Killing Zoe by The Way of the Gun
cookieman108 | Inside the jar... | 03/22/2005
(4 out of 5 stars)
"The Way of the Gun (2000)
Along with writing the film, McQuarrie (The Usual Suspects) also makes his directorial debut. Appearing in the film is James Caan (Misery), Benicio Del Toro (The Usual Suspects), and Ryan Phillippe (I Know What You Did Last Summer), along with Taye Diggs (Chicago), Juliette Lewis (Cold Creek Manor), Geoffrey Lewis (Salem's Lot), and Scott Wilson (In the Heat of the Night).
The film starts with an exercise to see how much profanity can be crammed into the first two minutes. If there ever were a contest for such a thing, The Way of the Gun would surely rank. Once we get past that, we meet two individuals in Longbaugh (Del Toro) and Parker (Phillippe). They appear to be a couple of grifter types, surviving on the fringe of the system, collecting money where they can, including, but not limited to, donating baby batter, which is where they conceive (pardon the pun) an idea to kidnap a pregnant woman (Lewis) and hold her for ransom. Turns out the woman is a surrogate mother, and her benefactors, the soon-to be recipients of the unborn babe, are going to pay the woman one million dollars once the transaction is completed, so the duo figure they got some very deep pockets. The plan goes off, but not without a hitch as a gun battle between the duo and the bodyguards ensues, but they eventually do make off with the woman, only to learn the surrogate father is a rich and powerful figure linked to various underworld elements, and has no problem in using such elements to avoid any nasty entanglements with the police. One of these elements is Joe Sarno (Caan), essentially a bagman (a person who collects money, as for racketeers), but also someone who has a unique interest in the events so far, much more so than just performing a task assigned to him by his employer. As the once duo, now a trio (a foursome, if you count the unborn baby) head south of the border (that's Mexico to you and me, pard), things get really complicated as certain aspects of certain relationships are revealed, leaving this viewer to often time be left scratching his head, not so much out of the need to relieve an itch, but in a bewildered sense, as confusion settled in...but never fear, things do sort themselves out in their own, sweet time, at least enough to stop me from scratching my head and move on to other parts of my anatomy...(ain't thet a pretty picture)
I did enjoy the film, but I felt there were really no standout performances. It was almost like the story overshadowed the characters. Phillippe and Del Toro's characters seemed to be the main ones early on, but they soon became peripherals as the story progressed. As far as Caan's character goes, it isn't like we haven't seen him do virtually the same character he's done many times before..and then there's Juliette Lewis...I don't really care for her as an actress that much, as I tire of the waifish idiot routine, and imagine that same routine except now she's waddling around, about to spew forth a baby. I thought McQuarrie got a little too cutesy with the dialogue at some points, and maybe he himself realized this as there's one scene featuring one of the characters making fun of the way another talks. The pacing of the story felt a little odd, as the beginning starts out with a lot of action, then wanes throughout the middle, finishing up stronger than it began. The plot proceeds in a linear fashion, but the details involving the characters do not, as bits of crucial information are revealed when McQuarrie deemed necessary. This results in confusion and sometimes frustration, but he doesn't leaving you hanging too much, as things become clear near the end. I respect his ability to visualize telling a tale in this manner, as if I tried to do it, I would mess things up horribly, constantly tripping over my own plot threads. All in all, there's lots of gunplay, lots of blood, smart performances, smart writing, and an entertaining film.
The widescreen anamorphic (1.85:1) picture (enhanced for 16 X 9 TVs) looks sharp, and the Dolby Digital 5.1 audio is clear. Special features include a commentary track by the director and composer, an isolated music track featuring commentary by the composer, storyboards and script of a deleted scene, production notes, and biographies with video interviews with the cast.
By the way, if I learned anything from this film (as I'm sure Ryan Phillippe's character of Parker did), it is to always look before you leap, especially in and around a Mexican brothel...
Kinning Zoe (1994)
Written and directed by Roger Avary (The Rules of Attraction), the film stars Eric Stoltz (The Wild Life), Julie Delpy (An American Werewolf in Paris), and Jean-Hugues Anglade (Taking Lives). Also appearing is Bruce Ramsay (Alive), Kario Salem (Nomads), Salvator Xuereb (The Doom Generation), and Gary Kemp (The Krays).
The film begins as Zed, played by Stoltz, looking much like a scruffy poster boy for the Grunge movement, arrives in Paris and hails a cab to take him to a hotel. During the cab ride, the driver offers to set Zed up with some female companionship, to which a comely woman named Zoe (Delpy) show up a few hours later. After some brief formalities (we learn she doesn't do `weird' stuff), the two further the cause for Franco-American relations, to which we learn she's just doing it for the money (duh) to pay for school. Soon Zed's French friend Eric (Anglade) arrives, and he quickly and unceremoniously ejects Zoe from the room (sans her clothes). Seems Zed has arrived in Paris at Eric's bequest, as Zed is a safecracker, and Eric has a job lined up. Zed meets with the rest of Eric's crew (I wasn't impressed), and the gang goes out on the town for a dose of the three D's, drinking, drugs (there's a lot of `riding the snake' involved), and Dixieland music...seriously. Anyway, the next day arrives, and the gang hits the bank...and their well-oiled plans quickly go down the drain (much the same as Zed's breakfast, lunch, and dinner the night before). All kinds of complications develop, from uncooperative bank employees to less than capable members within Eric's group. Did I also mention that Zoe works at the bank (talk about your moonlighting)? Well, things continue to deteriorate (the police show up, and they seem to care little for the hostages) as we witness the importance of careful planning and being picky when choosing associates for such an undertaking.
There were a few things that detracted from this film, some major, some minor. First of all, how stupid do you have to be to go on a drunken drug binge (scenes that took way too much time) the night before you're planning to pull a major robbery (I think it was presented as some sort of `bonding' sequence)? Did I mention this before? It's worth bringing up again...and an experienced safecracker (Zed) would have never agreed to perform a job with such short notice and so little planning...talk about stupidity...I did feel the script was decent, even strong at some points, and there's plenty of action, but more often it seemed like the violence was there only for the sake of having it there...the random shooting of the various bank employees and patrons (actually, we don't get to see a lot of people get shot, as a good deal of the violence happens off screen) seemed a bit gratuitous (a Quentin Tarantino film with gratuitous violence? Gee, that's a shocker...). I appreciated some of the comic elements throughout the film, like when Zed, who was mainly working on the vault doors, and is unaware that the police have since gotten involved, discover such in the elevator as him and another have liberated the booty and are bringing it to the ground floor. The film was set in Paris, with the opening and closing scenes featuring Paris locations, but the rest of the film was shot in L.A., the bulk taking place in the bank and its underground vault area, which was painted an awful, garish, red. The film is filled with lots of flashy spectacle, so-so acting, two-dimensional characters, guns, guns, and more guns, and lots of blood. Some scenes to watch for...Delpy gets nekkid...this happens shortly after the beginning, and is worth it, as she's an attractive woman. Also watch for a cameo by Ron Jeremy aka A Man Called Horse, as an unfortunate bank employee.
The widescreen anamorphic (1.85:1) picture on this DVD looks very good, and the Dolby Digital 2.0 audio is clear most of the time, but could have been better...special features include cast and crew bios, productions notes, and a theatrical trailer.
By the way, if I learned anything from this film, it's that Frenchmen, especially those involved in criminal activities, respect you more if you smell like you've just been with a woman, if you know what I mean...