Heroes of the Zeroes is Nick Rogers’ daily, alphabetical look back at the 365 best films of 2000 to 2009.

The Usual Suspects stamped its collaborators’ names on Hollywood’s map — Bryan Singer, Benicio Del Toro, Kevin Spacey. But not Oscar-winning screenwriter Christopher McQuarrie, whose 2000 film, The Way of the Gun (also his directorial debut), thudded hard and sidelined him until he wrote Singer’s relatively nondescript Valkyrie. 

Gun boasts roaring, bloodletting gunfire to do Sam Peckinpah proud, Joe Kraemer’s throbbing percussive score (proving timpani should get more melodies) and any number of quotable, slick dialogue snippets.

Stellar samples: “$15 million is not money. It’s a motive with a universal adapter on it,” and, in response to a character’s use of C.Y.A., “As a collector of pre-war cop jargon, I find the old man refreshing.”

While in a sperm-bank waiting room (yep), criminals Parker (Ryan Phillippe) and Longbaugh (Del Toro) overhear a conversation about a well-guarded surrogate mother for a millionaire. When kidnapping Robin (Juliette Lewis) and moseying to Mexico, they don’t know of the millionaire’s good ties to bad men, such as bagman Joe Sarno (James Caan).

Had the tollbooth not killed him, Sonny Corleone would’ve been Sarno in his twilight years — older, slower, but still the guy you don’t want to wake up to find hovering over you. Caan and Del Toro’s shared scene is a minor milestone of gunman-detente cool.

Agendas dovetail and double-crosses mount, but Gun breaks nihilism with sympathetic links on which to cling. A dusty slow-burn thriller of the highest order, Gun achieved what Kill Bill sought in its teetering totality — swaggering, verbose, badass and soulful drama.