The Way of the Gun

USA 2000

Reviewed by Geoffrey Macnab


Our synopses give away the plot in full, including surprise twists.

US, the present. At a fertility clinic where they intend to sell sperm samples, Parker and Longbaugh, two career criminals, overhear the whereabouts of surrogate mother Robin, who is carrying the child of a wealthy couple, Hale and Francesca Chidduck. Outwitting Robin's bodyguards Jeffers and Obecks, they kidnap Robin and head for Mexico. When Parker and Longbaugh learn from Robin's doctor Allen Painter that Chidduck is a crook who will do anything to get the baby (if not the mother) back, they demand a $15 million ransom.

Jeffers, who is having an affair with Francesca, and Obecks come after them; so does old-timer Joe Sarno, Chidduck's "adjudicator". After a shoot-out in a motel, during which Obecks is shot, Jeffers takes Robin to a remote Mexican hotel; there, he plans to wait for her to give birth, kill her and take the baby. Painter is on hand to deliver the baby. Before going into labour, Robin admits that the child is hers, and that Painter is the father. Parker and Longbaugh are wounded in another shoot-out. While performing a Caesarian operation on Robin, Painter shoots Jeffers dead.

Sarno arrives with the ransom money and a small army of henchmen, with whom Parker and Longbaugh have a pitched battle. Painter delivers Robin's baby. As they lie gravely wounded, Parker and Longbaugh realise that Sarno is Robin's father.

Francesca Chidduck informs her husband that she is pregnant.


In The Way of the Gun the line between hero and villain is infinitesimally drawn. Parker and Longbaugh, as close as the film comes to good guys, are trigger-happy, cheerfully amoral petty hoodlums with a penchant for torture, robbery and blackmail. In the first sequence they needlessly pick a fight with a couple which ends with Parker punching out a woman. Later, they think nothing of kidnapping a heavily pregnant woman, an act for which they feel no remorse ("We didn't come for absolution. We didn't ask to be redeemed.") If they are morally ambiguous figures, the bad guys are even more unscrupulous: every character, from the criminal boss Chidduck to his sharp-suited goons, from the boss' wife to the surrogate mother who is carrying Chidduck's baby, has a hidden agenda. As in The Usual Suspects (scripted by The Way of the Gun's debut director Christopher McQuarrie) we're never quite sure who is deceiving whom; and just as The Usual Suspects had an anonymous, all-powerful deus ex machina in Keyser Soze, The Way of the Gun boasts one character, Sarno, who is several steps ahead of everybody else. Played by James Caan, Sarno is nicknamed "the adjudicator", Chidduck's Mr Fixit whose function isn't just to bring back the baby but to tie the disparate strands of the story together. He is also, almost by default, the moral centre of the film, the one character whose motives aren't primarily selfish.

The infuriatingly complex plotting of McQuarrie's script muddies what would otherwise seem like a straightforward latter-day Western. As in late Howard Hawks, here the gunplay is interspersed with long passages in which characters sit around talking. Caan is the paternal old-timer, giving advice to the two hot-headed hoodlums (a reversal from his role as a young gambler in Hawks' 1966 El Dorado). To emphasise the generational divide, McQuarrie casts several veteran actors opposite the young guns: the corrupt businessman Chidduck is played by Scott Wilson (one of the killers from Richard Brooks' 1967 film In Cold Blood) and Sarno's old partner by Geoffrey Lewis (a craggy veteran of many Clint Eastwood Westerns and the father of Juliette Lewis, who plays surrogate mother Robin).

Once Parker and Longbaugh cross the Mexican border, the film-making becomes more ritualistic and melodramatic, and McQuarrie loses his obsession with contriving elaborate plot twists. His main inspiration in these final stretches seems to be Sam Peckinpah's Bring Me the Head of Alfredo Garcia (1974). Just as the old patriarch in that movie puts a grisly $1 million price tag on Alfredo Garcia's head, here Chidduck promises his hoodlums untold riches if they deliver him the baby he craves. There's an extraordinary birth scene in which Robin goes into labour in a dusty hotel room with mobsters for midwives and a doctor who doesn't know what he's doing. McQuarrie avoids the temptation to have Robin's new-born babe bring harmony to the proceedings, and the final shoot-out is as stylised and as far-fetched as any Spaghetti Western showdown. Not that McQuarrie downplays the effect of the violence (in one particularly gruesome scene, Parker has to pull shards of broken glass from his arm). But such brutal scenes are undercut with lyricism and deadpan wit, and make for a flamboyant, richly satisfying denouement to a film which that initially seems hobbled by its own self-consciously clever screenplay.


Christopher McQuarrie
Kenneth Kokin
Christopher McQuarrie
Director of Photography
Dick Pope
Stephen Semel
Production Designer
Maia Javan
Joe Kraemer
©Artisan Film Investors Trust
Production Companies
Artisan Entertainment presents a Aqaba production
Executive Producer
Russ Markowitz
Production Supervisor
Christine White
Production Co-ordinator
Ryan Cooke
Production Manager
Russ Markowitz
Location Manager
Michael Dungan
Felicity Nove
Jacquey Rosati
2nd Unit Director
Kenneth Kokin
Assistant Directors
William Paul Clark
Dawn Massaro
Susie Balaban
Script Supervisor
Suzanne Bingham
Lynn Kressel
Cate Praggastis
ADR Voice:
Loop Troop
Caitlin McKenna
Terri Douglas
Camera Operator
Ian Fox
Digital Visual Effects
BFTR Productions
Special Effects
F/X Concepts Inc
Art Director
Thomas Meyer
Set Designer
Linden Snyder
Set Decorator
Les Boothe
Storyboard Artist
Mark Bristol
Costume Designers
Genevieve Tyrrell
Heather Neely McQuarrie
Costume Supervisor
Lanny Sikes
Key Make-up
Gina Homan
Special Make-up Effects
KNB EFX Group Inc
Key Hair
Erin Lyons
Main/End Titles
Title House Digital
Score Performed by
Joe Kraemer
Leonid Keylin
Steven Ariscot
Studio Co-ordinator
Bonnie Reed
Music Editor
Lisé Richardson
Mixing Engineer
Armin Steiner
John Burton
2nd Engineer
Sam Hofstedt
Latin Music Specialist
Guillermo Hernandez
"Rip This Joint" - The Rolling Stones; "Comin' on Thru" - Johnny Dilks; "Navidena/Holiday Girl", "Esperanza" - Casalando; "Fiesta" - Daniel Indart; "How to Make a Margarita" - Joe Kraemer; "Pinao Concerto No. 23A K.488" - Vienna Mozart Ensemble, piano: Daniel Gerard
Sound Mixers
Earl Stein
Roger Davis
Re-recording Mixers
Chris David
Chuck Michael
Eddie Bydalek
Michael Morongell
Supervising Sound Editor
Chuck Michael
Lead Dialogue Editor
Ulrika Akander
Dialogue Editors
Jane Boegel
Barbara Boguski
James Russell DeWolf
Todd Niesen
Sound Effects Editors
Nash Michael
Jay Wilkinson
Scott A. Jennings
George Berndt
Loop Group:
Nicholas Guest
Margo Hara
Luisa Leschin
Sal Lopez
Jonathan Nichols
Dyana Ortelli
Steve Staley
Marcelo Tubert
Laverne Dewberry
Rick Canelli
Diane Lucas
Troy Porter
Thomas J. O'Connell
Greg Steele
Alicia Irwin
Dawn Fintor
David Betancourt
Medical Consultants
Dr Robert Katz
Dr Lydia Hazan
Stunt Co-ordinator
Gary Paul
Technical/Weapons Adviser
Doug McQuarrie
Ryan Phillippe
Benicio Del Toro
Juliette Lewis
Taye Diggs
Nicky Katt
Geoffrey Lewis
Dylan Kussman
Dr Allen Painter
Scott Wilson
Hale Chidduck
Kristin Lehman
Francesca Chidduck
James Caan
Joe Sarno
Henry Griffin
P. Whipped
Mando Guerrero
federale 1
Jan Jensen
Andres Orozco
federale 2
José Perez
federale 3
Neil Pollock
Irene Santiago
sloppy prostitute
Sarah Silverman
raving bitch
Momentum Pictures
10,733 feet
119 minutes 15 seconds
Dolby Digital
Colour by
Last Updated: 20 Dec 2011