Published Sep 01, 2000The first moment of anticipation for "Way of the Gun" comes from its writer and director, Christopher McQuarrie, the man responsible for the snaky narrative of "The Usual Suspects." It's a hard act to follow - McQuarrie won an Oscar for that screenplay - but he's coming at his directing debut armed to the teeth. The story is familiar territory - Ryan Phillippe and Benicio Del Toro (from "Suspects") play desperate thieves who kidnap pregnant surrogate mom Juliette Lewis, in order to extort money from the crime-connected couple whose baby she's having.
Thus the chase begins while her due date approaches. In pursuit are the two bodyguards they escaped from, and a wise and dangerous bagman in the form of James Caan, who saw a hail of bullets in "The Godfather" similar to the one that ends this flick. McQuarrie again demonstrates his deft touch at revealing just a little information at a time about each of the game's pawns, including the mother-to-be's wicked step mom, and her doctor, who gets dragged all the way to Mexico for his troubles. It's there in the hot sun and desert dust that "Way of the Gun" finally fulfils its titular destiny, in a display that makes Tarantino look like a playwright.
Benecio Del Toro does another study in cool, this time with salt-and-pepper grey hair, one that makes you wonder why he doesn't get more work - he's barely been seen since his fattened-up sidekick turn in "Fear and Loathing In Las Vegas." For his part, Phillippe manages to subdue his smirky annoyingness behind a scruffy beard and the fact that he can't compete on that front with co-star Lewis. This time out, she manages to hide the fact that she's done the same white trash character in a dozen flicks by having no character at all. Were she not eight months wide, you'd hardly notice she's there. Taye Diggs and Nicky Katt, as the bodyguards trying to save their asses by bringing hers back, carry more than their share of the load, providing some much need character balance. Plus they needed an extra couple of hands to help carry all the ammo. "Way of the Gun" isn't as intricately plotted, and won't stand up to the ravages of repeat viewing the same way that "Suspects" has, but McQuarrie has proven that he's a talent to watch out for. Especially if he's armed.