Butch and Sundance


Chris McQuarrie, the writer director of Way of the Gun has seen a lot of movies. McQuarrie was best known for writing The Usual Suspects, and Public Access and the time that he made Way of the Gun. This  was first shot in the directors chair. Since making this film, he has gone on to big time fame with the Mission Impossible movies.

The film opens with a noisy, and very funny argument outside a nightclub. Soon a fight ensues. It is one of the most memorable fist fights in recent movie history. The opening dialogue is reason enough to see this movie. This scene was the first place I saw Sarah Silverman, and she made an impression.
The main characters, played by Ryan Phillipe (54) and Benicio Del Toro (Traffic, The Pledge), are called "Parker" and Longbaugh". These were the real names of the American bandits Butch Cassidy and The Sundance Kid. This reference should give you some idea how the film will end.
The plot revolves around an opportunistic kidnapping plot. Parker and Longbaugh snatch a woman working as a surrogate mother for a wealthy couple. The couple may have mob ties. The kidnap victim is played wonderfully by Juliette Lewis
Parker and Longbaugh are pursued by by very tough guys played by James Caan (The Godfather), Taye Diggs (Go), and Nicky Katt (Boiler Room).
The film heads toward the obligatory final shoot out in a Mexican brothel House. This sequence calls to mind many other films: from Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, to Rolling Thunder. Many of the shots look like they were lifted directly from Sam Peckinpah or Arthur Penn. Yet the whole thing is handled with so much style and manic good humor that it seems original.
Mcquarrie has a real knack for writing mean dialogue. His characters speak the way criminals and hoodlums wish they spoke. The only other writer working today who crafts such finely tuned dialogue is David Mammett.
Mcquarrie has proved here that he is a director of quite some talent. However, this film is not perfect. The relationships between the characters are, perhaps, too convenient. Some of the events, which I can't divulge without spoiling the movie, never really come off as possible.
Yet, this movie does things I haven't seen done before, and does them with grace. What would have been a standard, boiler plate high speed chase in someone else's hands, becomes a slow speed cat and mouse game in an alley. This sort of invention makes Way of the Gun a surprising treat.
Of course it goes without saying that Del Toro is a marvelous actor, and that his subtle, Mifune like performance makes the film.