Friday, June 23, 2000

Gone In Sixty Seconds / *1/2 (2000)

Movies like “Gone In Sixty Seconds” are the least-difficult to sit through during the summer because they follow such simple-minded and routine formulas that theaters might as well provide checklists. It opens with the assumption that experienced car thieves have the audacity to cease all their illegal activities if it means that younger siblings would not follow in their footsteps. How noble of them. Then the movie prepares an obligatory backfire by having the younger sibling get mistakenly involved with a powerful local criminal, who will instigate the revival of these illegalities so that he will wind up with 50 rare stolen cars, and the thieves will save the life of the innocent bystander. Once all of these conditions are absorbed, only one question remains: how many times have we seen all of this before, only in different moods and premises? Those who flock to theaters at the mere mention of a film associated with Jerry Bruckheimer could give you a direct answer.

Undoubtedly you’ve heard of the man; he’s only singlehandedly responsible for some of the most ridiculous and unnecessary action flicks of the past ten years, some of which, I might add, have gone on to become enormous hits. Just take a gander at the list of his box-office achievements: “Top Gun,” “Bad Boys,” “The Rock,” “Con Air,” “Armageddon” and “Enemy Of The State.” While his newest production does not begin to approach the pretentiousness of his previous efforts, “Gone In Sixty Seconds” is still in the traditional Bruckheimer mold, meaning one of two things: the action scenes are either over-produced, or they simply fall into remission as a result of familiarity and deficient potency.

The movie is one long and joyless action adventure, where speedy car chase scenes are depleted of adrenaline and talented actors waste their fortes on completely mechanical characters. Nicolas Cage plays Randall “Memphis” Raines, a former car thief-turned-gas station manager, whose younger brother, Kip Raines (Giovanni Ribisi), repeats the well-known unlawful history of his brother and ends up as a victim in the clutches of notorious criminal Raymond Calitri (Christopher Eccleston). The catch: Kip will be killed if Memphis is unable to put together an assemblage of thieves and steal 50 rare, exotic cars for Calitri in a 72-hour period. Meanwhile, a local cop (Delroy Lindo) waits anxiously to apprehend his nemesis, as he suspects the 50th heist from Memphis will be a prized but dangerous Mustang he is keeping an eye on. One problem: do cops really wait until the last theft before nailing the criminal?

At least this insufferable setup could provide us with a couple of cool action scenes, but “Gone In Sixty Seconds’” doesn’t even have those. There are some elaborate chases here no question, but the crummy cinematography, choppy film editing and overly-loud sound effects interefere with any potential excitement. Besides, it takes the movie well over half of its running time to get to this turning point. How come so long? Because the plot is a meandering mess, spending endless time and scenes without much going on to try and pull together an ensemble cast for the upcoming heist. By then our attention spans have worn thin and grown weary.

Speaking of actors, let’s take a gander at the talent here: aside from the already-discussed Cage, Ribisi, Lindo and Eccleston, we have Robert Duvall and Angelina Jolie, among others, on board for the ride as well. Duvall plays one of Memphis’ old pals who helps pull of the more difficult heists, and Jolie, hot off the heels of her undeserved Oscar win this year, plays former girlfriend Sara “Sway” Wayland, who wonders if stealing cars is actually as exciting as sex. It’s hard to see why she gets second billing, however, next to Cage; in the 117 minutes that “Gone In Sixty Seconds” wastes, only 10 or so actually feature Jolie in them. I’m convinced that those few minutes are not meant to display any of her talent: only to serve as a ploy to yank male teenagers with raging hormones into the theaters.

The movie was directed by Dominic Sena, who, with “Kalifornia,” turned a genereric screenplay into a rousing production, with a fantastic and alert style and equally-impressive character performances tightening the loose ends. What could have possibly motivated him to take on this project? The film is essentially a money-drive remake of a 1974 cult classic, which, I must admit, is not that bad. My suggestion to those who will see the remake anyway: see the first film if you haven’t already. The original’s low-budget may not promise much, but at least the filmmakers were enthused about pulling together elaborate chase sequences instead of letting the money talk.

Written by DAVID KEYES

Action (US); 2000; Rated PG-13; 117 Minutes

Nicolas Cage: Randall "Memphis" Raines
Giovanni Ribisi: Kip Raines
Angelina Jolie: Sara "Sway" Wayland
T.J. Cross: Mirror Man
William Lee Scott: Toby

Produced by Jerry Bruckheimer, Denice Shakarian Halicki, Jonathan Hensleigh, Aristides McGarry, Chad Oman, Pat Sandston, Mike Stenson, Robert Stone, Webster Stone and Barry H. Waldman; Directed by Dominic Sena; Screenwritten by Scott Rosenberg

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