GONE IN SIXTY SECONDS (2000) ** movie review by COOP

Posted on May 14th, 2008
Posted on May 14th, 2008

“The French Connection”, “Ronin”, “The Blues Brothers”, all contained outstanding chase scenes, but with a difference… They were chases with a solid story built around them. “Gone in Sixty Seconds”, is the exact opposite and it still doesn’t deliver the goods. Arch-Producer Jerry Bruckheimer hopes to have another “The Rock” or “Top Gun” on his hands… but even if “60 Seconds” does make a lot of money, it still looks like a car wreck to me.

“Gone in Sixty Seconds” is what the showbiz people call a “high concept” movie. That means that the plot must be ear-catching, yet simple. Example: A cop must disarm a bus that a madman has rigged to explode if its speed drops below 40 miles an hour. (the high concept plot of “Speed”). You’ll find that a large portion of Hollywood films fall under this category, but the studios concentrate the majority of high concept films during the summer season. They release the films with simple plots so as not to dissuade the vacationing masses and out-of-school kids that will inevitably avoid the brainy and complicated films. As insulting as it sounds, this formula works quite well and everyone falls for it, including myself. There is good high concept and there is bad high concept. “60 Seconds” falls into the latter and I hope this isn’t heralding a poor crop of summer films this year.

Nicolas Cage stars as Randall “Memphis” Raines, a retired car thief. He is forced back into the business when his foolish, younger brother (Giovanni Ribisi) leads the cops to an illegal chop shop owned by psychopath, Raymond (Christopher Eccelson). Raymond gives Memphis an ultimatum… steal 50 specific cars in 4 days or his brother is dead. In desperation, Memphis talks four, retired-and-gone-straight car thieves (including Angelina Jolie and Robert Duvall) into helping him, out of the kindness of their own hearts. Car chases ensue as Det. Roland Castlebeck (Delroy Lindo), of the Los Angeles auto theft division, learns of the mass heist and attempts to catch them in the act.

Bruckheimer typically employs an all-star ensemble for his big productions, but his actors are wasted in this effort. Cage essentially plays himself again in another quirky, action-star role. Nothing new there. Ribisi also plays himself as another loser/slacker/punk. Pretty boring. Jolie plays a character almost identical to her own outrageous personae, but neither she, nor Robert Duvall get enough screentime to make them worth watching. There are many other recognizable faces in the cast, but none of their characters get developed. However, it is a calculated movie by Bruckheimer, because the more recognizable faces he can attach to a picture, the more money it will make. Certainly, that is his tried and true formula.

This is Director Dominic Sena’s second feature direction since his first film, the 1993 cult hit “Kalifornia” with Brad Pitt, David Duchovny and Juliette Lewis. The only reason I can think that Bruckheimer hired him is that Sena proved he could create a visual style similar to “Armageddon” and “Con Air” as this producer seems to require. He achieves the effect, but the style is growing stale and unoriginal.

“Gone in Sixty Seconds” is actually the remake of a 1974 film of the same name. The old version, described as a 94 minute car chase, is what I would have rather seen in this version, if it had been well done. Instead we get a belabored setup and a 10 minute, sub-par chase that leads to a generic, predictable conclusion. I also learned that some of the cars stolen in the film, including the spectacular ’67 Shelby Mustang that Cage hijacks for the climactic chase, are so rare that stealing them would be counter productive. Since so few are in existence, they can be traced and are therefore worthless on the black market. Apparently the makers of this film didn’t do their research in more ways than one.

I would recommend going back to see “MI:2” or “Gladiator” rather than seeing this film, but the lure of fast cars is hard to resist. With a PG-13 rating, there is no nudity and very mild profanity so it’s not too bad for kids, if they can sit through the boring parts. Adults will also get impatient with the story line, especially if they are waiting for the all-to-short chase scene at the end.

Scale of 1-5:

Most refreshing aspect of the film:
The American film debut of pro soccer player, Vinnie Jones. Few Americans have heard of him, but in his native country of England, he’s notoriously famous as being one of the toughest and most violent soccer players in the world, both on and off the field. Jones, who once bit off a man’s nose in a bar fight, has since focused his efforts on the silver screen. He stole the show in last year’s British comedy/action movie “Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels”, showing a true talent for acting. In “60 Seconds” he plays a mute mortician, convinced back into car thievery by Nicholas Cage. Although his part is small, he has a few outstanding scenes and certainly proves that he is one of the most intimidating men on the planet. I hope to see him more prominently in future films.

Biggest gripe:
Pretty much the whole production. Even though it was an interesting idea for a movie, the bad script, lame dialogue, and lacking action scenes made this one a snoozer. It had potential, but it was just done wrong.

Biggest surprise:
The media backlash. It’s interesting how mild hysteria can result from a movie controversy. Last year, the focus was on “Fight Club” when experts proclaimed it could instigate an increase in violence due to the content of the film. Their faces were red with nothing happened. Now experts are saying that “Gone in Sixty Seconds” could cause an increase in car theft due to the film’s glamorization of grand theft auto. It’s just my opinion, but I think the movie would have to actually be good in order to influence the public to start stealing cars. Who are these experts anyway?

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