Parker and Longbaugh are drifters and petty crooks, although they appear to have served in the military as judged from their training. While donating sperm for money, they overhear a doctor gossiping about a woman who is being paid $1 million to carry a wealthy couple's child to term. They quickly hatch a very poorly thought out plan to kidnap her and hold her for ransom.
The attempted kidnapping is ultimately successful only because the woman is trying to get away from the icy bodyguards who escort her everywhere she goes. After taking her, Parker and Longbaugh encounter one unforeseen complication after another. The wealthy patron who is the father of the unborn child brings in a bag man to "adjudicate" the entire situation, and Parker and Longbaugh are hamstrung by their own incompetence.
This is a talking heads movie punctuated by a few brief action scenes, and luckily it is populated by a great cast. Benicio del Toro and Ryan Phillipe are very good in this film, which is half of a surprise. Who knew that Phillipe had the range to pull this off? Juliette Lewis is, well, Juliette Lewis, as she sympathetically portray's Robin. James Caan nearly steals the movie as Joe Sarno, the bag man. There are a lot of great character actors at work, in fact there are too many to name. The dialogue is occasionally over written and writer / director Chris McQuarrie over indulges himself in the way these scenes play out. That said, there are a lot of beautifully crafted scenes in the film. The plot is really about the various family relationships that are slowly being revealed, and culminates with a surprising revelation about Joe Sarno's connection to Robin.
I love the metaphor used during the game of hearts speech, as well as the compassion that the two kidnappers show for their hostage. I love that the bodyguards are plotting against their boss in his own kitchen, while his scheming wife eavesdrops. Joe Kraemer delivers a beautiful orchestral score, and I particularly enjoyed the music which accompanied the ultrasound viewing. The piece of music which accompanied Sarno's receipt of the money was the other highlight in the film. One reviewer asked why the score was so prominent here: I will opine that it's because the scene sets up the final act wherein the characters' fates will be decided.
I'd be remiss if I didn't mention Sarah Silverman's hilarious and profane diatribe during the opening scene, which leads to a fight where Parker and Longbaugh are left bleeding on the ground. It's an image that bookends the film. I will also compliment McQuarrie on the fantastic weapons handling from all of the actors. Apparently his brother is a Navy SEAL, and he trained all of the actors. That man should become a full time technical adviser. We see Parker and Longbaugh use a perfectly executed bounding overwatch to break contact and escape the first failed kidnapping attempt, as well as outstanding room clearing skills and even a 'rolling T' when they sweep through the brothel. They also perform tactical reloads, weak hand magazine exchanges, and immediate action drills like complete pros. Very, VERY few films display this degree of technical accuracy, so for me it's noteworthy.
If you enjoy hard boiled dialogue and gritty realism, and you can enjoy a relationship based drama, then you probably already love 'The Way of the Gun.' It's a shame that it wasn't more commercially successful, because I'd love to see McQuarrie make another film like this.