The Way of the Gun

The Way of the Gun Information

The Way of the Gun is a 2000 American action crime drama film produced by Kenneth Kokin, written and directed by Christopher McQuarrie and starring Ryan Phillippe, Benicio del Toro, Juliette Lewis, Taye Diggs, Nicky Katt, and James Caan. It is considered a cult film.


Parker (Ryan Phillippe) and Longbaugh (Benicio del Toro) are two born troublemakers who steal money any way they can. While at a sperm donation facility, they overhear a telephone conversation detailing a $1,000,000 payment to a surrogate mother for bearing the unborn baby of Hal Chidduck (Scott Wilson). Parker and Longbaugh resolve to kidnap the pregnant surrogate, Robin (Juliette Lewis). Their attempts to kidnap Robin at her pregnancy clinic escalate into a shootout with her bodyguards, Jeffers (Taye Diggs) and Obecks (Nicky Katt). After the shootout, the kidnappers escape with Robin and elude Jeffers and Obecks, who are arrested.

As the fugitives head South, Jeffers and Obecks are bailed out and returned to Chidduck by Joe Sarno (James Caan), a close friend of Chidduck's. As Sarno begins coordinating Robin's rescue, Longbaugh contacts the surrogate's gynecologist, Dr. Allen Painter (Dylan Kussman), and orders him to a truck stop to examine Robin. After the examination, Painter returns to Chidduck, and it is revealed that the doctor is Chidduck's son.

Longbaugh calls and demands a $15 million ransom for the safe return of Robin and the baby. Jeffers and Obecks, tempted by the money, begin forming a plan to save the child, keep the $15 million for themselves, and kill everyone under the guise of paying off the kidnappers. As Longbaugh hangs up the telephone outside a Mexican motel, he is approached by Sarno, who offers to pay $1 million if they surrender the pregnant Robin and simply walk away. Before getting an answer, the two have a drink together in a bar, let down their guard and talk about the violent life of bagmen in general, a time-out from the business at hand, as Sarno reveals to Longbaugh that Sarno's daughter has something for his eventual retirement in the works, promising to take care of him as an old man. Before parting, Longbaugh declines the offer earlier made and returns to his motel room, where Parker and Robin are playing cards. Sarno then returns to Chidduck's home to relay the events and plan the next step.

Jeffers and Obecks realize that Sarno is a wild card in this affair, and Jeffers comes to realize that Robin is Sarno's daughter. Jeffers, Obecks and Painter leave to meet with the kidnappers, while Sarno departs separately with the $15 million ransom. At the motel, Parker is having second thoughts on the kidnapping. As he confers with Longbaugh outside the motel room, Robin takes the opportunity to seize a shotgun and barricade herself in the motel room after almost shooting Parker.

As sirens are heard in the distance, Parker and Longbaugh hastily escape, and Robin emerges into the parking lot just as Mexican police officers arrive, followed by Jeffers, Obecks and Painter in another car. As Painter and the bodyguards try to persuade Robin to leave with them, the officers pull their guns and order everybody onto the ground. Suddenly, Parker and Longbaugh open fire from a nearby hilltop, a fierce shootout erupts that kills the two officers before Jeffers shoves Painter and Robin into his car and drives off, leaving the dead officers and a wounded Obecks in the motel parking lot.

Parker and Longbaugh torture Obecks to gain Robin's location, while Jeffers confines Robin in the room of a secluded Mexican brothel. Jeffers forces Painter to perform a cesarian section to retrieve the baby, despite Robin's confession that the child was conceived between her and Painter and is not Chidduck's. During the operation, the heavily-armed Parker and Longbaugh infiltrate the brothel and search for Robin. The ensuing ambush, which leaves Parker wounded, turns into another standoff, with Jeffers threatening to kill Painter and the baby before Painter kills Jeffers with a hidden gun. Outside the brothel, Sarno arrives with a group of bag men and the $15 million ransom, which they stack in the courtyard. Parker wants to kidnap Robin and Painter again, but Longbaugh, guilt-ridden after seeing her condition, responds: "She's had enough". Despite realizing that the $15 million is bait, Parker and Longbaugh charge headlong into an ambush.

All of Sarno's men are killed in the ensuing firefight. However, Sarno manages to shoot and cripple the already wounded Parker and Longbaugh, and then calls for an ambulance. As a child's cries break the silence, Painter emerges with Robin, newborn baby in her arms. Lying in a pool of blood, Parker and Longbaugh call out to Sarno, informing him that the baby is in fact Robin and Painter's, and thus Sarno's own grandson. Parker wonders aloud if this fact will influence Sarno to let them keep the child. Robin and her baby are then taken away in the ambulance with Painter, Sarno and the $15 million, leaving Parker and Longbaugh to bleed out.

Miles away and days later, Chidduck's wife reveals that she's pregnant.



After winning an Academy Award for The Usual Suspects, Christopher McQuarrie assumed that he would have no problem making his next movie "and then you slowly start to realize no one in Hollywood is interested in making your film, they're interested in making their films". He spent years as a script doctor while trying to get financing for an epic biopic of Alexander the Great for Warner Brothers before finally realizing that he "had to make a film with some commercial success to be taken seriously". He approached 20th Century Fox and told them that he would be willing to write and direct a movie for any budget they would be willing to give him as long as he had complete creative control. "Fox told me to get fucked. No money. No control. No nothing. They didn't want my input, they just wanted me. For nothing".

McQuarrie met Benicio del Toro for coffee and he asked the screenwriter why he had not made another crime film. McQuarrie replied that he did not want to be typecast as "a crime guy" but realized that he had nothing to lose, "unemployed and ready to make trouble". Del Toro convinced him to write a crime film on his own terms because he would get the least amount of interference from a studio. McQuarrie was interested in making a movie "that you can follow characters who don't go out of their way to ingratiate themselves to you, who aren't traditionally sympathetic".

McQuarrie started to write the script and "the first thing I did was to write a list of every taboo, everything I knew a cowardly executive would refuse to accept from a 'sympathetic' leading man". The first ten pages were a prologue, a trailer to another movie with Parker and Longbaugh (the real last names of Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid) and was "to be shot as slick and hip as possible. Guy Ritchie and Michael Bay but with horrible, unspeakable acts of violence and degradation". During pre-production, McQuarrie realized that this was too extreme and cut it out. He and del Toro gave the script to several high-profile actors at the time all of whom turned them down. Ryan Phillippe wanted to change the direction of his career and "was besieged with choice offers, and we didn't want him, but he would not take no for an answer".

Although he originally had a considerable amount of dialogue in the film, del Toro suggested that the "less is more" approach might work better for his character Longbaugh. The gun battle sequences throughout the film were choreographed by McQuarrie's brother, a former Navy SEAL. Much of the film was filmed in the streets of downtown Salt Lake City. The ground-level floor of the doctor's office where the abduction scene and shootout was filmed is the historic Salt Lake Hardware building.


Film critic Roger Ebert gave the film two-and-a-half stars out of four and wrote, "McQuarrie pulls, pummels and pushes us, makes his characters jump through hoops, and at the end produces carloads of 'bag men' who have no other function than to pop up and be shot at ... Enough, already". In his review for the New York Times, Elvis Mitchell wrote, "It's a song you've heard before, but each chord is hit with extraordinary concentration". Andy Seiler praised James Caan's performance in his review for USA Today, "To hear Caan menacingly intone 'I can promise you a day of reckoning you will not live long enough to never forget' is to remember why this man is a star". In his review for the Village Voice, J. Hoberman wrote, "Phillippe talks like Brando; Del Toro apes the body language. Nevertheless, James Caan steals the movie as a veteran tough guy, rotating his torso around some unseen truss". Peter Stack, in his review for San Francisco Chronicle, wrote, "The Way of the Gun attempts to be poetical Peckinpah, but it's a pointless exercise in gun violence with characterizations so thin they vaporize". Entertainment Weekly gave the film a "B" rating and Owen Gleiberman wrote, "The Way of the Gun plays like an unusually ritzy festival circuit audition film, though McQuarrie, it must be said, aces the audition". In his review for Time, Richard Corliss criticized McQuarrie for devising, "a two-hour gunfight interrupted by questions of paternity. But he's not so hot as a director, so what aims at being terrifying is just loud and goofy".

Box office

The film opened at #9 at the North American box office making $2,150,979 USD in its opening weekend.

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