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Stalled in '60 Seconds'

By Desson Howe
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, June 9, 2000


    'Gone in 60 Seconds' "Loveable" rogues star in "Gone in 60 Seconds." (Touchstone)
There were moments when I thought "Gone in 60 Seconds" might be a passably entertaining movie.

I figure those moments, strung end-to-end, would total 30 or 40 seconds. But in this Nicolas Cage flick about car thieves, that still leaves about 118 minutes (and change) of cruise-control junk, the kind of slick, soulless storytelling that passes for entertainment these days.

Cage has found a movie to challenge "Snake Eyes" and "Eight Millimeter" as the dumbest of his career.

It should come as no surprise that "Gone in 60 Seconds," a remake of a 1974 movie of the same name, was produced by Jerry Bruckheimer who made "Flashdance," "Beverly Hills Cop," "Top Gun," "Bad Boys" and "Dangerous Minds," highly successful movies built for speed, sensation and nothing else.

But Bruckheimer's hits seem like national treasures compared to this movie, which gives new meaning to the term "stalled vehicle."

Cage plays Randall "Memphis" Raines, a former car thief who has left hot-wiring to work with kids. But he's forced to return to his old profession to get his kid brother, Kip (Giovanni Ribisi), out of hot water.

It seems Kip – who followed in his big brother's footsteps – promised more than he could handle: an order of 50 stolen cars for nasty English crime boss Raymond Calitri (Christopher Eccleston). If Kip doesn't deliver those cars in a matter of days, he's a goner.

It's time for Memphis to recruit his old team, the one that could boost anything that moved. Here's where Scott Rosenberg's script sharply reduces all velocity, as we meet approximately 15 characters, all of whom have attention-getting shticks, like Calitri's fondness for carving coffins in his spare time.

Memphis's erstwhile comrades include Atley (Will Patton), Astricky (Chi McBride), Otto (Robert Duvall) and the Sphinx (Vinnie Jones, the grim-faced ex-soccer player who stole the show in "Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels").

I thought "Gone in 60 Seconds" had the makings of a decent action flick when as the car-boosting equivalent of a retired gunfighter, Memphis returns to a town where his reputation is well-known to the cops (played by Delroy Lindo and Timothy Olyphant). The detectives know what he's up to. But he has to go through with his plan anyway because Calitri is going to kill Kip. Why, it's almost Clint Eastwood starring in "Casablanca" with cars.


Rosenberg spends so much time introducing us to these "lovable" rogues that it takes half the movie to move into second gear. And for all his character-building efforts, none of these people are interesting. They just have strange names, like Mirror Man, Sway, Tumbler and Freb. The only one with a normal name is Eleanor – the nickname for a 1967 Shelby Mustang GT 500 that has jinxed Memphis's efforts to boost "her" from the get-go.

Worst of all is the car-thief dialogue that's supposed to give us an authentic taste of this underworld.

"He took a job and he fumbled it," Atley tells Memphis when he gives him the news about Kip. "Now he's jammed up bad."

And then there's the jammed-up romance between Memphis and Sway (Angelina Jolie), an old flame that Memphis left behind when he turned clean. At one point, the estranged lovers sit together in a parked car waiting for the right moment to steal the sleek sports car in front of them. But suddenly, the owner comes out on to the balcony and starts to make love with his date, forcing Memphis and Sway to wait, watch and imitate. This is the kind of "hot" scene that may "work" in a screenwriter's head after a couple of drinks. But the next morning, it's time to press the "delete" button and write a scene that imitates actual humans.

It seems that director Dominic Sena, who made "Kalifornia" and, before that, jillions of music videos and commercials, is saving his climactic motors for the car-chasing finale. But when it does come, we're seat-belted in for a surprisingly unexciting ride, featuring Memphis, Eleanor and a laughably obvious reliance on special effects. I'm never good with box office predictions, but it seems to me they should have called this "Gone in Three Weeks."

GONE IN 60 SECONDS (PG-13, 119 minutes) – Contains violence, sexual situations, strong language and hazardous driving.


© Copyright 2000 The Washington Post Company

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