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'3,000 Miles To Graceland'

Costner leads a pack of Elvises into Sin City in '3,000 Miles To Graceland'

Friday, February 23, 2001

By Barry Paris, Post-Gazette Movie Critic

There are more Elvises than you can shake a pelvis at. As steel (was) to Pittsburgh and cars to Detroit, so are Presley impersonators to the economy of Las Vegas. Five of them are headed there for the International Elvis competition with the goal of redistributing that wealth -- to themselves.

'3,000 Miles To Graceland'

RATING: R for language, sex scenes and extreme violence

PLAYERS: Kurt Russell, Kevin Costner, Courteney Cox, Christian Slater, Kevin Pollack, David Arquette

DIRECTOR: Demian Lichtenstein




In "3,000 Miles to Graceland," a daring casino robbery is the source of the action, perpetrated by a bunch of long-in-the-hound-dog's-tooth hunks. Kevin Costner, who believes himself to be the King's illegitimate son (by Margaret Thatcher?), is the nasty mastermind of the operation. Kurt Russell, fresh out of the pen, is the nicer No. 2 man. Christian Slater, David Arquette and Bokeem Woodbine round out the criminal quintet.

Amid the confusing plethora of Elvises, our boys pull off the heist in dazzling fashion, with a maximum of high-tech violence and security-guard slaughter but only one casualty amongst themselves. Soon enough, however, they're squabbling over the spoils of success.

Courteney Cox, meanwhile, has the unenviable assignment of being the only woman in this deeply misogynist world and film. (Sample joke from the guys: What's the best thing about dating homeless girls? You can drop them off anywhere.)

Cox runs the Last Chance Motel, in the middle of nowhere, where Russell stays and has his way with her, as her precocious son Jesse (well played by David Kaye) unburdens his pants of wallet. On and off the lam with Kurt, their self-serving involvement thickens the plot with a series of double-crosses based on the crooks' need to launder the money (through Jon Lovitz as the fence) before spending it.

After a recent series of dull performances as romantic hero, Costner turns out to be very good here as villain. Dirty Harry and Rambo are Unitarian pacifists by comparison. How mean is Costner? He'll shoot you quick as look at you for suggesting Sinatra was greater than Presley -- let alone for challenging the way he divvies up the casino haul. Russell and the rest are no more believable than the plot, which is to say minimally.

Demian Lichtenstein's stylishly superficial direction is characterized by fast-motion photographic licks, good use of the God-forsaken Nevada scenery and casino lights, and slick editing to compensate for giant-sized potholes in the screenplay's logic.

The Graceland of its title may or may not be Elvis' manse in Tennessee -- a "Rosebud" conceit not revealed 'til the end. This crazy trip to Graceland is laced with shamelessly brutal firepower all the way, despite or because of which -- I'm ashamed to say -- most of its 3,000 miles are shamelessly fun to watch.

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