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Reviewed March 11th, 2001 by Todd Terwilliger


Chistopher McQuarrie, the man who wrote The Usual Suspects, pulls double duty as both writer and director of The Way of the Gun (Gun).

Benicio Del Toro and Ryan Phillipe star as two small time crooks looking for that once-in-a-lifetime score. Their chance comes when they overhear a conversation about a surrogate mother (Juliette Lewis) carrying the child of a wealthy businessman. The plan is a simple kidnapping. Pulling off the grab turns out to be the easy part as they soon find themselves over their heads in a scheme gone wrong.

Del Toro and Phillipe work well together. Both actors are able to aptly handle McQuarrie's snappy dialog. Lewis and Taye Diggs, as one of her bodyguards, are serviceable as well. The man who really shines is James Caan as the bagman charged with troubleshooting (pun intended) the escalating situation. He is downright scary here in his portrayal of an aging gangster who's still got the stuff, a performance well worth viewing.

And the film needs it. Gun runs into trouble as it labors under its own weight. While a collection of scenes really shine, as many do not. Subplots clutter the main story without adding anything of substance. Gun is a film of hits and misses, indicative of a director's first effort. Its intentions are good but the results are a decidedly mixed bag.

Gun is presented in an anamorphic 1.85:1 aspect ratio. The video transfer is quite nice. There is very little pixelation and the bright color palette is well rendered. Flesh tones seem a tad over-saturated but it's a small complaint.

Our ears are treated to a nice Dolby Digital 5.1 mix. The dialog, important in a film such as this, is clean and locked into the center channel. There is good directionality, especially during the action sequences. The surrounds are not used heavily except in a few of the gunfight scenes but, when used, deliver a nice impact. This is a not a bass heavy film, you won't find much to challenge your sub.

For a film that was neither a heavy favorite of the critics, nor at the box office, Gun delivers a nice assortment of extra features. There is a commentary by writer/director McQuarrie and the film composer Joe Kraemer as well as an isolated music track with solo commentary by Kraemer. The music score is awesome. Heavily influenced by the spaghetti western scores of Ennio Morricone, it adds a nice dose of cowboy flavor to the action.

On top of these features, there is also a collection of storyboards, a deleted scene, interviews, production notes, and the ever-present cast and crew bios. These are mostly one-time views, if that, but, in addition to the two commentaries and isolated score, combine for a spiffy package.

The Way of the Gun is a solid film. Those familiar with The Usual Suspects (and who isn't) will catch the echoes of that great film in this one. However the magic just isn't there. Gun is a movie of great parts that don't add up to a great whole. It's a good first film by a good first director. If you can maintain those kinds of expectations, this a movie that can be enjoyed and, with the nice bevy of extra features, one that can find a place in your DVD collection.


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