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Nothing Amazing About 'Graceland'

By Desson Howe
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, February 23, 2001


    '3000 Miles to Graceland' David Arquette, Kurt Russell, Kevin Costner, Christian Slater and Bokeem Woodbine in "3000 Miles to Graceland."
(Alan Markfield/Warner Bros.)
Which deluded Hollywood agent whipped open his Nokia phone, called Kevin Costner and raved: "Kev, I've just read this great script called '3,000 Miles to Graceland.'"?

"Kev, get this: You're gonna be an ex-con who plays an Elvis impersonator. What? Oh yeah, people love movies about Elvis impersonators. And get a load of this early grabber: Right at the beginning, you and your boys bust into a Vegas palace and you blow dozens of people away. Blam! Blam! Bodies left, right and center! Huh? 'Why?' You know, I can't remember. To steal money, I think. Does it matter? Anyway, get this: There's an old granny working the slot machines while all this is going on, right? And the scene comes to a close, and guess what? Yep, that's right. She hits all 7s. Brilliant, huh? Can you feel it? Can't you see yourself with the sideburns? And the shades. Kev, we're looking at $40 or $50 million opening weekend, for sure."

Imagining goofy (and alarmingly likely) scenarios like this was my way of getting through this Warner Bros. turkey, this dead bird of an action flick that stinks up the theater from the very beginning.

Complementing the aforementioned slaughter are a couple of unappealing (and unfunny) misogynistic jokes (courtesy of David Arquette), an ensemble of even less-appealing Elvis-impersonating bad guys (including Kurt Russell, who played Elvis oh so many years ago) and the usual blitzkrieg direction (all credit to the emerging, untalented Demian Lichtenstein), which seems designed purely to draw attention to its obnoxious self.

Yes, it's International Elvis Week in Las Vegas, which means tons of impersonators are all over the place. Into the Riviera Hotel stride five mean-looking Elvises, packing major heat. The group of ex-cons includes former cellmates Murphy (Costner) and Michael (Russell), Gus (Arquette), Hanson (Christian Slater) and Franklin (Bokeem Woodbine, who – as a black actor in a Hollywood ensemble movie – can anticipate an early death). Also part of the gang: the grim-faced Hamilton (Ice-T) and Jack (Howie Long), Murphy's pal and getaway 'copter pilot who's singing Paul Simon's "Fifty Ways to Leave Your Lover" while he's waiting for the heist. Oh, by the way, this movie's meant to be funny. I keep forgetting to tell you.

After they make off with the money – a measly haul of $3.2 million, which might get you a good Georgetown home – the gang becomes truly divisive. Yes, Franklin's dead already. So, Hanson wants a bigger piece of the pie. But Murphy wants to keep to the original plan and save Franklin's stash for, I don't know, the Warner Bros. executives who'll get fired for this movie? More blam! blam! And now it's everyone for himself, or herself. Into the picture come Cybil (Courteney Cox or Cox-Arquette, I'm never sure) and her street-smart kid Jesse (David Kaye), who aren't exactly strangers to the underworld or con games. Incidentally, there are few things weirder than a member of the "Friends" cast playing hardball without a laugh track.

Okay, now comes the really tedious stuff, in which everyone seems to be back-stabbing everyone else. The operating words are greed, chaos and treachery, as Costner, Russell, Cox (or, you know) and Kaye's characters battle over that bag of money. And your job during this misguided attempt to evoke the high-crime antics of a Quentin Tarantino picture is to care. And what a job it proves to be. Whose side is Cybil really on? And is she really so smitten with Michael? And if she does feel for him, aren't movie characters supposed to fall in love for a reason, even a slight one? Oh, please, make them stop. I suggest you think of this movie as another bad sausage from the Warner Bros. meat-packing factory. And you should think of this review as a government health warning. Eat this thing at your peril.

"3,000 Miles to Graceland (R, 124 minutes) – Contains obscenity, sexual scenes, major gun violence, gun executions and a kid who's supposed to be cute.


Copyright 2001 The Washington Post Company

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