MOVIE REVIEW | ***CLOSING DOWN WEEK*** The Way of the Gun (2000)

In a nutshell, Bored & Dangerous says: “It’s trying so hard to be gritty and shocking and jarring.”

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Recently, in my neighbourhood, I saw something that’s all too common these days. A video shop that was closing down. They had a big sign out the front, “4 movies for $10”. I looked in my wallet, saw $30 and decided I wasn’t leaving that shop until I found 12 movies I thought were worth having on my DVD shelf. Some were movies I’d seen before. Some were movies I had a vague idea about and thought would be worth the $2.50 gamble. Some were oddities I’d never even heard of, but they looked interesting enough. So, thank you, Network Video Brunswick West. I never rented anything from you or even had a membership, but I did find some cool, interesting and mysterious things on your almost empty shelves.

“I promise you a day of reckoning that you won’t live long enough to never forget.”

I saw The Way of the Gun back when it was first released on video. I remember thinking it was pretty shitty. A cheap Tarantino knock off that wanted so bad to be cool. In the years since, I’ve seen it slowly sneak its way onto pop culture websites and into general movie nerd conversation as a bit of a cult classic for a certain generation. Maybe I was too young to get it back then, but being in my early 20s when it was released makes me think I was the exact target demographic for its uber machismo bull shit. I can’t imagine I ever would have sort it out again, but that growing cult respect, and the fact that it only cost $2.50, made me think that the universe was telling me I needed to give The Way of the Gun another chance.

Parker (Ryan Phillippe) and Longbaugh (Benicio Del Toro) are two drifters, surviving on the road by selling their various bodily fluids. One day at a sperm bank, they overhear a conversation about a surrogate mother and $1million. They decide that said surrogate would make for a pretty impressive ransom, so they decide to kidnap her. In a move that might set a pre-Shoot ‘Em Up record for how quickly a movie delivers its first gunfight, they manage to take the pregnant woman (Juliette Lewis as Robin) from her heavily armed body guards (Nicky Katt and Taye Diggs as Obecks and Jeffers).

It turns out, the man paying the $1million for the surrogate is a local crime boss, so he’s less inclined to pay the ransom, and more inclined to send in his endless army of henchmen and fixers instead, including the always awesome James Caan as Joe Sarno. Of course, there’s some level of bonding between the captors and their hostage, and the story of the pregnancy can’t be as simple as it initially seems. You know because this movie has a lot of clichés it needs to tick off in its less than two hours running time.

While 15 years ago I didn’t like this movie because I thought it was a blatant Tarantino rip off, that didn’t bother me as much this time around. Instead, I didn’t like this movie in 2016 because it doesn’t have single likeable or sympathetic character. One of the first things we see Parker and Longbaugh do, is punch women. How are we supposed to like these guys when that’s how they’re introduced? I guess Robin is kind of innocent and the closest thing to a good guy, but she’s just such a weak, whiney character, that I kept wanting her to die if for no other reason than to shut her up.
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Also, who thought they could cast Ryan Phillippe as a tough guy and get away with it? He’s way too pretty to ever stand a chance of delivering this movie’s macho dialogue and be believable. He looks like a private school fancy lad playing dress ups. Which is kind of how I feel about this movie as a whole. It’s trying so hard to be gritty and shocking and jarring. While always coming across as a pampered Hollywood screen writer’s idea of gritty and shocking and jarring, that he got his assistant to research for him.

The Way of the Gun
Directed By – Christopher McQuarrie
Written By – Christopher McQuarrie

Other Opinions Are Available. What did these people have to say about The Way of the Gun?
The A.V Club
The New York Times

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