Way of the Gun
|Artesian Entertainment; 120 minutes; R|
|Cast:||Ryan Phillippe, Benicio Del Toro, Juliette Lewis|
Way of the Gun opens with a strong, idiosyncratic pace. One expects as much from writer-director Christopher McQuarrie, the man responsible for The Usual Suspects stellar screenplay. His latest movie follows the crooked paths of two petty thieves (Benicio Del Toro and Ryan Phillippe) who kidnap a surrogate mother (Juliette Lewis) eight months pregnant with the baby of a suspiciously wealthy couple. Fate and minor accidents work in the criminals' favor as they nab her out from under stone-faced bodyguards (Taye Diggs and Nicky Katt) and demand exorbitant ransom.
The film is populated with well-casted characters and distributes the intrigue quite evenly for the first half. Everyone is sinister, or could be, and the script injects moments of sly humor, such as James Caan's hoary "bag man" who speaks in hustler's slang peppered with 19th century aphorisms. It's a winning performance, played temperately for maximum laughs and menace.
Mistakes begin when the action heads south to Mexico for a desperately protracted finale. The film's lively first hour normalizes into a bloody shoot-out situation, but not before developing characters enough to make the viewer care what happens to them. Whereas The Usual Suspects created tight alleys of motives and suspicion, Way of the Gun overshoots this and ends up in neo-noir gridlock.