The Way of the Gun (18)

Review by Jack Foley

DVD FEATURES: Director and Composer commentary; Isolated music score with composer's commentary; Cast interviews; Theatrical trailer; Cast and crew biographies.

FROM its fucked up opening, involving a foul-mouthed brawl outside a nightclub, you can tell that The Way Of The Gun isn't going to pull its punches - rather it sprays them around as haphazardly as bullets without a care in the world of who they might hit. It is a refreshingly nasty piece of work written and directed by Christopher McQuarrie, of The Usual Suspects fame which, like that classic, is largely devoid of heroes and populated by the underbelly of society.

Uncompromising in its depiction of criminals and the violence they instigate, The Way Of The Gun is an effective Tarantino homage with more than a little nod to Western classics such as Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid and The Wild Bunch. And for those reasons alone, it is definitely worth seeing.

Ryan (Cruel Intentions) Phillippe and Benicio Del Toro (The Usual Suspects) star as two career criminals who attempt to get rich quick by kidnapping the heavily pregnant surrogate mother (Juliette Lewis) of a wealthy businessman and demanding $15 million. But the kidnapping proves to be far more complicated, both logistically and psychologically, than any other offence they've committed as their actions unleash all manner of psychopaths on their trail. The businessman in question has Mob connections and will stop at nothing to prevent news of the pregnancy and subsequent kidnapping getting out, while those in his employment -including James Caan's wily old 'bag man' and Taye Diggs scheming bodyguard - all seem to have their own designs on the money.

In the ensuing mayhem, double cross follows double cross culminating in a superbly executed gunfight in a Mexican border town.

McQuarrie's film works well on many levels, not least in its gritty portrayal of career criminals. Phillippe and Del Toro are the closest we get to someone we can root for, but even they are capable of some unspeakable acts of brutality, while the chasing pack are a morally bankrupt group that really shouldn't be messed with. Even Lewis, the so-called 'victim', is not all she seems to begin with. But that isn't to say that time spent in their company is a hardship, for McQuarrie seems to have developed a talent for writing about 'anti-heroes' who somehow seem interesting.

Just as he did with The Usual Suspects, McQuarrie invests his characters with a cult-like status, serving up some delicious dialogue for them to sink their teeth into. So if the likes of Spacey and Byrne in The Usual Suspects or any number of Tarantino incarnations reserve a place in the memory, then the pairing of Phillippe and Del Toro, Caan's self-confessed 'survivor' or even Geoffrey Lewis's suicidal hitman (brilliant) sit comfortably beside them.

McQuarrie even shows some adept touches behind the camera, particularly in the well staged action sequences and in some of the wordy exchanges. But he may alienate some viewers with his depiction of violence which is, at times, extreme.

This is not a movie for the faint hearted, as best exemplified in the final moments when Lewis is forced to give birth amid a bloodbath (a scene which Sam Peckinpah would be proud of). However, for those with strong stomachs who like their movies to be challenging, The Way Of The Gun hits the target.

Classic movie quote: "There's always free cheese inside the mousetrap" - a bemused Del Toro ponders getting his hands on the money while being fully aware of the gunmen around him.