Screenwriter Christopher McQuarrie made his name with, and won an Oscar for, his screenplay for 1995's The Usual Suspects, an overrated but audacious and accomplished crime thriller that drew on many of the same sources as Pulp Fiction but possesses a dark energy all its own. Yet another nihilistic ensemble piece populated with colorful, overly philosophical lowlifes, The Way Of The Gun (which McQuarrie wrote and directed) retains many elements that made The Usual Suspects entertaining. But what worked there falls horrifyingly flat here, resulting in yet another Tarantino knockoff that's heavy on attitude and poorly orchestrated bloodshed but light on plausibility, multi-dimensional characters, and smarts. An improbably hardboiled Ryan Phillippe and a more convincingly tough Benicio Del Toro star as small-time criminals who kidnap pregnant surrogate mother Juliette Lewis in an attempt to weasel millions from the shady businessman whose child she is ostensibly carrying. Plans go predictably awry, however, and Phillippe and Del Toro soon find themselves in a heinously overwritten web of lies, betrayals, and double-crosses the likes of which will be familiar to anyone who has seen a thriller in the past eight years. The Way Of The Gun gets off to a terrible start, continuing on the same irritatingly self-satisfied path until it reaches its endless anticlimax, an ineptly staged shootout that feels like it was shot continuously in real time over the course of several hours. Like many of Tarantino's cinematic bastard children, The Way Of The Gun's worldview seems derived entirely from other movies and pulp novels, a shadowy netherworld occupied by swarms of well-worn tough-guy archetypes but no one recognizably human. Devoid of even one sympathetic character, sluggishly paced, and full of unnecessary subplots and supporting players, The Way Of The Gun is bad enough to suggest that, three films into his career, McQuarrie's best moments are already behind him.