Volume 94, Issue 8
|ARTS AND ENTERTAINMENT
Intelligent casting paves The Way
Gazette File Photo
SEE WHAT HAPPENS WHEN YOU WEAR WHITE AFTER LABOUR DAY! Ryan Phillippe and Benicio Del Toro pose and compare the size of their pistols in The Way of the Gun.
The Way Of The Gun
Starring: Ryan Phillippe, Benicio Del Toro, Juliette Lewis, James Caan
Directed By: Christopher McQuarrie
By Adrion Torrington
Ryan Phillippe and Benicio Del Toro star as Mr. Parker and Mr. Longbaugh (the real names of Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid), in Christopher McQuarrie's directorial debut, The Way OfThe Gun.
McQuarrie also penned this film. You may recognize him as the Oscar-winning writer of The Usual Suspects but The Way of the Gun cannot be compared to The Usual Suspects.
If you are looking for tight plotting, dime-turn-reversals or revelatory finales, you won't find them here. This film is about morality, not suspense and while there are elements of the traditional suspense picture, the movie's quality is rooted in its character-motivations, or lack thereof.
Phillippe and Del Toro are a couple of modern-day desperadoes, driven after money and away from the wake of crimes they have left behind them. They hatch a plan to kidnap a woman (Juliette Lewis), who just happens to be the wife of a powerful millionaire with mob ties. Of course that doesn't go over well and they find themselves on the run from Lewis's bodyguards, played by Taye Diggs and Nicky Katt.
Complications emerge and at some points, the characters need to talk everything through with each other in order to keep both themselves and the audience up-to-speed. In the end, the loose ends are tied together as the chase leads down into Mexico, where there is a drawn-out gunfight in homage to the Peckinpah classic The Wild Bunch a western-style/post-Tarantino bloodfest.
While some might have little sympathy for Phillippe and Del Torro, given that they seem to be extremely amoral, it is more to the point that these characters are simply not motivated by typical Hollywood standards. They are more accurate reflections of real-world people who do not live strictly by one set of values, but go through cycles of moral highs and lows.
These highS and lows are the undercurrent of the film. They are reflected in the plethora of convoluted and unreadable facial expressions the actors employ. There is a certain kind of desperation in these expressions which seem to cry for the very Hollywood-style motivations McQuarrie has denied them. It is as if these characters wish they were in a traditional Hollywood movie, where they would know what to do. But they aren't and are frustrated about it.
The characters are also refreshing in another way. Both the bodyguards and the criminals are not overly intelligent nor are they particularly stupid. Jeffers, played by Diggs, is more competent in the role of the bodyguard than Hollywood audiences are used to seeing, while Phillipe and Del Toro are more resourceful.
Consequently, while McQuarrie shows promise in his directorial debut, audiences might feel a sense of loss watching this film, because the plot is not as tight as they have come to expect in traditional Hollywood fare. The looseness of the plot should not be blamed on McQuarrie's inexperience as a director, but to his devotion to the theme of the film the looseness of morality in real people.
Overall, the movie is not about intelligence in character motivations, but about instinct. It's just as Del Toro's character says about his kidnapping caper: "Tell you the truth, I don't think this is a brains kind of operation."
Copyright © The Gazette 2000