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by shahriar khan | October, 2001

Way of the Gun


The sequence where the kidnap occurs, with both kidnappers and bodyguards playing violent cat and mouse, is done brilliantly. Tense, vivid, and exciting, the outcome is always in doubt. The professionalism of both sides under fire is established so convincingly that it comes as too much of a surprise when both sides later start to make the most banal of mistakes. Like Longbaugh tells Joe Sarno (James Caan) the bag man sent to pay the ransom, "telling the truth, I don’t think this is a brains kind of operation".

Keyser Soze he’s not, but as played by Del Toro, Longbaugh has a cool wit and charisma that does much win to himself sympathy for the hideous mess he’s got himself, his partner and Robin (Juliette Lewis) into. If an audience can find the ‘heart’ in violent films such as these, then it only adds to their box-office appeal. McQuarrie, bravely, seems to be happy to subvert all expectations! He doesn’t seem to believe in heroes.

Parker and Longbaugh as much as they might suffer the death of a thousand bullets in order to ultimately save Robin, (there are deliberate nods by McQuarrie to The Wild Bunch and Butch Cassidy) they are really irredeemably nasty. The bodyguards as played by the sleek Taye Diggs and Nicky Katt look as if they might step up to the plate, but they end up as venal and greedy as the rest. And their employers, the childless Chidducks? Well he’s a Mafia lawyer and she’s a bitch.

It sometimes looks as if Sarno, wised-up and world-weary, might turn out to be the real hero. We even discover he’s Robin’s father, but he never has the guts to step out of his bag-man role. After the briefest of touches of Robin, at the end of the movie his attention is fixed on the four big shoulder bags filled with $100 bills.

Most boldly, Robin her self, for all that she suffers (and Juliette Lewis does let out the most God-awful scream this side of Rosemary’s Baby) has no clear or credible motivation for the mess she has got herself into. If there is a hero, someone whom helps us to like the movie more, it has to be good’ol Abner as played by Geoffrey Lewis (Juliette Lewis’ real-life dad). A stumblebum private eye shadowing Parker and Longbaugh, he alone dies a hero’s death.

Uneven, but interesting, McQuarrie may have been best served by putting his script in the hands of a director with a greater flair for pacing and one who could just have cast a more objective view on proceedings.

Director: Christopher McQuarrie
Producers: Kenneth Kokin, Russell D. Markowitz
Screenplay: Christopher McQuarrie
DOP: Dick Pope 
Editor: Stephen Semel
Production Designer: Maia Javan
Costume Designer: Heather McQuarrie, Genevieve Tyrrell
Cast includes: James Caan, Benicio Del Toro, Juliette Lewis, Ryan Philippe
Production Company: Aqaba Productions and Artisan Entertainment
Distributor: Momentum Pictures
County: US
Year: 2000
Length: 119mins

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