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remember back in the mid 1990s when crime and macabre movies were all the rage ?
" pulp fiction " and " fargo " both managed to get oscar nominations for the best picture , and not surprisingly , a slew of rip-offs followed in the years thereafter .
that fad seems to be over but here comes christopher mcquarrie writing and directing " the way of the gun " that at first glance looks like another of those wanna-be's but upon closer inspection doesn't look like anything comprehendable .
it's a crime story so wrapped up in its own little world it has a claustrophobic atmosphere - a film that won't allow the story much room to expand outside its handful of characters and somehow still manages to turn a simple premise into something so complex its ridiculous .
complexity should come as no surprise to anyone who's familiar with mcquarrie , he wrote " the usual suspects , " which has become a cult favorite despite little critical acclaim .
that film had a great story and was well directed but had such an elaborate , confusing screenplay it leaves many viewers scratching their heads after repeated viewings .
you have to wonder if mcquarrie really had everything mapped out or if he was going for the hollywood idea that " if it's really confusing and about criminals and cops that makes it fascinating . "
with " the way of the gun " mcquarrie seems to be capitalizing on the same idea , but this time the story is far less commercial - a shame because maybe that would have helped .
the film tells the story of two drifters with no ambition and barely a reason to live but aren't hell-bent on death either ( played by ryan phillipie and benecio del toro ) .
they get lucky when they hear about a scheme between a big-shot exec guy and his trophy wife who are going to have a baby through in vitro fertilization .
they figure they can kidnap the surrogate mother ( played by juliette lewis ) and get a nice ransom .
along the way we continually learn of the shady dealings between the exec , his wife , their hired goons and the " bag man " ( played by james caan - the only actor in the film who looks like he knows what he's doing ) .
the exec is some kind of money launderer so he obviously can't call the authorities for help .
his goons and the bag man are on the kidnappers' trail and each make different offers to get the mother back .
the exec's son is a doctor who also gets pulled into the fray and wants to make sure his patient is all right .
meanwhile each of these characters has something hidden up their collective sleeves and the double-crosses , secret love affairs and torrid pasts come as no surprise even though little of it has any relevance at all .
mcquarrie doesn't know the meaning of the word simple .
he seems to be more interested in showing us how clever he is than making a good movie .
everything has to be complicated and confusing , so much so that it's to the point of surrealism .
nothing is what it seems in this reality , it's one of those movies where you get dropped right into the middle of the criminal world and are expected to know most of the industry's rules and regulations .
every scene with caan's character exemplifies this perfectly - the kidnappers already know who he is and even chat with him , getting into conversations about " the business " and how it works and we're hardly given a clue as to what they're talking about .
these characters are probably supposed to be great criminal sketches but they're more like ideas ripped-off from sketches found in david mamet's trash .
no one here really acts like a real person , and the story is even further removed from reality .
it's like a dream without any appeal .
take the opening scene for example ; the phillipe and del toro characters are in a parking lot across the street from a bar or a club counting their money and stuff .
they sit on a brand-new mercedes and the car alarm goes off , the owner is waiting in line and yells at them to get away from his car but they don't move .
the guy and his loud-mouth , potty-mouth girlfriend and about 20 other people cross the street and gang up on them .
you'd think phillipe ? and del toro are ? going to pull out guns and scare them away but they don't , instead phillipe throws one punch and the two get beat down by a mob .
there's a lot of things i didn't understand about this scene : first of all the owner of the mercedes isn't some yuppie or old rich snob , he's like a hippie straight out of the 60s .
secondly , the two main characters seem to believe that they can actually take on the mob unarmed .
lastly , it serves no purpose in the long run because later in the film the two are packing more artillery than a small country's army .
if they were suicidal they wouldn't have gone on the kidnapping job in the first place ( and where they get all those guns is never explained either ) .
there's a lot more i could pick apart about this film but that would be an exercise in futility .
what it all comes down to is that nothing here is what it seems - which would be great if this movie were about pretty much any other story than what it is .
absolutely none of the characters are likable or believable .
and it's all coated with a thin layer of black comedy which is good for a chuckle here and there but this film is definitely not a flat-out black comedy and its use of such seems like a desperate attempt to kill screen time .
with any film you see , whether you like it or not , you can at least understand what the appeal was to it , why someone would want to make it and why someone would want to see it .
i can't say either for " the way of the gun , " because it has very little going for it and i can't imagine anyone intelligently defending it .
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