The Way of the Gun
Written and directed by Christopher McQuarrie

Starring Ryan Philippe, Benicio Del Toro, Juliette Lewis, James Caan


The Way of the Gun

My screening notes for "The Way of the Gun" read: "Too many moments of mood at the expense of the film." And "People speak exposition and philosophy instead of conversation and emotion." And "Too many elliptical lines, too many pregnant pauses." And "Somebody saw 'Pulp Fiction' too many times and still didn't get it anyway." Which is odd and unexpected here, because "The Way of the Gun" was written (and directed) by Christopher McQuarrie, the man who wrote that brilliant satire of the whole film-noir concept "The Usual Suspects."

The film has a classic noir premise: Two young hoods (Ryan Philippe and Benicio Del Toro), at a medical building where they're trying to become sperm donors in order to pick up a little cash, come upon a pregnant young surrogate mother, Robin (Juliette Lewis), in for her ninth-month checkup. They decide on the spur of the moment to kidnap her for ransom, and they're pursued by her pair of amazingly well-dressed bodyguards.

Things don't go well, either for the hoods (named in the film Parker and Longbough, the real names of Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid) or for the bereft family, which a) is not quite as bereft as you might think; and b) has a serious problem deciding about the ransom.

The middle-aged husband, Hale Chidduck (Scott Wilson) thinks his young wife Francesca (Kristin Lehmann) is infertile. Little does he know. He does, however, have a consultant, a kind of personal ambassador named Joe Sarno (James Caan), whose function is a variation on the Harvey Keitel role in "Pulp Fiction." Caan becomes the middle-man in the kidnapping, which has now shifted to a cheap motel across the border in Mexico.

Everyone but the two bandits has his or her own agenda, and is happy not to reveal it to anyone else in the film. The plot's clock starts ticking when it becomes apparent that Robin is going into labor and everyone's separate agenda converges on the moment and the location of the kidnappers and kidnappee. All of which would be just fine if only we cared about it. The film lurches from one mechanical contrivance to another, and McQuarrie has loaded it with so many convoluted soliloquies and so little meaning that when he ends, with the longest gunfight since "The Wild Bunch" we just count the bodies and wait for the credits to roll.    

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