Writer Christopher McQuarrie and director Bryan Singer paired up a few years ago to make "The Usual Suspects", one of the more elegant and stunning crime thrillers in a long time. Now working on their own, the two have made films that are certainly different, but good in their own right. Singer went to direct "X-Men", while McQuarrie's directorial debut, "Way Of The Gun" is a crime thriller of a different sort - a down and dirty western. There isn't one sympathetic character in the bunch - it's a number of bad folks who are set into motion by a series of events.
The film revolves around Longbaugh (Benicio Del Toro) and Parker (Ryan Phillippe), two low-key criminals who figure that they really are set on the road of low-wage jobs unless they go "looking for the fortune that is looking for them". Their big plan is to kidnap the surrogate mother who is carrying the baby of a rich couple. Unfortunately for them, the father is well-connected with a high-up criminal Joe Sarno(James Caan) and has a couple of bodyguards (Taye Diggs and Nicky Katt) behind him. The criminals head to Mexico, and the other criminals are in persuit.
McQuarrie revealed himself in "Suspects" as a master of plot twists, unexpected events and sharp dialogue. During "Gun" there are times when you wish he could put his dialogue on more display than all of the gunfights, but I suppose it's not called "Way of the Gun" for nothing. The dialogue here isn't bad at all, but it's not as electric as McQuarrie's words in "Suspects" were. Ryan Phillippe may not be considered a strong actor by some, but I think that "Cruel Intentions" showed that he has promise, and "Gun"'s performance follows through on that. Del Toro, on the other hand, has always been fantastic (er, well, the Alicia Silverstone film "Excess Baggage" is an exception, but that wasn't his fault). He's strong again here - although not as brilliant as he was with McQuarrie's dialogue in "The Usual Suspects". Juliette Lewis is at her best as the mother, as well. Supporting performances from Taye Diggs, Nicky Katt and James Caan are also very good - in fact, performances are not the problem for the movie.
Most of the film is entertaining (although those who dislike violence would probably best be skipping this film), but one note is that the movie probably could have been edited down for a bit of added zip to the pace. McQuarrie has directed an energetic, twisty crime thriller - it's a very good movie, but could be tightened up a little here and there to make it a great one.
VIDEO: "The Way Of The Gun" gets an anamorphic presentation from Artisan that, although imperfect, is still not effected enough by the problems present to take away from the viewing experience. Sharpness and detail are , with few exceptions, very good.
The only really noticable problem that I saw were some speckles and marks that appeared on the print now and then - nothing too major, but minimally noticable on a couple of occasions. I didn't spot any instances of shimmering or pixelation. Flesh tones are accurate and natural, and black level is solid. Colors are also pleasant as well, with the color palette sometimes leaning towards darker, dusty colors but sometimes revealing brighter, more vibrant ones. Overall, there are a few problems visible briefly here, but for the most part, Artisan has done a fine job.
SOUND: "Way Of The Gun" sports a Dolby Digital 5.1 presentation for this DVD. Much of it is dialogue-driven with an edgy, enjoyable score but then the action scenes come in. The movie contains some of the more insanely loud gunfights I've heard in a while - reminding me of the sound for the Bruce Willis movie "Last Man Standing". During the action scenes, sound comes from all around the viewer and will likely have most ducking for cover. The last 20 minutes is essnetially an assault of audio.
During the rest of the movie though, the sound is mainly dialogue and music driven, staying more to the front speakers. The music sounds full and rich, but there were some moments in the film where the dialogue sounded slightly rough. The action sequences are pretty intense in terms of sound, but the rest of the movie is a little more quiet.
MENUS:: As with almost all Artisan titles, they have designed a very cool set of menus, with animation and nice transitions.
Trailers/TV Spots: The film's theatrical trailer (1.85:1/Dolby Digital 5.1 - sounding very good); 5 TV Spots.
Commentary: This is a commentary from writer/director Christopher McQuarrie and composer Joe Kraemer. After McQuarrie's pairing with Bryan Singer made for what I still consider to be one of the best commentaries I've heard, I was eager to hear to the writer discuss his own film. After an odd story about what inspired the opening starts off the track, the rest of the commentary is an interesting discussion about what inspired the movie and what it was like for McQuarrie to direct his first feature. As with the commentary for "Suspects", McQuarrie is able to recall and discuss his thoughts on the performances and working with actors, and also is able to share some entertaining and interesting stories about working on the set.
Kraemer works almost as host for the track, asking questions and commenting on points throughout the movie. McQuarrie's ability to lightly make fun of himself and joke about some of the obstacles that he had to face during production makes for an entertaining and engaging track. Definitely worth a listen.
Also: Cast and crew bios, production notes, isolated music track w/commentary and storyboards and script for a deleted scene.
Final Thoughts: For those who are into twisty crime thrillers, "Way Of The Gun" provides action, drama and a good effort from McQuarrie on his directorial debut. Artisan's DVD provides good video quality and occasionally exciting audio quality, plus a few interesting extras.