Welcome to this column dedicated to my appreciation of physical media supplements called: Feature Presentations. The goal of this column is not to say whether a film is good or bad and worth picking up or not—I would like to highlight the discs that go the extra mile and provide film fans with enough tasty tidbits to satisfy even the hungriest of cinephiles. With all that out of the way, today’s article will focus on The Way of the Gun from the After Dark Neo-Noir Cinema Collection Two box set from Imprint Films. My review of The Way of the Gun is the first part of my multi-part review of this box set.
As a disclaimer of transparency for this episode of Feature Presentations, my review of The Way of the Gun comes from a review copy that Imprint Films provided for review. All thoughts and opinions are my own.
I recall being extremely excited when The Way of the Gun hit theaters in the Fall of 2000. Five years removed from his Academy Award win for The Usual Suspects, Christopher McQuarrie was returning to cinemas, adding that he would be directing his own script—I was intrigued. For one reason or another, I never got around to checking out the movie in theaters. Thankfully, when The Way of the Gun made its way onto DVD, my career path led me to work at the local video store. The film and my job intersected, and voila: The Way of the Gun entered my life! Unfortunately, that initial excitement at what Christopher McQuarrie had in store for his follow-up gradually faded into a disappointing and convoluted crime film (and not in the way of the well-crafted design of The Usual Suspects).
Telling the tale of two criminals who enter into a crime outside of their scope, the film struggles to reign in the many ideas it presents. McQuarrie fills the script with too many characters spouting too many clever quips while trying to balance the twisty narrative into a cohesive experience. I admire some of McQuarrie’s dialogue and his handling of the actors, but the movie spirals into an excessive mess that isn’t as entertaining as it wants to be with the end result being the definition of style over substance.
Recalling my time renting the film in early 2001, my recollection of the DVD was it had a significant amount of extra content. Imprint Films did a respectable job at porting over the previous supplemental material including two audio commentaries: one with writer/director Christopher McQuarrie and composer Joe Kraemer and the other, an isolated score commentary with Kraemer. While the film may not have worked for me, the commentary tracks are everything I could want.
McQuarrie and Kraemer’s discussion is jammed wall-to-wall with a non-stop barrage of comments. As one might expect, being the writer and director, McQuarrie leads the talks while Kraemer supports him with questions and observations. McQuarrie discusses aspects of how the script came to be, the origins of the film’s infamous opening scene, and the work of directing your first feature. Even though McQuarrie takes up a bulk of the track, each offers plenty of production information to make this a worthwhile listen.
Kraemer gets his moment to shine with his solo commentary track. The film’s score is one of The Way of the Gun‘s best aspects. The western compositions Kraemer composes mesh well with the film’s southwestern setting. Interspersed between musical cues, Kraemer discusses how he came to join the film, themes weaved throughout the score, and how McQuarrie approached him to set the film’s mood. The track alternates well between Kraemer’s comments and allowing his score to be front and center. Not enough discs nowadays offer an isolated score track, and it’s appreciated when one is added to a physical media release, even if it’s an archival feature.
Film writer Travis Woods hops onto a track for a newly-recorded 2022 commentary. Whenever Travis Woods makes an appearance, it makes me a happy guy. Woods and his comments balance entertainment with knowledge when discussing The Way of the Gun. He works to emphasize themes and ideas that McQuarrie peppers throughout the film. He discusses his appreciation of how McQuarrie flips crime film tropes on its head, the use of dialogue-free character moments, and how the film lives and dies by not conforming to the Hollywood system. It’s clear that Woods has an affinity for the film, which comes through during his comments, and while I do not share his sentiments about the finished film, he’s well-informed and makes for a great listen, regardless of your feelings towards the movie.
Imprint Films includes cast interviews with Ryan Phillippe, Benicio Del Toro, Juliette Lewis, Taye Diggs, Nicky Katt, and James Caan. Each interview comprises on-set footage filmed during production for The Way of the Gun. Unlike most Electronic Press Kit (EPK) media, these discussions are instead chopped up bits from more in-depth interviews. It doesn’t give these interviews any sense of momentum and only offers surface-level detail from those interviewed. At most, these are worth watching once, but you won’t find much insight.
The disc closes with the film’s theatrical trailer and a television spot.
I recall the film’s DVD release included storyboards for a deleted scene. While it’s not a glaring omission, it would be welcome to have had that feature to complete the package.
And there you have it! While The Way of the Gun didn’t do it for me then, nor in 2022, I know the film has plenty of fans. Imprint Films ported over most of the film’s initial features, plus an excellent addition, courtesy of a 2022 commentary from Travis Woods. Like Mortal Thoughts from Collection One, I find The Way of the Gun an ambitious swing and a miss. Even still, Imprint Films compiled a solid release for those who relish Christopher McQuarrie’s The Usual Suspects follow-up or those looking for a quirky slice of neo-noir cinema. If that’s you, then The Way of the Gun may be right up your alley.