Christopher McQuarrie’s directorial debut, The Way of the Gun, is definitely one of the most exhilarating examples of ways in which great cinematography, editing, and sound effects can fuel a film with a few holes in the plot.
After McQuarrie won an Academy Award for best screenplay for The Usual Suspects, great things were expected of him. Unlike The Usual Suspects, The Way of the Gun does not have a complex story that keeps you glued to the edge of your seat as you wait to have an epiphany and finally understand the film in the final minutes.
Instead, The Way of the Gun keeps you on the edge of your mind as you are filled with superb camera angles, fast paced editing, and some of the loudest gunfire ever heard in a film. Especially in The Wild Bunch inspired fifteen-minute ending.
The film begins with the word “fuck” being said over 100 times in the first three minutes. Before the opening credits role the audience is bombarded with profanity, violence, and some politically incorrect comedy. Exactly what every film should strive for is found immediately.
Benicio Del Toro (Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, The Usual Suspects) and Ryan Phillippe (Cruel Intentions, 54) play two modern outlaws, ‘Parker’ and ‘Longbaugh’ as they like to be called, that live and die by the gun. They don’t want anyone to feel sorry for them, they make no excuses for the way they are, and they love the life they have chosen for themselves.
Unfortunately, that all changes when they kidnap a surrogate mother, Juliette Lewis (Natural Born Killers), who is just about ready to pop. Little do our two anti-heroes know that the father of the child is a powerful southwestern couple. The couple ends up sending James Caan (The Godfather) to retrieve their prized possession before anything happens to it.
Ever since the release of Reservoir Dogs and Pulp Fiction, every movie with the slightest bit of violence in it is compared to the Quentin Tarantino classics. Many films have tried to emulate these violent gangster films. Fortunately, The Way of the Gun does not. It owes as much artistic inspiration to the Spaghetti Westerns of decades past as to the mid 90’s violent epics. Clint Eastwood could very well have been either one of our two ‘heroes’ in the 70’s.
The only down part of the film is that we never actually understand why the two protagonists are the way they are. None of the characters develop at all and the two-hour film takes place over about a day and a half.
The audience never has to guess who is going to do what next, but that doesn’t really matter because this film is more of an artistic accomplishment of how to edit a film. The fast paced editing doesn’t deter from the story like many films do in the age of MTV’s short attention span. Instead, the editing adds to the story and allows McQuarrie to be a little looser in his story telling. A great deal of credit should be given to Stephen Semel for his excellent editing as well as the Director of Photography, Dick Pope B.S.C.
Had this film paid as much attention to the story line as it did to the photography and editing, then it could have been one of the best films of the year. As it stands, it is still a very enjoyable film, but it probably won’t earn any Academy Awards for McQuarrie this time around. But that’s okay because the Academy doesn’t know shit anyway. For seven dollars there’s no better film at the multiplex in September.