GONE IN 60 SECONDS (2000)
Reviewed by Anthony Neil Smith
Before seeing this updated version of the seventies car heist film GONE IN 60 SECONDS, I was led by other critics to believe that there was no story here, just a two hour car chase. And that was the appeal for me. I like Nicholas Cage's acting no matter how flimsy the premise of the movie he is in because of his unusual presence in a movie, at least in terms of mass media summer pop corn flicks. Cage ain't John Wayne, who always played John Wayne no matter what character he was supposed to be. Cage looks nervous and befuddled sometimes. He acts goofy. Those elements break up the tedium of cliche driven blockbusters, but unfortunately have spawned new cliches as Cage and producer Jerry Bruckheimer team up for a third crime/action thriller in GONE...
So my first surprise was that there is a story here, and it takes an awfully long time to set it up--retired car thief Memphis Raines has to bail his brother out of trouble with a ruthless crimelord by taking on the job the brother failed, which is to steal 50 mostly high-end cars by a set deadline. Not much of a story? Well, Bruckheimer and director Dominic Sena (Who cares? Three different directors for THE ROCK, CON AIR, and GONE..., but all the films look and feel the same. In fact, in the climactic scenes of GONE..., the music is the same score from CON AIR.) take quite a while to go through the standard tropes for setting up the emotional relationships in the film. Why bother? To make us care about the characters? They're cardboard anyway, and we know they're cardboard before the end of the opening credits. Not a two-hour car chase after all, but a one-hour series of car chases trying to be more than it is.
I liked the cars. I understood the character motivations quickly. (Bruckheimer, save us some time next go-round, okay? Give the audience a little credit.) And I actually liked the ensemble gathered here, including Angelina Jolie, Robert Duvall, Delroy Lindo, and British actor Vinnie Jones who plays a surprising bad-ass character much like his LOCK STOCK AND TWO SMOKING BARRELS villain, but with less to say here. But the cars should be the stars here--Porsches, Ferraris, T-birds, and of course the jaw-dropping Shelby Mustang--but with the standard quick-cut music video style so prevelent in these new action flicks, we don't see much of those cars. It's a shame. Even the car chases are so cluttered that the cars seem secondary to the crashes and the noise. Makes me long for an older style, with shots lasting a bit longer. Here I am, relatively young, but still feeling old because I'm unable to process this high-speed editing so well, although I'm told younger folks raised on video games and MTV (Hey, I had Atari and a C-64, and I remember seeing the first MTV video, following along until the channel stopped playing music) can take it all in much better, and in fact, demand the jam-packed breathlessness of it all.
I wanted more of the love story between Cage's Raines and Jolie's Sway, which we get hints of and even an almost sex-scene, but we're left to assume too much. I mean, when first approached to join the 50 car heist, Sway says she's cleaned up and won't do it. However, she ends up joining anyway, no explanation given. I mean, come on. How about not skipping that step, at least? Defy my occasional expectation. Characterization can happen in the thick of the action without all that slow preliminary bullshit that some Hollywood types think is "characterization." Trust me, we'll get it. Hardboiled writers did it all the time, defined characters without slowing down. This isn't DR. ZHIVAGO after all, so why pretend it's anywhere near that?
Overall, that's the problem here. It's a loud formula movie with cool cars, and it has an epic scope, but it never tries to surprise me (unless it really is by hoping I have a short term memory problem that allowed me to forget the other Bruckheimer films) and never makes me feel much of anything: excitement, humor, anticipation, sadness. Doesn't happen. Those elements should have been jettisoned so I could watch a two-hour car chase. Here's a half-and-half assessment, then--Great cars, but too bad they couldn't just let it be that.
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