The Way of the Gun is about two nomadic drifters who have basically given society the middle finger. Living and surviving by selling their blood and semen as they migrate from place to place. When they're at a sperm depository one day, by happenstance, they overhear a conversation where they learn of a surrogate that's getting paid a cool $1 million to have a baby for some rich bozos. Seeing this as an opportunity to make some bank and "stop jerking off" they decide to kidnap the surrogate and ransom her back to the eager parents in waiting. Little do the two opportunistic drifters, George Parker (Ryan Phillippe) and Harold Longbaugh (Benicio Del Toro) know that not only is the surrogate, Robin (Juliette Lewis) carrying the baby for an affluent couple, but also an immensely powerful couple who don't take well to being shaken down.
Once Parker and Longbaugh realize exactly how deep they've gotten themselves in the shit, they ask for a ransom of $15 million, which the would be parent Hale Chidduck (Scott Wilson) reluctantly agrees to pay. With that much money on the table and so many thieves, crooks and killers circling it, it doesn't take long for some more individual motivations to start popping up, deception and greed starts taking over. It's as Joe Sarno (James Caan) says in the movie "Fifteen million dollars is not money. It's a motive with a universal adapter on it!", he knows the sort of backstabbing and duplicity that money like that can, and does, inspire in people.
The Way of the Gun struck me as being a modern western, a term that No Country for Old Men popularized roughly seven years later. The fact that the two leads are named after Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid should really give you an inkling as to the sort of movie you're in for as well. I never could get a handle on Parker and Longbaugh though, we're given the impression that they're small-time criminals, at best, yet as the movie progresses it becomes clear that they're more than proficient with weapons and tactics, they're highly skilled when it comes to guns and strategy. You can tell that a lot of work and detail went into their firearms training, how they moved, how they handled their weapons, the way they cleared rooms, reloaded their weapons, things like that.
The narrative of The Way of the Gun weaves a lot of threads and they don't always work either, it can get a bit incoherent at times, like it's trying to do much. Had Christopher McQuarrie (director and writer) dropped two elements and focused more on the two leads, I think it would have flowed a lot better than it did, but it often felt like a pretty scattered and fractured movie. The dialogue though is profane and funny, but McQuarrie also implements a couple of smart analogies as well, one scene in particular where Longbaugh is threatening Robin as he's explaining the rules of a card game and another where Sarno and Longbaugh have a conversation at a bar.
The Way of the Gun is a modernized version of 'the way of the sword' in case you didn't notice, the notion that if you live by the sword/gun, then the chances are that you'll die by the sword/gun. Nevertheless, everyone seems accutely aware of the path they've chosen in The Way of the Gun and are prepared for what awaits them. They are no clear cut heroes here, even the two leads are barely borderline sympathetic characters, but I think the distinction lies in that while they're obviously bad men, they're not necessarily evil men. I like movies where morality is ambiguous, complex and not so obvious, it makes for interesting characters I think. The Way of the Gun might is not an action packed movie, but it is a sufficiently tense and twisting movie that leads to a fantastically realistic shootout at the end.
Written by - The Sentry - 06/12/2015