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The Way of the Gun (March 12/01)

I wanted to like The Way of the Gun. I mean, I really did. It's the directorial debut of a great screenwriter, Chris McQuarrie (The Usual Suspects), and features a cast full of familiar and flat-out cool figures (including Taye Diggs, Benicio Del Toro, Nicky Katt, James Caan, Juliette Lewis, and even Ryan Philippe).

But somehow, it just never works. The movie has a bunch of great individual scenes, but as a whole, the thing never quite gels.

Philippe and Del Toro star as two fairly inept criminals who, one day, overhear a conversation regarding how rich Lewis' father is and decide (on the spur of the moment) to kidnap her. What they don't count on, though, are two persistent bodyguards (Diggs and Katt) and a slightly insane "handler" played by Caan.

Let me start by praising the cast. Everyone is great, which come as no surprise if you're familiar with their previous work. Caan is good as always, as is Del Toro, but the real surprises come from actors previously thought of as one-note. Lewis, in particular, shines. Before her recent prolonged sabbatical from movie-making, Lewis was essentially turning in the same performance in every movie - the petulant, spoiled girl that usually isn't too bright. But here, as a vulnerable yet vicious pregnant woman, she really gets a chance to explore a different type of character.

The other performers are great, too, but the real problem lies in the inconsistencies in the motivations of the characters. The most glaring being the actions of Lewis' character. First she's kidnapped, and that's okay. Then she winds up with control over the kidnappers, and the kidnappers leave her. That makes sense, too. But then she's about to be saved by the two bodyguards and decides to sneak away. Huh? She eventually winds up back in the arms of the kidnappers (a move that echoes her first kidnapping near the start of the movie) and ends up giving birth in a dirty Mexican hotel. We eventually find out that she doesn't want to give up the baby like she's supposed to (she's made a deal with her dad for the baby) and is actually in love with the father. Or is she? That's never really made clear.

The action sequences are good, though. McQuarrie has filmed these scenes without musical accompaniment, and that works. It brings a raw and realistic feel to the proceedings. It's a pity, though, that such an acclaimed screenwriter didn't focus more on creating interesting and (more importantly) consistent characters.

out of

© David Nusair