If “Gone in 60 Seconds” were a car, you’d say it had more muscle than finesse. Fast and flashy in spurts, it has a tendency to run ragged and spends an unhealthy amount of time idling pointlessly at intersections. It’s not the car of anyone’s dreams, though it might well have been.
The most regrettable thing about “Gone in 60 Seconds” is that it doesn’t rise to the level of its excellent trailer. That pumped-up piece of business has focus, pacing, concision and wall-to-wall action--all the things the full-scale version does without.
Given that the logo for Jerry Bruckheimer’s production company features a fast-car motif, it’s natural that he would want to remake H.B. “Toby” Halicki’s 1974 cult classic, the original “Gone in 60 Seconds,” famous among auto wreckage aficionados for devoting its last 40 minutes to one hell of a car chase.
The new version, starring Nicolas Cage and Angelina Jolie and directed by Dominic Sena, features some fine driving of its own, (though chopping the sequences up with trendy editing makes them less effective than what John Frankenheimer and company managed in the underappreciated “Ronin”). The problem is not what “Gone” does on the straightaways, it’s how it maneuvers through those hard-to-handle character curves.
Written by Scott Rosenberg, whose credits include “Things to Do in Denver When You’re Dead” and the Bruckheimer-produced “Con Air,” “60" seems determined to be character driven despite having characters who hesitate over the question “What’s more exciting, having sex or stealing cars?”
So while audiences may be primed for more squealing tires and revving engines, this film is inordinately interested in the tedious relationships Randall “Memphis” Raines (Cage) has with younger brother Kip (Giovanni Ribisi) and ex-girlfriend Sara “Sway” Wayland (Jolie).
There was a time, six years ago, when Memphis Raines was the king of Southern California car thieves, so good at snatching top-of-the-line vehicles that when he suddenly quit the game and moved up north, auto theft in the South Bay went down 47%.
Kip, exhibiting more nerve than sense in the film’s crisp opening sequence, has the bravado to steal a Porsche right out of a Wilshire Boulevard showroom window. Unfortunately, following in his brother’s footsteps gets Kip on the wrong side of the evil Raymond Calitri, a.k.a. “the devil come to Long Beach” (British actor Christopher Eccleston), who soon enough offers Memphis, the legend himself, a veritable devil’s bargain.
Come out of retirement, Calitri proposes, breaking your sacred word to your mother in the process, and steal 50 unstealable cars for me in four days, or else I will place your brother in a coffin I have personally handcrafted out of wood just to show what a psycho I am. Memphis, not a legend for nothing, agrees.
Step one of this car theft extravaganza is rounding up Memphis’ old gang, including Otto (Robert Duvall), Atley (Will Patton), Donny (Chi McBride) and two people Memphis would just as soon avoid: the nonspeaking Sphinx (Vinnie Jones) and the beautiful Sway. Given that 50 is a lot of cars, Memphis agrees to let Kip and his kiddie gang (Scott Caan and comedian TJ Cross among them) in on the action.
Soon getting word of this potential heist-athon (which is to include a 1967 Shelby Mustang GT 500, the only car Memphis has never taken) is top detective Roland Castlebeck (Delroy Lindo), who’d like nothing better than busting Memphis. Wanting to bust him in a different way is Johnny B (Master P), a rival crook who’s always resented Memphis’ celebrity.
Acting would only get in the way of all this frantic activity, so “60" doesn’t bother to offer much, instead allowing us to watch capable performers struggling with weak material. Cage lets his sunglasses do the work for him, Jolie has little outlet for her trademark charisma, and Vinnie Jones, memorable in “Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels,” comes off best by having the least to say.
Except for the lamentable “Kalifornia,” director Sena has spent most of his career as either a director or cameraman on videos and commercials. So it’s not surprising that he has more success showing us the nifty gizmos the thieves use to do their work than illuminating their characters.
Not that the improbable script gives us that much to illuminate. Taking time for niceties like ethnic stereotyping and a subplot involving dog manure, “60" often appears to forget completely what it’s supposed to be about. Maybe if the guys had to steal more than 50 cars, they wouldn’t have the time for so much extraneous foolishness.
* MPAA rating: PG-13 for violence, sexuality and language. Times guidelines: some violence and profanity and a silhouetted scene of love-making.
‘Gone in 60 Seconds’
Nicolas Cage: Randall “Memphis” Raines
Angelina Jolie: Sara “Sway” Wayland
Giovanni Ribisi: Kip Raines
Delroy Lindo: Det. Roland Castlebeck
Will Patton: Atley Jackson
Christopher Eccleston: Raymond Calitri
Chi McBride: Donny Astricky
Robert Duvall: Otto Halliwell
A Touchstone Pictures and Jerry Bruckheimer Films presentation, released by Touchstone Pictures. Director Dominic Sena. Producers Jerry Bruckheimer, Mike Stenson. Executive producers Jonathan Hensleigh, Chad Oman, Barry Waldman, Denice Shakarian Halicki, Robert Stone, Webster Stone. Screenplay Scott Rosenberg. Cinematographer Paul Cameron. Editors Tom Muldoon, Chris Lebenzon. Production design Jeff Mann. Music Tevor Rabin. Costumes Marlene Stewart. Art directors Stacey Litoff-Mann, Andrew Laws. Set decorator Don Diers. Running time: 1 hour, 57 minutes.
In general release