The Way Of The Gun

****

Reviewed by: Angus Wolfe Murray

No one complained that Butch Cassidy And The Sundance Kid were criminals. They did what they did and they did it in style.

Same with these guys.

In the old days, you could ride into town, have a few beers, play a hand of poker, check out the girls, wander across the street and rob a bank. It's a bit more complicated now. You don't know who you're dealing with and if you're not armed to the teeth some sneaky zip-mouth in a suit will blow your head off rather than whistle up the hounds.

Parker (Ryan Phillippe) and Longbaugh (Benicio Del Toro) kidnap Robin (Juliette Lewis) and demand millions of dollars in ransom. Of course, it isn't as easy as that. They have to kill a few people who get in the way and deal with a pair of designer bodyguards (Taye Diggs and Nicky Katt) who give chase.

Robin is nine months pregnant. She's staggering under the weight, moaning and weeping and acting scared. The tough guys tell her to shut up. She's not the prize anyway. The baby is.

Robin is a surrogate mother. The future "father" of this unborn child is Hale Chidduck (Scott Wilson), who happens to be a fixer for the Mob. Parker and Longbaugh are amateurs. They haven't done their homework.

Chidduck sends his bagman, Sarno (James Caan), to talk to the punks in a Mexican bordello where they're hiding out. Sarno is clever. He has a word with Longbaugh in a bar. No threats, no guns.

"Are you the brains of this operation?" he asks.

"I don't think this is a brains kind of operation," Longbaugh says.

Sarno likes to make his victims feel safe. After all, he's an old guy doing a job for another old guy. The health of the baby and the baby's mother is what's important. They shake hands.

Afterwards, all hell breaks loose.

Christopher McQuarrie won an Oscar for writing The Usual Suspects. His ear for dialogue is razor sharp. Some of the language draws blood, as film noir cliches are mocked, or discarded.

As well as penning an excellent script, McQuarrie directs for the first time, avoiding the seductive charms of modern action pictures, with their sweaty close-ups and balletic slow motion (Desperado, Mission Impossible 2).

Parker and Longbaugh compliment each other perfectly, the brave outlaws who do it for the thrill as much as anything. Phillippe's wiry energy and Del Toro's midnight eyes contain a hint of ruthlessness.

The gun battles have a ferocity not seen since Saving Private Ryan. Just when you feel comfortable with the way things are going, McQuarrie flips you around and rearranges your attitude. Boredom is not an option.

Reviewed on: 19 Jan 2001
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Gangsters hold a surrogate mum to ransom.
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Director: Christopher McQuarrie

Writer: Christopher McQuarrie

Starring: Ryan Phillippe, Benicio Del Toro, Juliette Lewis, James Caan, Taye Diggs, Nicky Katt, Scott Wilson

Year: 2000

Runtime: 119 minutes

BBFC: 18 - Age Restricted

Country: US

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