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Dustin Putman

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Gone in 60 Seconds (2000)
1 Stars

Directed by Dominic Sena
Cast: Nicolas Cage, Giovanni Ribisi, Delroy Lindo, Angelina Jolie, Robert Duvall, Timothy Olyphant, Christopher Eccleston, Will Patton, Chi McBride, James Duval, Scott Caan, William Lee Scott, Vinnie Jones, Grace Zabriskie, Frances Fisher.
2000 – 119 minutes
Rated: Rated PG-13 (for violence, profanity, and sexual innuendo).
Reviewed by Dustin Putman, June 10, 2000.

Have you ever been driving on an empty, open road and had the sudden urge to put the pedal to the metal, not just to see how fast you could go, but for the pure adrenaline rush? Driving far past the speed limit may be illegal, and potentially dangerous, but that risk just aids in the sense of freedom you unavoidably obtain. Dominic Sena's "Gone in 60 Seconds," based on a cult 1974 film of the same name (famous for a showstopping 40-minute car chase sequence), is the latest brain(less)child of producer Jerry Bruckheimer (1997's "Con Air," 1998's "Armageddon")--someone who knows how to make a movie fast-paced, and how to orchestrate overblown action setpieces--and it should have been the film to reinforce the idea of letting go of your inhibitions and driving fast every now and again. Walking out of the theater, director Sena (in his feature film debut after making many flashy television commercials) and Bruckheimer, no doubt, want the audience to get such an urge, but they fail miserably, even on the elementary level of creating excitement.

For six years, Memphis Raines (Nicolas Cage) has been retired from his former car thief business, and has taken up a job as a kiddie Go-Kart operator somewhere in the Nevada desert. When he receives word that his younger brother, Kip (Giovanni Ribisi), has since picked up the trade and landed himself in hot water with crime boss Raymond Calitri (Christopher Eccleston), Memphis flees back to San Francisco to save him. Raymond gives Memphis an ultimatum: steal fifty assigned cars in four days, or Kip has to pay the consequences. Predictably, a ragtag group of reformed car thieves and Kip's friends are assembled to help Memphis in his quest, none of which have more than one or two defining characteristics. He is also reunited with his dreadlocked ex-lover, Sway (Angelina Jolie), who looks as if she just returned from her "Battlefield Earth" audition. Meanwhile, two detectives (Delroy Lindo, Timothy Olyphant) are hot on Memphis' trail.

Several months ago, when the trailer for "Gone in 60 Seconds" began advertising, one woman behind me in the theater, following the preview, exclaimed, "I'm exhausted just watching that!" To be sure, the film looked as if it was sure to be a balls-to-the-wall, no-holds-barred summer action picture. The aforementioned lady in the theater needn't have fretted about the aspects of possibly seeing "Gone in 60 Seconds," because the trailer is infinitely more thrilling than the actual movie, which has all of about two or three action scenes strung out over the course of two hours, with nonsensical, time-filling rubbish in between. In pure Jerry Bruckheimer fashion, character-building moments mean 30-second dialogue exchanges overpopulated with corny one-liners. In pure Jerry Bruckheimer fashion, every shot has been given a yellowish tint by cinematographer Paul Cameron, as if a filter has been strategically placed over the camera to portray the world as naturally looking like a golden palace. However, what is not in pure Jerry Bruckheimer fashion is the film's slow pace and wearisomely dull action scenes--all two or three of them.

Nicolas Cage can be--no, strike that--is a brilliant actor, so why he continues to make great films (i.e. 1995's "Leaving Las Vegas," 1999's "Bringing Out the Dead"), followed by insipid ones (1997's "Con Air," 1998's "Snake Eyes"), is a question only he could be able to answer. His talent is genuine, and his face has a wonderful, soulful quality that allows him to "say" a great deal when given the chance. Life is too short to be wasting his time in throwaway roles that give him nothing to do, except cash a fat paycheck.

The top-to-bottom talent that "Gone in 60 Seconds" exudes is amazing all the same, none of which have any reason at all to appear here. Fresh off her Academy Award winning performance in "Girl, Interrupted," Angelina Jolie is second-billed, but appears for all of about fifteen minutes (if that) in an underutilized role that not only wastes her, but causes you to almost forget how good she can be in other movies. As the snappily-named Sway, Jolie sleepwalks through her fleeting scenes as if she is attempting to blend into the background and not be discovered as an actual performer involved in such a bottomless pit.

As younger brother Kip, Giovanni Ribisi is appropriately scummy-looking and slimy, but one wonders why Memphis would go through so much trouble to save such an ungrateful prick. Until checking over the cast list following viewing the movie, I had almost forgotten Robert Duvall was in it, which gives you an idea of how much of an impression he makes. Especially distressing are the young rising stars that appear for very little rhyme or reason, including James Duval (1995's "The Doom Generation"), Scott Caan (1999's "Boiler Room"), and Timothy Olyphant (1999's "Go"). The only actor that escapes relatively unscathed is Delroy Lindo, as Detective Roland Castlebeck, who brings a certain charm and, dare I say, depth to his scenes that are missing elsewhere.

The opening 100 minutes are nothing more than setup for the climactic car chase, but instead of breathtakingly going down as one of the classic chase sequences, along with 1971's "The French Connection" and 1998's "Ronin", Sena botches everything by haphazard editing that robotically switches back and forth between the pedal, Cage's face, and an overview shot of the car. But, considering the disposability of what came before, it should have been expected. The underwhelming finale simply proved what I had increasingly been realizing throughout, which is that there was no reason for "Gone in 60 Seconds" to be made at all.

©2000 by Dustin Putman

Dustin Putman