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USA 2000
Directed by
Christopher McQuarrie
119 minutes
Rated MA

Reviewed by
Bernard Hemingway
4 stars

Way Of The Gun, The

Debut writer-director Christopher McQuarrie is best-known for his smart script for The Usual Suspects (1995). His writing skills are again to the fore in The Way of the Gunm an enthusiastically over-the-top crime thriller in the Tarantino/Ritchie tradition of tongue-in-cheek hipster pulp violence that does more than justice to its title.

Benicio Del Toro and Ryan Phillippe play Mr. Longbaugh and Mr. Parker, a couple of down-on-their luck petty criminals who are trying (amazingly off-handedly) to sell their semen to a sperm bank.  While waiting for an interview they overhear a conversation about a millionaire who has paid a surrogate to carry his child. So, as losers, do they decide to kidnap the mother and hold the baby ransom.  Of course this all goes wrong

What makes McQuarrie's film particularly entertaining are the inventive strategies he uses both as a writer and a director to invigorate the narrative.  Thus, whilst losers Mr. Longbaugh and Mr. Parker may be, they are also possessed of remarkably self-aware sang-froid and a veritable arsenal of weaponry with which to carry it off.  When their attempt to kidnap the mother-to-be (Juliette Lewis) goes wrong because she is protected by a couple of surprisingly accomplished bodyguards (Taye Diggs and Nicky Katt) they shoot their way out of the situation and abscond with the very pregnant woman.

That  would be enough for most crooks to handle but when they find out that the father-to-be is a wealthy shady businessman (Scott Wilson) they decide to up the ransom, bringing down all hell on the heads. But somewhat like a scaled down version of Peckinpah’s The Wild Bunch they don’t really give a damn. This is just how they roll  And so a tale of deadly twists and turns unfolds, culminating in a Pekinpah-ish shoot-out in a Mexican hacienda.

McQuarrie’s script is not only cleverly plotted but it is full of the kind of existential ruminations so much admired  by lovers of the crime genre style. Much of this comes from James Caan as the millionaire’s tired bagman, Joe Sarno, who enlists an even-more-tired former partner (Geoffrey Lewis) to help him bring down the two “yahoos”. Directorially McQuarrie also comes up with refreshing ways of presenting the familiar roster of car chases and shoot-outs whilst De Toro and Philppe make for a likeable pair of laconically fatalistic anti-heroes.

The Way Of The Gun is a marvellously excessive and surprisingly under-valued film.

 

 

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