Drifter crooks Parker and Longbaugh kidnap the heavily-pregnant Robin, who is acting as surrogate mother for a wealthy couple involved in organised crime. Bagman Joe Sarno, who has a personal stake in the affair, tracks down the miscreants to a brothe
With Bryan Singer abandoning quirky crime roots for a Stephen King adaptation (1997s Apt Pupil) and a summer blockbuster (X-Men), Christopher McQuarrie - writer of Singers Public Access (1993) and The Usual Suspects (1995) - steps up to direct and delivers a first feature in the style of early Singer.
A playful but violent caper picture, The Way Of The Gun is informed by cult movie history: characters are named after Butch Cassidy and The Sundance Kid (born Robert Parker and Harry Longbaugh), and exploitation auteur Joe Sarno - a filmmaker known only to people who consider Russ Meyer too mainstream for their taste, while veteran hardmen Scott Wilson, James Caan and Geoffrey Lewis (real-life father of Juliette) are given moments of snarling, minimalist class alongside flavour-of-the-month action guys like Phillippe, Del Toro and Diggs.
As it trails its bullet- and blood-spattered way south of the border, there are echoes of the Sam Peckinpah of The Getaway (1972) and, most notably, Bring Me The Head of Alfredo Garcia (1974) , but the referencing and echoing is so elaborate that its hard to see an actual film inside all the homages.
Like The Usual Suspects, The Way Of The Gun is narrated, with Parker (Phillippe) explaining how he and pal Longbaugh (Del Toro) got into an unplanned kidnapping, as a large cast of venal, violent supporting characters plot and scheme against each other to come out of the bloodbath with whatever they want most, be it a healthy baby or $15 million. A strength of Suspects is that for all its straggling, it had a focus that this notably lacks - of course, the formers plot was being made up as it went along, an excuse for not making 100 per cent sense that is unavailable to this sloppier piece. And Phillippe, in an ill-advised attempted beard, is not within hailing distance of Kevin Spacey as a story salesman.
It wanders all over the landscape with some funny scenes and very loud bullet noises, but peters out rather than comes together, losing you well before the final shoot-out.