Film: The Way of the Gun

We don't want your forgiveness; we won't make excuses. We're not gonna blame you, even if you are an accessory, but we will not accept your natural order. We didn't come for absolution, we didn't ask to be redeemed, but isn't that the way it is? Every goddamn time. Your prayers are always answered, in the order they're received.

The Way of the Gun is the first and, to date, only film directed by screenwriter Christopher McQuarrie, best known for his Oscar-winning script for The Usual Suspects. After several unsuccessful attempts to get films off the ground, McQuarrie ultimately caved to studio pressure and wrote another underworld film, this time attempting to subvert the genre by pointedly exploring the characters' lack of morality. The film centers on two criminal low-lifes who, having chosen to live off the grid, stumble upon a way to strike it big: kidnap the young surrogate mother of a Mafia accountant's child.

It stars Ryan Phillippe, Benicio Del Toro, Juliette Lewis, and James Caan.

This film provides examples of:

  • Action Film, Quiet Drama Scene — Several. Most notably, Joe Sarno has a cup of coffee with Longbaugh.
  • Affably Evil — Joe Sarno, Mr. Chidduck's lawyer who, in his words, handles all his dirty laundry, which is implied to be far worse than the white collar crime and drug trafficking front Mr. Chidduck is the front man for. He takes Parker out for coffee and they trade stories about their lives of crime.
  • Anti-Villain — Joe Sarno, the bagman who, as it turns out, is trying to rescue his daughter.
  • Back-to-Back Badasses — The final showdown.
  • Badass Grandpa — Joe Sarno (played by James Caan). He lampshades the trope early on, noting that "the only thing you can assume about a broken down old man is that he's a survivor."
  • Black and Gray Morality — Deliberately pursued by the director. Parker and Longbaugh are, by default, the protagonists, and they display more morality than some other characters, but they're still cold-blooded killers. The camera lingers on bystanders who were killed through their actions. On the other side of the gun is a corrupt figurehead for corporate abuse and mafia dealings.
  • Bolivian Army Ending — The movie ends with the protagonists lying in the dirt, presumably dying. This is itself a Shout-Out to the original Bolivian Army Ending, as Parker and Longbaugh are metafictional counterparts to Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid.
  • Book Ends — The film begins with the pair on their backs, having just gotten the shit kicked out of them. The film ends with the pair on their backs, having just gotten the shit shot out of them.
  • Bottomless Magazines — Deliberately averted. The characters are frequently shown reloading, except for one exception, where Parker blows more than twenty rounds from an IMI Galil chambered in 7.62x51 NATO during the final act of the movie.
  • Briefcase Full of Money — Openly subverted. Parker and Longbaugh demand $15 million in mixed small bills, clearly anticipating a briefcase of money. Jeffers yells at them, "Do you know how much that'll weigh? Try a couple thousand pounds!" Even in hundreds, the ransom comes in three giant dufflebags. In reality, it would be even more.
  • Chase Scene — Noteworthy in that this one is a car chase at walking speed.
  • Cluster F-BombSarah Silverman's cameo. Her character is named Raving Bitch.
  • Death Seeker — One of the hitmen is introduced sitting alone at home playing Russian Roulette. With six revolvers.
  • Genre Savvy — All the shooters either are or think they are.
  • Grievous Bottley Harm — Parker jumps into a dry fountain for cover, discovering too late that it's filled with jagged broken beer bottles. It's the most gruesome scene in a film filled with shootings, torture, and forcible surgery.
  • Hollywood Density — The Briefcase Full of Money was changed to three dufflebags after Benicio Del Toro casually asked during filming how much $15 million in cash would actually weigh.
  • Interrupted Suicide: One of Sarno's old hitmen buddies is in the process of playing Russian Roulette for whatever reason when he's called up by Sarno for one last job.
  • Kick the Dog: Jeffers finding cover by placing a gun underneath Dr. Painter's chin and threatening to kill him if Parker and Longbaugh don't put down their guns in the final act.
    • Jeffers and his partner deciding the best way to handle the confrontation is to leave Robin and the Doctor for dead.
    • Sarno deliberately kneecaps Longbaugh, then Parker, and leaves them for dead, presumably as revenge for threatening his daughter.
  • Indy Ploy: Before the final shootout, Parker and Longbaugh agree that "a plan is just a list of things that don't happen."
  • Law of Inverse Recoil — One of the few really noticeable firearm gaffes in the film is when Longbaugh fires a fully automatic burst through a wall. The bullet holes appear in a perfectly straight horizontal line across the wall.
  • Meaningful Echo — "Every goddamn time." Blink and you'll miss the first one, though.
  • Meaningful Name — The main characters use the aliases of Parker and Longbaugh.
  • Mexican Stand Off — Parker and Longbaugh attempt one when kidnapping Juliette Lewis. It doesn't work the way they expect it to.
  • Noodle Incident — "What happened in Baltimore," Dr. Painter's shame and the reason why he's forced into this mess. It's implied it was a botched delivery or surgery, given Parker saying he can deliver, but the surgery being much more risky in the final act.
  • Pet the Dog:
    • Parker giving half of his sandwich to Robin, after a bout of her being in pain.
    • Parker and Longbaugh later playing cards with Robin.
    • Obecks shows Robin that his finger is off the trigger to assure her that he's bluffing about shooting her. When he pulls her to safety, he whispers, "You're okay."
  • Pregnant Hostage — Taken hostage because she's pregnant with a mobster's child.
  • Rage Quit: The director points out in the commentary how the first scene is an example of this trope. Parker and Longbaugh realize that they're going to lose the bar brawl because they're outnumbered, so instead of trying to win, they steal their opponent's victory by decking his girlfriend.
  • Red Oni, Blue Oni — Parker and Longbaugh, in that order. Parker is moody, yells and screams a lot, and is generally unstable. Longbaugh doesn't say much and is generally aloof.
  • Reliably Unreliable Guns: Averted. At one point Benicio Del Toro's character is firing a pump-action shotgun and it suffers a stovepipe malfunction. He simply takes a moment to clear the jam and resumes firing. The film was notable for the accuracy of its depiction of firearm usage. The director's SWAT team brother serving as advisor.
  • The Reveal: Several:
    • The baby is not the Chidduck's. It was Robin and Painter's, at the behest of Painter, after the attempts at fertilization were unsuccessful.
    • Dr. Painter is Mr. Chidduck's son.
    • Jeffers is in a relationship with Mrs. Chidduck, and impregnated her. Remember that part of the reason the plot was kicked off was because Mrs. Chidduck supposedly didn't want all the hassle and trouble of being pregnant.
  • Russian Roulette — a variation with one round in each of six revolvers, which are then picked at random from a pillowcase. It's implied that the man playing is going to work his way through all six revolvers, one by one.
  • Shaggy Dog Story: Somewhat - Parker and Longbaugh are dead and do not get the money, but the baby is not the Chidduck's, and it turns out that Mrs. Chidduck is carrying Jeffers' baby.
  • Shout-Out:
    • "Everyone will assume they made off to Bolivia."
    • Additionally, Parker and Longbaugh are Butch Cassidy and The Sundance Kid's actual surnames, and the set is supposedly where that film was made. We've also got a similar ending.
  • Smug Snake — Jeffers (played by Taye Diggs)
  • Terrible Interviewees Montage: Parker and Longbaugh at the sperm bank. Longbaugh gives, "I've never killed a man," as one of his qualifications to donate. Parker sees fit to start ranting about homosexuality in modern culture.
    "Because we usually don't ask our applicants ABOUT SEX WITH DEAD PEOPLE! " "You should."
  • Villain Protagonist — The main characters are kidnappers who leave collateral damage in their wake, and the antagonists are trying to get the hostage back. The end even has Parker asking that you not pity them - they knew what they were doing.

Alternative Title(s):

The Way Of The Gun