Wednesday, 17 October 2012

Great Film Moments #2: The finale of The Way of the Gun (2000)

Christopher McQuarrie's follow up to the legendary The Usual Suspects is a criminally unseen and highly entertaining genre pic, The Way of the Gun. While at the time hyped up to Tarantino levels of possible awesomeness, it never really delivered on that level. Owing more to Peckinpah than Tarantino, in retrospect you can see why the film failed to receive the acclaim and box office receipts of Tarantino's best efforts. This is a crime film with a bunch of arsehole lead characters trying to screw each other over from the very start. These people are all bad and McQuarrie makes no attempt to hide it. It's a very uneven film, that is sure, it can be very funny, quick witted and clever in parts, but there are moments that overrun and slow the film down to a crawl. That being said, the film has several stand out moments and will be what it's remembered for. The opening scene is a classic comic scene that doesn't suit the tone of the rest of the film, but is mightily funny and uses some colourful language. The kidnapping scene is as tense as they come, and uniquely plays with genre conventions. The motel shootout/sniper scene is a glorious scene that tests 5.1 Dolby Surround Sound to the limit. These scenes are up there with the most enjoyable in crime cinema, but it's the final bloody set-piece that steals the show.

"There's always free cheese in a mouse trap" - Longbaugh

As Parker (Ryan Phillippe) and Longbaugh (Benicio del Toro) make one last go for their fortune, they come across a legion of goons and Joe Sarno (the great James Caan). What follows is one of the finest choreographed action scenes in film history. As far as film goes, it is also up there with one of the most realistic takes on a gun battle, the action is all around, a fully realised battleground with danger incoming from 360 degrees. Which is refreshing. And most importantly, it's thrilling, tense and packs a mighty wallop. It's one of the loudest and most frantic set-pieces ever filmed (perhaps only beaten by Michael Mann's Heat) and for the first time in the film, you also want Parker and Longbaugh to succeed and get away. Bar one dreadful bit (the shotgun to the nuts, which looks bad and dated) and a scene where the realism slips for one endlessly deafening barrage of bullets to draw one helpless goon out, bullets fly, Parker and Longbaugh battle on furiously, but taking heavy damage. A genuinely squirm inducing scene involving the fountain and Parker ups the gore ante and sets up the finale, ominous reel. Despite that one scene, the set-piece doesn't rely on gore and bloodletting, rather the sound is amped up and it works wonders in giving the scene an epic sound (5.1 has never sounded better). It is action cinema at its very best. 

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