Saturday, October 29, 2016

Review: The Way of the Gun (2000)

Christopher McQuarrie didn't cut the cord entirely to Bryan Singer (good thing -- how else can you meet Tom Cruise?), only enough to unlearn some fairly awful filmmaking habits. Public Access, a film with two ideas stretched to feature length and The Usual Suspects, a film lacking about as much atmosphere as What Lies Beneath and one you'd only watch after finishing Tarantino's First 4 in a weekend, were apparently enough to give him the hootzpa to direct his own film. Good thing he smart, dawg. Well, to a degree... I'd like to hear him explain Jack the Giant Slayer.

The Way of the Gun could be set in the same universe as Pulp Fiction, in a world filled with liars and bastards who live at the expense of total squares and take breaks shooting at each other to talk in smoky bars and dark parking lots. Where the tradition of the treasure hunt runs strong and the Game ends in a draw. Where Order is only an implication.

McQuarrie wisely tells the story without a lot of flash, opting for a coldly procedural presentation. But the story he tells, a simple kidnapping scenario, is complicated by half-stated motivations and a surprising amount of verbal metaphors. A zany pre-credits scene establishes the absence of morality but stands apart in terms of tone, and the soberly staged modern western action scenes that come quickly afterwards end up being an empty promise. With such a killer opening Twenty, it takes a bit of a readjustment to fully absorb the slow-paced chess game that follows, where two inscrutable characters have obtuse conversations the likes of which could only be written by a former private investigator. We are left to figure out a lot of the world's economy by ourselves. What happened in Baltimore? What is this family business? How did everybody meet? Why aren't Diggs and Lehman keeping their romance more secretive? Just where the hell are the cops? And so on.

For being a drama set in a harsh world with very little joy, there is a great amount of joy you feel watching all accounts getting settled through extreme violence and misery. McQuarrie is surely destined to stay at the forefront of our lives for- hey, where'd he go?