The Way of the Gun

Directed by Christopher McQuarrie
Starring: Ryan Phillippe, Benicio Del Toro, Juliette Jewis, Taye Diggs, James Caan.
MPAA Rating: R for strong violence/gore, language and some sexuality.

Review by Matt Heffernan <>
September 10, 2000

Give a guy an Oscar, and he thinks he's a director. That's what happened to Christopher McQuarrie, the Academy Award-winning screenwriter of The Usual Suspects. The director of that film, his old friend Bryan Singer, was busy directing the summer blockbuster The X-Men, so McQuarrie took it upon himself to direct The Way of the Gun himself.

Ryan Phillippe stars and narrates as a would-be criminal who calls himself Mr. Parker. His partner is known as Mr. Longbaugh (Benicio Del Toro). While applying to donate sperm to make ends meet, they overhear a conversation about a girl who is being paid a million dollars to be a surrogate mother. With no more information, they decide to return on the day of her appointment to kidnap her.

The girl turns out to be Robin (Juliette Lewis), and her "clients" are involved with international money-laundering. Of course, the kidnappers don't realize this until after taking her (which was a little too easy) and heading down to Mexico, where they are chased by various bodyguards and bagmen.

Taking McQuarrie's story and screenplay on their own, a real potential exists for a good film. His problem as a director lies in his inability to keep it moving. The Way of the Gun is only the latest example of a film that would have been much better if only it were cut like its trailer. Singer would have kept up the pace and cut down the slow parts, and he would've added the style it needed. Now, The X-Men was entirely cut like a trailer for itself, which also wasn't a good idea, but I digress.

The other major problem with the film is Phillippe. McQuarrie has interesting things for his character, such as questioning his sexuality, but ultimately his character never works. Basically, he's a sweet-faced kid that can't be disguised with a short little beard. Del Toro's character, on the other hand, wasn't interesting at all, but at least he carried over his devil-may-care, bad-boy persona from The Usual Suspects. The interesting bits that keep the film from becoming a complete failure are the "supporting" parts of Lewis, James Caan, and Taye Diggs.

Clearly, it is in the best interest of both McQuarrie and Singer to work together. McQuarrie needs an intelligent director, and Singer needs intelligent dialogue. They have a synergy comparable to Martin Scorsese and Paul Schrader (except that Schrader is a competent director on his own, but I digress yet again). We need more films like The Usual Suspects, and less monotonous gunfire and comic book eye candy.

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The Way of the Gun (2000)

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Review © 2000 Matt Heffernan