dir: Christopher McQuarrie
The Hollywood variation on the American Dream, which is the regular American Dream anyway, is that a screenwriter, actor or director previously subsisting on tips from being waiters and valets to the bourgeoisie can get the big break and become another star in the firmament. Glowing bright, suspended above the masses; all they need is that one big break.
The problem is, there are no guarantees in this or any other life. The big break can just as easily catapult you back into obscurity after you crash and burn.
Christopher McQuarrie’s claim to fame was that he scripted The Usual Suspects, which propelled director Bryan Singer into the stratosphere, got Kevin Spacey an Oscar for his role as Verbal Kint, and gave audiences one of their favourite overly convoluted crime movies of 1995. It also garnered an Oscar for McQuarrie as well. But then again, who really gives a good goddamn about Oscars in general and Oscars for Best Original Screenplay anyway. I bet you don’t, don’t pretend otherwise, I won’t believe you.
Someone must have thought McQuarrie deserved to get paid as well, so despite having no experience as a director, he was given the money and the freedom to try to repeat the magic of Suspects. Did it work?
Well, ask yourself: Have I heard of Way of the Gun? If you never saw it at the cinema, and never saw it on DVD, tv or cable, and in fact never heard of it until you saw this review, then it probably wasn’t as successful as Suspects, to put it mildly.
I saw this in the cinema oh so long ago. I was the only one in the theatre, and I seem to recall the movie disappeared from the cinemas the same week (when it opened) I saw it. In fact, the ticket I purchased to watch it, any posters or references to the flicks also disappeared, and the staff in the cinema pretended the movie never existed…
Perhaps not, but let’s just say that the film was a bit of a box office failure, which is why the film routinely languishes in the discount bargain bins at the joint where I buy DVDs from. After having thought about picking it up and rejecting the idea at least a thousand times, last week I relented, and thus a review has been expelled, extruded and expectorated from my brain through the fingers to this hallowed website. So, you know, enjoy.
The Way of the Gun is a really, really good crime flick. It deliberately approximates a 70s aesthetic and mindset, and conducts itself with absolute seriousness. It tries to be anything but disposable. It tries to be memorable at every stage. It approaches the world of the professional criminal with respect but wariness: these people may be rational and logical agents, but they are absolutely ruthless, and capable of much in the service of their ambitions.