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Gone in 60 Seconds

movie reviewvideo review out of 4 Movie Review: Gone in 60 Seconds

Starring: Nicolas Cage, Angelina Jolie
Director: Dominic Sena
Rated: PG-13
RunTime: 119 Minutes
Release Date: June 2000
Genres: Action, Suspense

*Also starring: Scott Caan, Robert Duvall, Will Patton, Timothy Olyphant, Trevor Goddard, James Duval, Delroy Lindo, Giovanni Ribisi

Review by Harvey Karten
No Rating Supplied

This is one of those movies that have the audience cheering for the thieves to outfox the cops. Why so? That requires us to take a sidetrack back to my college Ethics class, Philosophy 105. The instructor posed this problem of moral ambiguity. A 21-year-old student, Eddie, has been doing fine throughout his four years of college except for one course in music that he was required to take in senior year. He never had much of an ear for the masters, but Ed is a highly ethical person bent on bettering the conditions of people in the Third World. He has been accepted for a two-year stint in the Peace Corps that would require him to live in a poverty-stricken country on the sort of money earned by the residents and to teach them scientific agricultural techniques to better their yearly food crop. He must be a college grad to complete his acceptance into this program, but he has done marginal work in this music class and must pass the final exam to graduate. He looks over the test and knows he cannot cut the mustard, but the fella sitting next to him is a regular Mozart and Ed has the opportunity to copy the required answers from his paper. Considering his special circumstance, would cheating be the moral thing to do?

Cut to producer Jerry Bruckheimer's "Gone in 60 Seconds," based at least loosely on the 1974 movie by H.B. Halicki--a PG version with a car chase similar to one climaxing the current work. Memphis Raines (Nicolas Cage), who dominates the movie, is an ex-car thief, the best, but he has gone straight--while being watched carefully by Det. Roland Castlebeck (Delroy Lindo) who threatens to put him away for good if he catches Memphis driving once more down the wrong path. But like Eddie the college senior, Memphis is forced into a situation that requires a choice. He could continue following the straight path, coaching a kind of little-league group of tots who are driving their Coney-Island type scooters around a track to the cheers of their parents. He likes what he's doing. But now his brother Kip (Giovanni Ribisi), the fraternal love of his life, is in grave danger. Having botched a criminal job for the evil mobster Raymond Calitri (Christopher Eccleston), Kip is now under a death threat. Raymond demands that Memphis steal 50 choice cars in a period of four days--autos that will be promptly be exported by ship out of the country--upon which delivery Memphis will be given $200,000. If he does not agree, Kip will be killed. We all know that the ex-car thief will come to the right moral decision.

"Gone in 60 Seconds" spends a good deal of its time in a climactic chase as the detective, obsessed like a modern Javert with putting Memphis back behind bars, thinks nothing of allowing police cars to be totalled as the cop and the thief soar through California burgs in and around Long Beach. Given the generic nature of auto pursuits in movies--and considering that this one never approaches the excitement of the race shown by John Frankenheimer in "Ronin"--we look for something innovative in the Scott Rosenberg's screenplay. Now, be aware that Jerry Bruckheimer himself ("The Rock, "Beverly Hills Cop," "Armageddon," "Top Gun") states in the production notes that this movie is character driven. Bruckheimer? Character driven? Not a chance. The gang that Memphis rounds up to make off with the fifty choice autos includes a cross-section of stereotypes, including Scott Caan in a colorless role, TJ Cross and Chi McBride as unimpressive agents of comic relief, Robert Duvall as the man behind the scenes who tallies up the cars as they come in, and Vinnie Jones (the Sphinx) as the only member of these stooges with anything resembling interest as an individual. Angelina Jolie, who gets third billing, does little except look sexy in a contrived role as a fast-talking car repair person and tough bartender who teams up all too suddenly with Memphis after the man dumped her six years previously.

Christopher Eccleston is among the wasted persons in the film. Playing a vicious mobster with zero tolerance for jobs not perfectly executed, Eccleston is given not even a single witty line of the sort that goes to villains and has seen far far better roles in challenging indies like "Let Him Have It" and "Jude." We'd not be surprised to learn, though, that he's taking a bigger load to the bank for this movie than he did for all his theater work put together--"A Streetcar Named Desire," "Bent" and "Miss Julie" among others. Robert Duvall, veteran of incredible capacities in such demanding films as "Sling Blade" and "The Apostle," must find it unfortunate that the targeted audience for this actioner may never see what the man can do. Giovanni Ribisi knocked out a thunderous role in the best movie of the year so far, "Boiler Room." "Gone in 60 Seconds," in fact, might even stimulate some in the audience to ask about the movie world, "Is that all there is?" If they engage the clutch and put their brains into overdrive, they might even hit the road to find out, in which case a trip to "Gone in 60 Seconds" will have been worth the effort.

Copyright 2000 Harvey Karten

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