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The Way of the Gun
2000 - R - 119 Mins.
Director: Christopher McQuarrie
Producer: Kenneth Kokin
Written By: Christopher McQuarrie
Starring: Ryan Phillippe, Benicio Del Toro, James Caan, Juliette Lewis, Taye Diggs
Review by: John Ulmer

Get me out of here...err, this movie
"The Way of the Gun" is a motion picture far too heavy on style and less so on substance. Obviously inspired by the post-modern rampage of Quentin Tarantino, the director and screenwriter, Christopher McQuarrie, is much more interested in blood and guts than relying on his own story to carry the picture. I like action movies and "The Way of the Gun" bored me from beginning to end. I also like when action films happen to pick up the characteristics of generally smarter movies. I saw, heard, and felt no wit while watching "The Way of the Gun." What a mess.

The movie is raw and brutal and contains a fair emount of fierce energy, but to what good measure? Benicio Del Toro and Ryan Phillippe play the typically inept criminals who manage to kidnap a surrogate mother (Juliette Lewis) and more or less hold her for ransom. They travel past the border into Mexico where all hell breaks loose. The pregnant woman's child belongs to a powerful crime lord who is eager to have his child returned to him. Enter James Caan in a suitably uncomfortable role as the "laundry man" who tries to return the woman. The problem is that she doesn't want to be rescued. Many gritty Mexican shoot-outs follow.

The movie obviously takes some inspiration from John Ford's "The Searchers" and Martin Scorsese's "Taxi Driver" with its reluctant heroine subplot. In "The Searchers" the point that the girl didn't want to be "saved" from the ruthless Indians was less subtle than in "Taxi Driver," which delivered the message more powerfully but yet equaled the other film's greatness (if not surpassed it). Jodie Foster, as Iris, didn't really want Travis Bickle (Robert De Niro) to "free" her. Lewis does not want to be liberated in "The Way of the Gun" because she realizes what shall become of her child if she were to return home. This is an amusing moral dilemma but is not very convincing. Lewis once again overplays the screwball nature of her character, inadvertantly creating a strange hybrid of greed and unsatisfying ambiguity.

That's probably one of the biggest faults of the movie. We don't give much of a hoot for any of the characters in "The Way of the Gun." Benicio Del Toro literally stumbles his way through the scenes with a spaced-out look on his face, as usual, but at least in "The Usual Suspects" his character had some dialogue and came off, at the bare minimum, as an interesting individual. He's a very good actor but he needs to start expanding his reaches a bit more -- I have yet to see him play a character who looks like he is NOT on drugs.

Phillippe did not impress me with "Cruel Intentions" and he unfortunately did not impress me in "The Way of the Gun." The poor casting on his part is another one of the film's major miscalculations. Who in the world thought this kid could act?

Prior to crafting "The Way of the Gun" McQuarrie penned the script for "The Usual Suspects," which was clever because it knew how to juggle an engaging and mysterious story with overly-competent direction by Bryan Singer ("X-Men"). Had Singer directed "The Way of the Gun," the result might have been a much better movie. Had some serious casting changes been made and some revisions to the screenplay, I am convinced that this could have been a great motion picture. It just needed a few vital ingredients, most notably more likable and believable characters and less tired situations involving the same-old. What a waste of space.
Movie Guru Rating
Disappointing.  Had the right ingredients and should have been better. Disappointing.  Had the right ingredients and should have been better.
  2 out of 5 stars

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