September 14, 2000

The Way of Tarantino

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Christopher McQuarrie, writer-turned-director of The Usual Suspects, sets his sights as Quentin Tarantino in his new film The Way of the Gun. His ambitious directorial debut is strikingly similar to early 1990’s mystery crime-dramas. In fact, this movie is probably what you would get if Quentin Tarantino were ever to do a Western. Regardless, the clever writing and high-intensity action sequences make The Way of the Gun a worthy, if slightly derivative, successor in this post-Pulp Fiction era.

McQuarrie’s script, much like The Usual Suspects, provides a multitude of despicable anti-heroes caught in a labyrinth of intrigue and deceit. The two main characters are portrayed effectively by Ryan Phillipe (Cruel Intentions) and Benicio Del Toro (The Usual Suspects), who go by the phony names Parker and Longbaugh, respectively.

Parker and Longbaugh are small-time criminals who stumble across the opportunity of a lifetime. They decide to kidnap Robyn, played by Juliette Lewis (The Other Sister), who is pregnant and carrying the baby of a wealthy couple in exchange for $1 million. They must navigate the traps set for them by Robyn’s two bodyguards, younger versions of the hitmen in Pulp Fiction. Eventually, they escape to Mexico, where the real action begins.

Parker and Longbaugh, have tremendous chemistry. They know what each other are thinking and often communicate through glances and unspoken exchanges rather than dialogue, especially during the action sequences. In between the gunplay, the dialogue is quick-witted and displays the same type of pop-culture knowledge that is so prevalent in Tarantino’s films. Parker promises a particularly difficult informant “a day of reckoning that you will not live long enough to never forget.”

With The Way of the Gun, writer/director Christopher McQuarrie shows genuine potential. The movie is ripe with all of the double-crossing, backstabbing, and secret identities that you would expect from the man who wrote Suspects. The casting of Phillipe, who displays a surprising intensity, and Del Toro, a true actor’s actor, is a stroke of brilliance. The movie is directed at true fans of the crime genre and, for those people, it will not disappoint. However, it will not make any new fans either. While the narrative twists, brutal violence, gunplay, and quirky dialogue are hardly groundbreaking, The Way of the Gun does provide for a supremely stylish and entertaining crime story.

Archived article by Seth Zelnik