The Way of the Gun is an excellent film. The story is a familiar one, two men living outside of society make money any way they can and are not averse to a bit of violent crime. Our anti-heroes opportunistically kidnap a young pregnant girl and attempt to succesfully blackmail a dodgy millionaire. The frenetic action culminates in an orgy of shooting and death.
I rented this film purely because Benecio Del Toro was in it and was pleased to find he is not the only good thing about it. It was directed and written by Christopher McQuarrie (The Usual Suspects) and boasts an impressive cast.
The action starts with an introduction to our two main characters - Parker, played by pretty boy Ryan Phillipe, and Longbaugh, played by Benecio Del Toro. The first scene is excellent, it instantly draws you into the film and puts across the personality of this crazy duo. They are living through a variety of strange means, such as sperm donation, and it is at the sperm clinic that they overhear a conversation and decide to kidnap the pregnant Robin, played by Juliette Lewis.
Parker is the junior partner and consequently Longbaugh handles the negotiations. At first they have no idea who they have kidnapped and after finding out they still have no idea. Instead of being intimidated by their adversary they decide to ask for fifteen million dollars. The man being hit for the money is Hale Chidduck, played by Scott Wilson, you may not recognise the name but Wilson is a familiar face and has often played the dirty businessman or gangster type part. His bag man is Joe Sarno, played by James Caan, an old survivor in a dangerous business. There are also a couple of bodyguards to deal with and they are quick to develop a strong rivalry with Parker and Longbaugh.
The plot is actually pretty complicated and I don´t want to give away any of the various twists and turns that occur. Suffice to say it is clever, very well-written, superbly acted by all concerned and skillfully directed. There are a number of high octane gun fight sequences in the film and even a Mexican stand-off in Mexico. The dialogue is intelligent, there is no attempt to justify the characters or sweeten them and that is rare in a American action film. All of the characters have their own motivations and the way in which they compete and interact is one of the most interesting things about the film.
Del Toro is an incredible actor, from the wacked out lawyer of Hunter S Thompson in Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, to the Mexican cop in Traffic, to this uncaring anti hero out for whatever he can get. Del Toro is not only always believable but he manages to be very likeable at the same time. In this film he is laidback, a quiet intense kind of manner, and it is very easy to sympathise with him despite the fact he is morally and socially beyond the pale.
Ryan Phillipe is however a different matter, he struggles to make his character believable. Donning a beard to cover his pretty face is not enough to convert him into an off the rails bad boy. Juliette Lewis is totally believable as the pregnant girl and as usual she does a good line in the poor white trash type character with a strong survival streak. James Caan is especially brilliant, I find him unlikeable but he really looks and acts the part, a smart, calculating negotiator and killer who has reached an old age, despite the business he is in having a short life expectancy. There is some nice conversation between him and Del Toro, both acknowledging the impersonal nature of their business.
The direction is quality but unobtrusive, managing to breath fresh life into familiar gun fight scenes we have all seen hundreds of times. The action flows along at a fast pace never over indulging our interest in the background of the characters. The music was good as far as I remember and the effects well handled, resulting in realistic looking gun fights and wounds. There are some nice comic touches as well, like the woman being punched in the first scene (I know that doesn´t sound funny but watch it and see).
Watching this I got the impression that more thought had gone into it than the majority of crime films we see today. The basic outline of the plot sounds almost cliched but the film manages not to be. It is dark in places and there are some nasty, bloody scenes in the film but all are part of the story and help add to the tension. The individual pecularities that all people possess are cleverly picked up on here and this goes a long way towards explaining the characters without needing lots of contrived dialogue, it does not try to spoonfeed the viewer.
Overall I loved this film, as you may be able to tell, and I would recommend it highly. Original, with quality in every department this film is well worth renting or even buying.