September 25, 2013


Hip depravity. Juliette Lewis and Benicio Del Toro
The Way of the Gun (2000) is worse than aggressively sick—it's diseased. Take all the really foul stretches from the Quentin Tarantino bloodfests and the insipid humor in the Richard Donner Lethal Weapon movies and string everything together—that's The Way of the Gun. But in terms of craftsmanship, it's marvelous: the lighting, the color, and the sound are expert, and the soundtrack comes truly alive. The actors do some excellent work and elicit the audience's admiration: Dylan Kussman as the doctor is an amazing little performer who effortlessly rises above his surroundings (as he did in Dead Poets' Society). Benicio Del Toro and Ryan Phillippe are two of Hollywood's more talented actors at generating a steady sizzle. The two bodyguards, Taye Diggs and Nicky Katt, give clever, rousing performances, but Diggs really comes alive only when Katt is killed.

On the debit side, Juliette Lewis is a repellent presence with unfortunate physiognomy and style, and her constant screaming makes you want to force feed her glass. James Caan shows up and I thought, "What a drag to see that mannerism-infected old fart talking and moving as if he were revisiting scenes from The Killer Elite." Caan always wears Eddie Bauer windbreakers in his movies, and sure enough he's wearing one again here. The cutting during the final shootout is astounding—technical mastery of the medium—and the montage is the work of a film master. But the movie's vision is awash in moral crud. The Way of the Gun is a repugnant work of art.

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