The Way of the Gun (2000) from Johnny Web (Uncle Scoopy; Greg Wroblewski)

This is the first film ever directed by Christopher McQuarrie, although he has a very impressive writing credit on his resume (The Usual Suspects).

He did quite well. Anytime I watch an entire film with Ryan Phillippe without touching the fast forward, it has to be pretty darned clever.

Phillippe and Benicio Del Toro play a couple of second-rate thugs who are playing the hand life dealt them. As Phillippe says in narration, you get to a point in your life where it's either minimum wage or small-time crime, and they've gone the crime route.


Completely by accident, they stumble upon a potentially big score with potentially massive problems. They kidnap a surrogate mother, and they know the couple waiting for the baby is rich and is willing to pay big-time for the child. What they don't realize is that the father-to-be is a major crime figure who is far more ruthless than they. Not to mention better armed and financed.

And they also don't realize that the surrogate mother is actually bearing her own baby instead of the planted egg (which didn't take). And that the real father is not the mob boss, but the mob boss' son, who also happens to be the mother's ob-gyn.

And it also turns out that there is a factional battle in the mob itself, and even the boss' guys don't get along with each other.

Hoo-boy. Quite a messy stew a-brewing for our small-time crooks.

So Mr Big Time sends out an army of killer bag men with his ransom payment, and the last half hour or so turns into a Tarantino fest where zillions of guys blast away at zillions of other guys in a seemingly deserted Mexican town, all while the doctor tries to perform an emergency c-section on Juliette Lewis.

The script has a lot of nice touches. The way that Del Toro and Phillippe escape in the first car chase is really clever. Then the bonding between Del Toro and Jimmy Caan (as the head killer) is a strange twist. Some of the dialogue is quirky and literate and thoughtful, and the characterizations are interesting, although the script is bloated with unnecessary details and characters - too many characters, in my opinion, to flesh them all out.

DVD info from Amazon.

Widescreen anamorphic. Satisfactory print.

There is a full-length commentary by McQuarrie, the script and storyboards for a scene they never shot, several cast and crew interviews and some behind the scenes things.

But if you are a Tarantino or Peckinpah fan, I think you'll find this director to your liking, especially in the finale. McQuarrie has his own take on the pulp ultra-violence, and his own way to use thoughtful dialogue in the middle of crazed killing, and he doesn't pretend to be Tarantino. For example, he doesn't tell any intersecting stories, or try to wind seemingly unrelated characters together. He basically only has the one main story which he drives forward. But he covers some of the same ground as Tarantino, has a similar testosterone-driven mentality, and has some of the same obsessions. I think that if you like Quentin, this is another guy you may enjoy.

And if you liked Peckinpah's The Wild Bunch, you'll find a lot of familiar elements in the finale of this film.

At the very end, the boss' wife announces that the surrogate wasn't even needed because she is pregnant, although this was thought to be medically impossible. We imagine the moment when the boss will see "his" new son - because her lover/bodyguard is a black man.

The Critics Vote

  • General consensus: three stars, or a hair less. Apollo 78/100, Ebert 2.5/4, Berardinelli 3/4.

  • Rotten Tomatoes summary. Split decision. About half positive, half negative. 45% positive overall, and 47% from the top critics.

The People Vote ...

  • With their votes ... The movie buffs at IMDb like it much better than the critics did. IMDB summary: IMDb voters score it a near-classic 7.2 (7.5 makes the top 250 of all time), Apollo users 84/100
  • With their dollars ... uninspired. It did $6 million domestic gross on a $9 million budget. Other revenues will bring it to solvency.
My guideline: A means the movie is so good it will appeal to you even if you hate the genre. B means the movie is not good enough to win you over if you hate the genre, but is good enough to do so if you have an open mind about this type of film. C means it will only appeal to genre addicts, and has no crossover appeal. D means you'll hate it even if you like the genre. E means that you'll hate it even if you love the genre. F means that the film is not only unappealing across-the-board, but technically inept as well.

Based on this description, this film is a strong C.

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