Laura Clifford Robin Clifford
Parker (Ryan Phillippe, "Cruel Intentions") and Longbaugh (Benicio del Toro, "The Usual Suspects") have tired of petty crime and want to make one big score for early retirement. While picking up easy cash by donating sperm, they overhear a story about a surrogate mother who's being paid a cool million to carry a couple's child. Bingo! The two manage to kidnap Robin (Juliette Lewis) away from her bodyguards only to discover she's carrying the child of Hale Chidduck (Scott Wilson), a powerful bagman with an amoral team of his own in "The Way of the Gun."
Writer/director Christopher McQuarrie was frustrated to learn that even after winning an Oscar for writing "The Usual Suspects," he couldn't sell a script outside the crime thriller genre. "The Way of the Gun" is an exercise in proving himself to Hollywood. While this new story isn't as slick as the previous, it's still satisfyingly twisty, even if the ending gets a bit bogged down. McQuarrie also proves himself as a director, getting solid performances out of his cast and achieving a retro-Western look for his film.
Parker and Longbaugh end up in a massive shootout when they attempt to kidnap Robin in the lobby of her doctor's office, only getting away with the hugely pregnant woman when she tries to make a break from her own bodyguards. Chiddick brings in his bagman Sarno (James Caan), who disparages Robin's bodyguards Jeffers (Taye Digs, "How Stella Got Her Groove Back") and Obecks (Nicky Katts, "Boiler Room") and forms his own team beginning with suicidal Abner (Geoffrey Lewis, father of Juliette). They make contact with Longbaugh at a Mexican motel where Longbaugh demands $15 million for the child. Sarno advises that things will end badly. Meanwhile Parker is philosophizing with Robin and Chiddick's trophy wife Francesca listens in to various underhanded conversations when she's not dallying with Jeffers or watching prenatal videos.
Absolutely everyone outside of our two 'heroes' in this story has a different agenda than appears on the surface. Even Dr. Painter (Dylan Kussman, "Dead Poets' Society"), Robin's gynocologist, has more than one hook into the proceedings. Everyone but the Chiddicks themselves will end up across the border for a drawn out and bloody finale.
The cast is excellent. Ryan Phillippe discards his golden boy shallowness to play a suddenly God-fearing tough guy with scrubby facial hair and a low growl of a voice. Del Toro personifies cool as the elder, more goal oriented of the pair. Juliette Lewis is a fighter who keeps punching through every obstacle thrown in her way until an unwanted C-Section is forced upon her in a remote brothel. Caan is the most complex character as the experienced and rueful bagman. Diggs is suave, all killer cool while his counterpart Katts is darker, brawnier. Geoffrey Lewis creates a surprisingly sympathetic oddball with little screen time.
The script features some great dialogue ('$15 million is not money - it's a motive with a universal adapter on it.') and even some hilarity (Parker and Longbaugh's sperm donor interviews). McQuarrie and his director of photography Dick Pope ("Topsy Turvy") use visual irony and Western style earthtones to good effect, recalling the films of Peckinpah. "The Way of the Gun" also offers up the most unique car chase (idea creditted to Benicio del Toro in the press notes) in movies since "Bullitt" and "The French Connection." Score by Joe Kraemer inventively employs castanets.
If you can take a heavy dose of violence, blood and a pregnant woman in peril, "The Way of the Gun" is like a mystery tour where the journey is more exciting than the destination.
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