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Film Review: The Way of the Gun

The screenwriter of 'The Usual Suspects' is back...

Early word on 'The Way of the Gun' indicated that it was an action-heavy crime thriller with a brain. It certainly is loaded with guns… lots of guns, but it is way off the mark if it’s trying to be a cerebral experience. Presumably, critics equated intelligence with the name Christopher McQuarrie - he is after all the man who wrote 1995’s captivating crime thriller 'The Usual Suspects', not to mention one of the most talked about twists in modern cinema.

Scene from The Way of the GunLongtime partners Parker (Phillipe) and Longbaugh (Del Toro) kidnap Robin (Lewis), a woman heavily pregnant with the surrogate child of a wealthy – and unbeknownst to them criminally powerful – couple. The quick and nonviolent payoff they were hoping for soon leads to the Mexican border where a four-way stand-off can end with only one result. Added to the mix is a sub-Chinatown strand involving James Caan as the “bag man” with a secret. Phillipe is surprisingly good, crushing any expectations you had from his previous fresh-faced roles in Cruel Intentions and I Know What You Did Last Summer. Here he is unshaven, rugged and matches Del Toro shot for shot. The same can’t be said for Caan (The Godfather, Misery), who looks painfully uncomfortable in a rather one-dimensional role.

Sadly, any interest soon diminishes as the film goes from vibrant to tired to just plain pointless. It’s a shame since The Way of the Gun starts with an effective sting in its tail and could have easily shaped up as a smart and witty tale of two desperados refusing society’s conventions, living instead by their weaponry. By the time we enter the last third of the film it is simply a case of damage limitation. Ironic really, since this is when the uninspired shoot-out commences. It is strangely neither stylish, convincing or exciting. It is in fact just an excuse for a showdown in the style of a western – the genre this film so aspires toward.

Parker occasionally delivers dictums such as: “We didn’t come for absolution. We didn’t ask to be redeemed” and “There is only one way to die. You get in the way”, but they have little relevance with the rest of the film. Ultimately, The Way of the Gun is a messy combination of existentialist neo-noir, melodramatic crime thriller and modern day western. For all its efforts, it’s wide of the mark of each of them.

Al Chan


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