September 18, 2000 12:00 PM

Ryan Phillippe, Benicio Del Toro, Juliette Lewis, Taye Diggs, James Caan

Parker (Phillippe) and Longbaugh (Del Toro), career thugs, think they’ve found a big score when they hear about a surrogate mother (Lewis) who’s agreed to have a baby for a rich couple. They promptly kidnap her and demand a $15 million ransom–only to learn the husband has Mob connections.

If the names Parker and Longbaugh sound vaguely familiar, it’s because they’re the last names of outlaws Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid. But director-writer Christopher McQuarrie (who wrote The Usual Suspects) has ensured that no one will ever confuse Gun, a talky, twisty and trigger-happy crime drama in which everyone has an ulterior motive, with the lighthearted 1969 romp starring Paul Newman and Robert Redford. He fairly pistol-whips viewers into understanding that real violent criminals, as opposed to sympathetic movie felons, are irredeemably nasty guys who do vile things for no good reason other than to enrich themselves and be ornery. If Gun, McQuarrie’s first effort as a director, seems more an exercise in style (How rotten can you make your leads? What’s the best way to frame a gunfight?), it is still showy and smart enough to mark him as a filmmaker with a future. (R) Bottom Line: Mostly on target

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