Wednesday, September 19, 2018


The Way of the Gun (2000) is worse than sick—it’s aggressively diseased. Take all the really foul stretches from the Quentin Tarantino bloodfests and the insipid humor in the Richard Donner Lethal Weapon movies and string everything together—that’s The Way of the Gun. In terms of craftsmanship, however, it’s marvelous: the lighting, the color, and the sound are expert, and the soundtrack shapes the emotional contours of the scenes.

Hip depravity. Juliette Lewis and Benicio del Toro
Several of the actors do excellent work. Dylan Kussman as the doctor is an amazing little performer who effortlessly rises above his colleagues (as he did in Dead Poets’ Society). Benicio del Toro and Ryan Phillippe are talented actors whose idiosyncrasies season their performances. (They have both grown as actors since The Way of the Gun, in Crash [2004], The Bang-Bang Club [2010], Snatch [2000], and Sin City [2005], particularly.) The two bodyguards, Taye Diggs and Nicky Katt, give clever, rousing performances, and Diggs really comes alive when Katt’s character is killed.

On the debit side, Juliette Lewis is a naggingly trendy, unconvincing presence with a repellent style—she’s a Method amateur doing an update on Ann Savage in Edgar G. Ulmer’s Detour (1945). Lewis seems to find herself continually dragged into self-important garbage intended to épater le bourgeois, like Natural Born Killers (1994) and From Dusk till Dawn (1996). Lewis screams her way through this one until you’re ready to force feed her broken glass—a scene that would, not uncoincidentally, fit perfectly in this movie. James Caan shows up, too, and I thought, “What a drag to see that mannerism-infected old fart delivering lines as if he were revisiting scenes from The Killer Elite.” Caan often wears Eddie Bauer windbreakers in his movies, and sure enough he’s wearing one again here. The cutting during the final shootout is astounding—Christopher McQuarrie exhibits technical mastery of the medium—and the montage is brilliant directorial formalism. But the movie’s vision is awash in moral crud. The Way of the Gun is a morally repugnant work of art.

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