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'Gone in 60 Seconds'

There's more to 'Gone in 60 Seconds' than just stunt drivers

Friday, June 09, 2000

By Ron Weiskind, Post-Gazette Movie Editor

My brother-in-law Bob considered the original "Gone in 60 Seconds" one of his all-time favorite movies. Because of him, I've actually seen this drive-in classic -- written, produced and directed by the late H.B. Halicki, who also starred in it.

'Gone In 60 Seconds'

RATING: PG-13, for violence, sexuality and language

STARRING: Nicolas Cage, Angelina Jolie, Robert Duvall

DIRECTOR: Dominic Sena

WEB SITE: www.goneinsixty

CRITIC'S CALL: 2 1/2 stars

Nicolas Cage: Not feeling 'Super'


You've never heard of anyone connected with the movie. Considering what passes for acting in it, that's understandable. The plot didn't have much horsepower, either -- a gang of car thieves tries to steal 48 cars in a week for a $250,000 payoff.

But this 1974 movie earned its place in the Hazzard County Hall of Fame for one reason. The second half of the flick consists of what must have been the longest car chase on record at the time, lasting about 40 minutes and sending nearly 100 cars to junkyard heaven.

So what was producer Jerry Bruckheimer thinking when he decided to remake it as a big-budget movie with a cast headed by three (count 'em) Oscar winners -- Nicolas Cage, Angelina Jolie and Robert Duvall? Come on, this is Jerry Bruckheimer! He was thinking Boom! Crash! Bang!

Maybe we should ask, what were the actors thinking? Then again, Cage is no stranger to action-film bombastics ("Con Air") or playing crooks with dirty fingernails ("Raising Arizona"). Jolie just married Billy Bob Thornton -- 'nuff said. And Duvall? Hell, he's played everyone from Boo Radley to Jesse James. He was Billy Bob's dad in "Sling Blade" and James Earl Jones' brother in "A Family Thing" and a Bible-thumping preacher in "The Apostle."

No, these distinguished thespians all feel at home here. And that's probably why the new "Gone in 60 Seconds" struck me as more than just another blow-'em-up-real-good no-brainer.

Screenwriter Scott Rosenberg actually tries to give the actors something to do other than pick ignition locks and breathe exhaust fumes. Director Domenic Sena adds a grimy ambiance that tells us a lot about how these folks are used to living. Together, they made me feel like I actually knew them -- not just the few days of their lives that we see on screen but the whole sorry history of this real and extended family of characters.

Would I want to know them in real life? Only if I had The Club AND an electronic alarm system on my car -- and a pit bull inside. Then again, if I knew these people, maybe they wouldn't be inclined to boost my wheels.

Cage plays Randall "Memphis" Raines, a legendary car thief who retired several years ago. But when his little brother Kip (Giovanni Ribisi) screws up a job for the reigning stolen-car czar, Raymond Calitri (Christopher Eccleston), Memphis gets recalled to Graceland, as it were. Calitri threatens to turn Kip into next year's license plates unless Memphis takes the job -- in effect, steal 50 cars in 24 hours, including a couple of rare collector's items.

Memphis assembles that old gang of his -- ex-partner Atley Jackson (Will Patton), chop-shop guru Otto Halliwell (Duvall), best friend Donny Astricky (Chi McBride), mute muscleman Sphinx (Vinnie Jones) and one-time lover Sway (Jolie). Kip brings in some representatives of the younger generation.

Naturally, complications ensue. Old police nemesis Roland Castlebeck (Delroy Lindo) and his partner, Drycoff (Timothy Olyphant), know that Memphis is back in town and plan to catch him with the goods. And a rival gang of car thieves don't like it that Memphis is poaching on their territory.

OK, so the script contains every cliche in the book. And, yeah, this is an action movie -- something explodes every so often and lots of stunt drivers get to go off unemployment, resulting in people driving backwards on crowded streets and cars flying through the air with the greatest of ease. The biggest stunt in the movie involves a jump so preposterous that even Bo Duke would have thought twice, had he been capable of thinking once.

But while the action scenes go into overdrive, Sena wisely slows down for the curves. He gets most of his actors to underplay their scenes, allowing us the opportunity to accept their characters as professionals -- and to see them as reasonable facsimiles of real people.

We get no deep insights or profound ponderings into human nature -- yeah, right. But any movie of this ilk gets points from me when the cars are gone in 60 seconds but the characters stay with you longer.

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