-grabbing obscenities and strained aphorisms ('Need is the ultimate monkey') Phillippe and Del Toro come on like an eccentric Method edition of Matt Damon and Ben Affleck in Dogma – alienated pretty boys playing at being killers. The uneasy jokes about 'faggots' have a special charge here, since out of all young Hollywood stars of the moment these two might have been chosen for their ability to convey sexual ambiguity. With his killer cheekbones and blond curls Phillippe's attempts at tough posturing make Leonardo de Caprio look macho, while the bulkier Del Toro projects his characteristic blend of pent-up force and relaxed, feline sensuality. Del Toro always seems to be acting mainly for his own amusement – his performance doesn't amount to much more than a wayward Brando imitation. Quite simply, though, the camera loves him; he can be mesmerising in reaction shots where he does no more than fidget, look at the ground, or hook his thumb into his jeans. A barely submerged, smirking homo-eroticism now shows up in so many mainstream movies (e.g. Dude, Where's My Car?) it's hard to know how seriously to take it here; probably writer-director Christopher McQuarrie was just trying to press as many audience buttons as possible. Pretentious, unpleasant and often baffling as the film is, it's also entertaining in a campy way – at least until it reaches the slow, overly intricate middle section, with Parker and Longbaugh holed up in a south-of-the-border motel waiting to collect their ransom. Everyone keeps trying to doublecross else, one abstract plot twist follows another, and after a while the audience, like the characters, is just marking time and waiting for the shoot-outs.”
Jake Wilson

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CRITICAL COUNT
Favourable: 0
Unfavourable: 0
Mixed: 2

See our SOUNDTRACK REVIEW

WAY OF THE GUN (MA)
(US)

CAST: Ryan Phillippe, Benicio Del Toro, James Caan, Juliette Lewis

DIRECTOR: Christopher McQuarrie

PRODUCER: Kenneth Kokin

SCRIPT: Christopher McQuarrie

CINEMATOGRAPHER: Dick Pope

EDITOR: Stephen Semel

MUSIC: Joe Kraemer

PRODUCTION DESIGN: Maia Javan

RUNNING TIME: 119 minutes

AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Buena Vista International

AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: May 17, 2001

VIDEO DISTRIBUTOR: BVHE

VIDEO RELEASE: December 19, 2001







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