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'Way Of The Gun, The'

'Gun' overdone: Action flick goes too heavy on the twists and the firepower

Friday, September 08, 2000

By Ron Weiskind, Post-Gazette Movie Editor

Round up "The Usual Suspects" and you'll find a movie with more twists than the licorice sticks at the concession stand. Screenwriter Christopher McQuarrie, who won an Oscar for that one, also serves as director of his current film, "The Way of the Gun." But he's still practicing contortionism with a vengeance.

'The Way Of The Gun'

RATING: R for strong violence/gore, language and some sexuality

STARRING: Ryan Phillippe, Benicio Del Toro, Juliette Lewis

DIRECTOR: Christopher McQuarrie

CRITIC'S CALL: 2 1/2 stars.


This much is clear. Two young thugs who call themselves Parker (Ryan Phillippe) and Longbaugh (Benicio Del Toro) appear to be prime candidates for natural deselection, picking a fight in a parking lot full of hostile youths and getting the worst of it. But they're bright enough to realize their choices in life are "petty crime or minimum wage."

Waiting to make a few bucks donating their sperm -- talk about polluting the gene pool -- they hear about a guy whose wife can't be bothered with getting pregnant, so he's paying a million bucks to a surrogate mother, Robin (Juliette Lewis), for carrying the baby to term.

The boys try to kidnap her for ransom, only to learn they're way out of their league when they find themselves unprepared for the response of her bodyguards (Taye Diggs and Nicky Katt). But one good screwup deserves another, and they end up with Robin anyhow.

Be careful what you wish for. The millionaire (Scott Wilson) is no pushover, and neither are his henchmen, who include Joe Sarno (James Caan), an experienced troubleshooter.

Naturally, just about everyone in the film except for Parker and Longbaugh has a dirty little secret and, therefore, an ulterior motive. Our scruffy protagonists just want their ransom and sometimes they even doubt that.

Just listen as they turn a description of the rules for the card game hearts into a philosophical treatise suggesting they may have one between them -- a heart, that is. They may not be alone in that, either -- not that it's necessarily going to improve anyone's karma.

But that seems to be the last thing on McQuarrie's mind. "The Way of the Gun" is a nasty, brutish modern-day western with more gunfire than the OK Corral, dying men writhing in pain and enough torturous scenes (including one of a man being tortured) to make you cringe like a movie-theater executive declaring bankruptcy.

As for those plot twists, I'm still trying to untangle some of them. Were most of them really necessary? Some of these folks are intriguing because they occasionally display a kernel of human warmth, which seems contrary to their natures.

But McQuarrie doesn't seem interested in digging deeper. The exploration of their possible better natures turns out to be largely punctuation for the action scenes, which are cleverly and excitingly staged in an enervating sort of way. He doesn't really explore the consequences of the twists or follow up on the various alliances, however temporary, that the characters may fall into.

In other words, the twists push the plot instead of the characters. The cast does the best they can -- even Phillippe is convincing -- but there's more heat than light in "The Way of the Gun."

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