The Way of the Gun
**.9 GM
Starring: Benicio Del Toro, Ryan Phillippe, Juliette Lewis, James Caan, Taye Diggs, Nicky Katt


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I saw this film a couple of days before seeing "3000 Miles To Graceland," and it makes a perfect counterpoint to that film about the ridiculousness of incessant gunplay. In "Graceland," it's stylized, slo-mo and bitchin' violence that looks cool. In "The Way of the Gun," it's depicted warts and all as the dead-end, annoying and cruel lifestyle it really is.

Benicio Del Toro and Ryan Phillippe are two life-long loser criminals with no prospects or goals, living off of blood and sperm donations and petty robberies, believing "a plan is just a list of things that don't happen." They overhear that some rich guy has a surrogate mother (Juliette Lewis) carrying his baby and promptly decide to kidnap her. Trouble is, the rich guy is rich on dirty money, he's got some ruthless thugs (Taye Diggs and Nicky Katt) that don't care who they've got to doublecross to get her back, and he's also got a seasoned bagman (James Caan) on their ass as well. Not to mention that the girl is due to give birth in about a week. Lots of gunplay and double-dealing ensues.

While it's not a great film, it does raise some interesting points within a mildly compelling story. Phillippe, who talks throughout the movie in some weird-ass voice that I can only guess was meant to make him sound tougher, and Del Toro predictably have a crisis of conscience after murdering a lot of people in the crossfire of their drawn-out gun battles, although it's most likely the prolonged exposure to Lewis' dire motherhood situation that finally makes them 'do the right thing,' so to speak... although the right thing in this case is trying to kill everybody else.

What's cool about this film is the lack of dramatization and glorification of the gun battles. Most of the exchanges are shown to chaotic and brutal without resorting to depicting them as 'high-octane explosive action' and 'pulse-pounding excitement that'll thrill you to the CORE!' Sure, there are the requisite minimum amount of one-liners and jokes, but it does a pretty good job of keeping things relatively realistic and down to earth. Bringing home the point that 'the way of the gun' is a dead-end street is James Caan as the 'survivor' of a bag man that no longer seems particularly enthused about his job, but definitely knows how to do it. When he gathers up his crew of bagmen towards the end, and it winds up being a bunch of middle-aged, out-of-shape bastards staging the final battle, it really brings up the thoughts about how pathetic this way of life really is, and how sad it is to watch these old schmucks having to gather up the posse and get involved in a pointless shoot-out with two loser punks when there's more rewarding stuff in life they should have given up this no-account dog and pony show for years ago.

That's what happens when you take up the way of the gun. You end up a pile of bloody flesh in a parking lot somewhere, or you end up a pile of bloody flesh in a parking lot somewhere that's older and crappier. You never look as cool as they do in the movies.

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