The Way of the Gun is the movie Christopher McQuarrie made after his classic The Usual Suspects, though it was quite a bit after, due to the usual Hollywood contractual issues, and McQuarrie’s desire not to be typed as strictly a crime guy. I’ve read recommendations for a few years now, so The Beloved Spouse and I checked it out on NetFlix. We’re not sorry we watched it, though we’re not likely to watch it again, either.
The general premise is not just good but believable: two losers decide society has no place for them, so they have no time for it. They’re making a living selling body fluids (giving some highly entertaining interviews to sperm bank workers in the process) when they overhear a conversation between a doctor and a surrogate mother. The surrogate has bodyguards, which implies money, and lots of it. Our anti-heroes get the bright idea—by their standards—to kidnap the surrogate before she has the baby.
They didn’t bother to check to see if the father of the baby in question is connected to The Mob. Mayhem ensures.
There are a lot of good things about this movie. Using the names Parker and Longbaugh for the protagonists, then staging the big shoot-out in a location that gave every indication of being where the ending to Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid was filmed was an inspired Easter Egg for those paying attention. The action scenes are well staged, and guns have to actually be reloaded at realistic intervals, though how Parker and Longbaugh were able to carry as much ammunition as they did and were still able to walk is curious. The dialog is crisp, as would be expected from McQuarrie. (“Fifteen million dollars is not money. It's a motive with a universal adaptor on it.” And this exchange: “So, you the brains of this outfit, or is he?” “Tell ya the truth, I don't think this is a brains kind of operation.”) The casting and performances are both excellent, especially Ryan Phillippe as Parker, Benicio del Toro as Longbaugh, James Caan as the fixer tasked with unraveling this mess), and Geoffrey Lewis as Caan’s helper. (Sarah Silverman also does a brief walk-on as a character aptly credited as “Raving Bitch.”)
So, I must have loved it, right?
Well…there are holes. Some things happen, and you’re left scratching your head, wondering how this character got from Point A to Point B knowing only what he knew. Maybe something was edited out post-production. Hard to say. The end result keeps you from becoming lost in the movie, as these disconcerting anomalies interfere with the fictional dream any storyteller tries to create. I don’t want to get specific because it might spoil things for a potential viewer.
The Way of the Gun is definitely worth seeing if you’re into this kind of movie. (Which I assume most of this blog’s readers are.) Don’t expect too much, and you’ll enjoy it a lot. High expectations won’t ruin it, but will take the edge off.