The Way of the Gun
Rating: * * *Japanese title:Yukaihan Director:Christopher McQuarrie Running time: 119 minutes Language: EnglishNow showing at Marunouchi Piccadilly 2 and other theaters

One elderly crime lord looks at his right-hand man and asks, "Do you believe in karma, Joe?" The tough old hit man ponders it for a second, then replies: "Karma is only justice without satisfaction."

This little nugget of hard-boiled wisdom comes from "The Way of the Gun," the directorial debut of screenwriter Christopher McQuarrie. Actually, though, he didn't get it quite right: Karma is more a matter of allowing one's present and future to be dictated by past actions and ingrained tendencies.

Judging from this film, it sure seems like McQuarrie has become a prisoner of his karma. After landing an Oscar in 1995 for Best Original Screenplay with his clever, sucker-punch script for "The Usual Suspects" -- arguably the best of the post-Tarantino deluge of talky crime-suspense flicks -- McQuarrie pitched any number of new projects but failed to get anything off the ground. The studios all wanted more of the same, and eventually McQuarrie caved in and gave them what they wanted with "The Way of the Gun."