Within the opening minutes of Gone in 60 Seconds, you can tell that former car thief Randall "Memphis" Raines (Nicolas Cage) is a good man at heart. This is made painfully clear because he’s forsaken his criminal ways and now operates a go-cart track for young kids. But when he learns his wayward kid brother Kip (Giovanni Ribisi) has followed in his larcenous footsteps and got himself in serious trouble with a British baddie (Christopher Eccleston), Memphis comes out of retirement to erase his sibling’s errors.
Unfortunately for Memphis, he’s assigned the task of illegally acquiring 50 cars, and he’s only given four days to do it or his bro will get whacked. He heads to his old mentor Otto (Robert Duvall) and they hastily slap together a swipe crew, including the silent thug Sphinx (Vinnie Jones) and Memphis’ former squeeze Sway (Angelina Jolie). Making their chore even harder, Memphis and his gang are dogged by a pair of grand-theft auto detectives (Delroy Lindo, and Timothy Olyphant with a weird accent). After making the decision to nab all 50 vehicles in the same evening, it becomes a race against the clock to boost and deliver the cars and evade capture, while Memphis grabs the elusive Mustang needed to finish the score.
The real problem with Gone in 60 Seconds is that Dominic (Kalifornia) Sena’s direction has no palpable sense of velocity or urgency, something that probably should be present in a movie about stealing cars. While it’s mildly interesting to see all the methods the thieves use to jack the vehicles, there is a severe shortage of the actual high-speed chases that the trailer promised. This is likely because Sena doesn’t really know how to pace or frame a chase scene. The final pursuit contains approximately thirty seconds of genuine excitement, while the rest is as commonplace as an episode of Hunter, only with a more laughable escape. Perhaps Sena should have spent pre-production getting pointers from movies like The French Connection, To Live and Die in L.A., Ronin, or even the original 1974 Gone in 60 Seconds.
Screenwriter Scott Rosenberg follows the same principle as his previous effort Con Air, delivering a by-the-numbers formula plot complete with a family crisis, a crook with a heart of gold, a sympathetic cop, a contemptuous adversary, an ultimatum, and exactly zero surprises. Subplots like a rival gang of thieves, a trunk-full of drugs and a constipated dog are introduced that have practically nothing to do with anything else in the film, and seem to exist only to pad the running time.
You have to hand it to producer Jerry Bruckheimer, though, he sure can assemble a cast. The only problem with saturating a two-hour movie with so many familiar faces and secondary characters is that they have absolutely no development. It’s difficult to dislike the villain when he’s only on-screen for two brief scenes. Cage does his usual cookie-cutter reluctant action guy, but one must wonder if he’s ever going to make another art-house movie instead of this sort of bombastic summer movie. Don’t be fooled by the ads and posters heralding a dredlocked and blonde Angelina Jolie as co-star – she’s actually in the movie for about 5 minutes total, and in the background or out of focus for half that. Ex-soccer (er, "football") player Jones is fun to watch, he has more ferocity in a single sneer than most stars can summon for a whole action trilogy — the guy’s tougher than a two-dollar steak. Duvall and Will Patton don’t have much to do except write on chalkboards, and Chi McBride (The Frighteners) pops in and out as the token comic relief. Sadly, the film’s cars are really more fascinating to watch than the majority of the characters.
If speed kills, Gone in 60 Seconds is about as lethal as a sack of marshmallows. As mindless entertainment it succeeds on some small level, mostly in the mindless department, but as a whole the movie is all revved up with no place to go. Prediction: Gone in 3 Weeks.
2 out of 5 Eleanors