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The Way of the Gun

Starring Benicio del Toro, Ryan Phillippe, Juliette Lewis and James Caan; Taye Diggs, Nicky Katt
Written and Directed by Christopher McQuarrie

IN SHORT: Bullet fest for the kidlets. Less to lock on to for adults [Rated R, for strong violence/gore, language and some sexuality. 116 minutes]

All the anger building inside writer Christopher McQuarrie towards the Hollywood "system" is unleashed in his directorial debut, The Way of the Gun. Hollywood's insistence of always having the bad guy explain why they're bad is shredded in a story where they bad guys are bad, know they're bad, don't care about it -- or anything else at all apparently, other than getting enough money to keep them on the road to finding the fortune that is waiting for them to come and get it.

Parker (Ryan Phillippe) and Longbaugh (Benicio del Toro) are the protagonists -- those prepping for Regis may want to remember the real life surnames of Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid. That being said, the folks over on our message boards who have lately been dissing BCSK as cheesy and stupid will probably want to chow down for McQuarrie's de-glamorizing take on the genre. Those thinking "oh, that means more blood and guts than Bonnie and Clyde" should be warned that it also means language. The movie's first scene will bury you neck deep in traditional obscene language. If you make it through -- we were surprised how deep it got but waded through the muck -- you'll be well prepped for a story that layers secret upon secret upon plot twist, with characters that swerve only a little from any standard stereotype.

Parker and Longbaugh are not good enough to be called "good" petty crooks. With a living wage generated from selling blood and semen, the pair wander the country seeking the big score. During one of these donations, they overhear a Doctor (Dylan Kussman) talk of a wealthy couple (Scott Wilson and Kristin Lehman) paying a woman (Juliette Lewis) a million dollars to carry their inseminated child, which is about to come to term. The girl has been living as a virtual captive in a mansion, with 24 hour security guards (Taye Diggs and Nicky Katt) keeping an eye out and accompanying her on trips to the doctor. Our pair decide that, during one of these visits, they'll bushwhack the guards, grab the girl and make an easy fifteen million or so in ransom. It's a total botch, though the girl ends up with the bad guys, and the resulting gunfight leaves bodies everywhere, and sets up a car chase that is among the most remarkable things I've ever seen.

What the thugs don't know is that rich guy Hale Chidduck (Wilson) got that way by fronting for a variety of illegal enterprises, who would not be pleased to know that their money is being spent on a ransom. So, besides the regular surviving security (the pair mentioned) seeking to recover the girl and keep their heads attached to their necks, Chidduck calls in long time bag man Sarno (James Caan) and his associate Abner (Geoffrey Lewis). Sarno is accomplished at the art of bringing high tension situations to the ground -- he finds Parker and Longbaugh without much effort -- and settling them quietly, without violence. Failing that, he's more than capable of making bodies disappear. The offer made to Longbaugh is good, but one bag man knows the ways of another and we're soon set up for a dramatic conclusion that recalls the great flicks mentioned above. Three exceptions: no slow motion and no freeze frame and high powered weapons in the hands of punks who never seemed to have enough cash to pick 'em up cheap at the local gun show.

The plus side is that McQuarrie is a darn fine writer. Each character, from the very top of the ladder down through the security and bag men and villains and victim have secret agendas that they're all looking out for. The downside is that, once McQuarrie points your attention at the characters you should feel sympathy for, it is too late.

On average, a first run movie ticket will run you Eight Bucks. Were Cranky able to set his own price to The Way of the Gun, he would have paid...


Pay per view level. For sheer firepower, teens may be happy -- hell, if you can cheer for a slice 'n' dice, you can dig deep into a film with no characters to sympathetically root for. I'm way past the stage where going "ooo cool bullets" is enough.

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