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(2000) (Nicolas Cage, Giovanni Ribisi) (PG-13)

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Action/Adventure: A retired car thief must steal fifty valuable vehicles in seventy-two hours to save his younger brother's life.
Randall "Memphis" Raines (NICOLAS CAGE) is a former car thief who's approached by Atley Jackson (WILL PATTON), a former "business" associate, with news that Raines' younger brother, Kip (GIOVANNI RIBISI), is in deep trouble with Raymond Calitri (CHRISTOPHER ECCLESTON), a notorious English criminal.

It seems that Kip has followed in his big brother's footsteps and, with the aid of his "crew" - Mirror Man (TJ CROSS), Tumbler (SCOTT CAAN), Toby (WILLIAM LEE SCOTT) and Freb (JAMES DUVAL) - promised Calitri they could deliver fifty various cars to him for export to places and people unknown in exchange for a $200,000 payment.

As such, Calitri threatens to kill Kip if Memphis can't boost the cars in the next seventy-two hours. Reluctant but realizing he has no other choice, Memphis agrees. Realizing his options are limited, he goes to see his former mentor, Otto Halliwell (ROBERT DUVALL), who's since gone straight and now refurbishes cars. Upon hearing that Kip's life is at stake, however, Otto agrees and they begin reassembling their old crew.

Among them is Sara "Sway" Wayland (ANGELINA JOLIE), Memphis' former girlfriend who's also since gone straight; Kenny (CHI McBRIDE) who's become a driving instructor; and The Sphinx (VINNIE JONES), a large and mostly mute man. With Memphis as their leader, the team begins staking out the various cars they must steal, but realize they can't tip off Detective Roland Castelbeck (DELROY LINDO) or his partner, Detective Drycoff (TIMOTHY OLYPHANT), who realize the former thieves are up to no good.

Waiting until the last night so as to keep as low a profile as possible, Memphis and his team set out to steal the fifty cars and get them to Calitri before the deadline, all while avoiding the detectives and other police who are soon hot on their tails.

OUR TAKE: 4.5 out of 10
In the opening scene of "Gone in 60 Seconds," the driver of a heisted Porsche is preparing to gun the car through a plate glass window. His passenger, a comic relief character known only as "Mirror Man," incredulously states, "This isn't 'The Dukes of Hazzard.'"

While that's obviously true as there are no signs of Bo or Luke Duke, Boss Hogg or even Daisy Duke in her small, form-fitting shorts, this film and that 1980s era TV show share the same mentality, target audience and high level of testosterone pumping through their entertainment veins.

Of course, that shouldn't come as a surprise when one considers that this film's producer is none other than Jerry Bruckheimer, the mastermind behind other high octane films such as "Armageddon," "Con Air," and "The Rock." Like those films, this one features a near all-male cast, a flashy, polished veneer and pounding soundtrack, and a plot and accompanying characters & related dialogue all specifically designed to appeal directly to a target audience of teen and twenty-something males.

A remake of the 1974 film of the same name - that few people saw but is known for containing a forty (yes, 40) minute-long car chase - it also hedges its cinematic bets with the inclusion of Bruckheimer vet Nicolas Cage ("Con Air," "The Rock"), plenty of shiny, exotic and/or vintage cars, and a cool-sounding plan of having to steal fifty cars in a short amount of time that inevitably leads to the obligatory and highly choreographed car chase sequence.

Considerably shorter than what its predecessor offered, the sequence is the highlight of the film. Yet, it's nothing to write home about and audiences have to wait until near the bitter end to be treated to it. Although loud (you can feel the roaring engine of the Shelby Mustang GT 500), relatively well-staged and featuring quick cuts to create the illusion of even greater potential peril and action, the moments where Cage's character tries to elude the police and many obstacles is surprisingly lackluster.

Yes, for a film like this, it's unfortunately missing the requisite level of energy to make the action jump off the screen and pull the viewer into it, not to mention help those of us not in the target audience forgive or at least temporarily forget the silly and stilted dialogue, lack of logic and overall gung-ho attitude. The car chase sequence certainly isn't in the same league as what Peter Yates created with Steve McQueen in "Bullitt" or what John Frankenheimer staged in the more recent "Ronin."

Even this film's signature moment involving a truck's run-in (or vice-versa) with a crane-mounted wrecking ball isn't as much fun or exciting as it could and should have been. While the moment of impact does generate the appropriate "Ouch!" response from viewers, it would have been far more fun had the wrecking ball been swinging back and forth out of control like a pendulum, nearly hitting the same vehicles repeatedly forced (for whatever reason) to drive in its vicinity.

Up until that defining moment, the film includes a lot of setup and attempted character development, neither of which is particularly successful nor, for that matter, necessary for a film like this. The basic thrust of stealing fifty specific cars in seventy-two hours is about all the setup that's needed, and it certainly generates a modest amount of viewer intrigue as to how the characters will accomplish that task.

Yet, director Dominic Sena ("Kalifornia," various music videos & TV commercials) - who works from a screenplay by Scott Michael Rosenberg ("High Fidelity," "Con Air") based on the original story - rarely lets the film get out of first gear and it consequently spends a lot of its time spinning its wheels getting nowhere. For a film about fast criminals and faster cars, the results suffer from a clear lack of urgency, notwithstanding the constant onscreen reminders of how much time is left until the deadline.

The biggest problem with that is that there's not enough specifically at stake. Yes, the head villain - played without much gusto by Christopher Eccleston ("A Price Above Rubies," "Jude") who's saddled by clichés and what's presumably supposed to be an interesting character nuance of having an interest in furniture making (no kidding) -- has threatened to kill someone if the cars aren't delivered.

Stupidly, however, he and the filmmakers allow the intended victim to go free (instead of holding him hostage) thus diminishing what little urgency was present. As is stands, the victim, his brother and their mother (and anyone else for that matter) could have fled town or, better yet, gone to the police and turned in the villain. Of course, that would defeat the purpose of the movie, but I'll assume you get the point.

Like most every Bruckheimer film, this one has a large and varied cast and that serves as both a detriment and redeeming quality. In regards to character development and time allocated to them, the large cast is a bad thing since the supporting characters - and some name stars - don't get enough time or material to do much with their roles. On the other hand, enough name performers are present to give the film an aesthetically pleasing appearance.

Embodying the protagonist, Nicolas Cage is generally okay in the role and delivers a somewhat toned down version of the high-strung, wide-eyed characters he often plays in such films. Oscar winner Angelina Jolie ("Girl, Interrupted," "Pushing Tin") is near completely wasted in the role as his character's untamed, ex-girlfriend who's the film's lone major female character, but is conspicuously absent for long stretches of time.

Noted character actors Robert Duvall ("A Civil Action," "The Apostle") and Delroy Lindo ("The Cider House Rules," "Get Shorty") appear as the protagonist's mentor and antagonist respectively, but Lindo gets the better - if still underdeveloped - role. The rest of the performers and their characters all sort of mesh together, with newcomer TJ Cross and soccer star turned actor Vinnie Jones ("Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels") being the exceptions as they appear as the comic relief characters.

While the film would probably make the folks of Hazzard proud (I kept waiting for that southern "Yee-hah" yell/scream to accompany Cage's giant car leap - reminiscent of the General Lee - as well as Waylon Jennings to start singing "Just some good ol' boys...") and will probably appease its target audience, it's too bad it doesn't have more horsepower under its hood or horse sense in its head.

As it stands, the film is passable, but without the usual, over-the-top energy and antics found in such pictures, the typical problems accompanying such films only become that much more glaring. "Gone in 60 Seconds" will undoubtedly make its share of money and last far longer than that in the theaters, but it's not as good or as much fun as it could and should have been. As such, it rates as a 4.5 out of 10.

Reviewed June 6, 2000 / Posted June 9, 2000

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