Worth A Look: 18.18%
Just Average: 5.79%
Pretty Crappy: 19.01%
10 reviews, 61 user ratings
|3,000 Miles to Graceland
by Erik Childress
It may be official. 2001 may be the worst movie year in history. Nothing so far in January or February has risen above the status of a time-wasting video rental or simply drawing you two hours closer to your own personal Death Clock. And critics I’ve talked to had all their hopes in the world pinned to this one movie. A trailer with a team of casino-robbin’ gun-totin’ Elvis impersonators with Kurt Russell seemingly parodying his roots from John Carpenter’s Presley biopic brought giddy smiles to all who laid eyes upon it. Not only will that smile fade faster than Kevin Costner’s box office draw if you pay to see this film, but even the most ardent Elvis hater is liable to express dismay at the lack of respect shown to the King here.After the ridiculous opening credits sequence that can only be described as Clash of the Titans meets a video game, the film gets off to a good start with Kurt Russell paying homage to the King by getting kicked in the shins by a young boy. The same feat started his career in It Happened at the World’s Fair when he played the young kid who, kicked Elvis. The young boy here belongs to Courteney Cox’s young and beautiful single mother, Cybil (a reference to Elvis’ promiscuous bedmate Cybill Shepherd?), who welcomes Kurt’s Michael into her room to show she can rival Elizabeth Berkeley’s sexual acrobatics from Showgirls in an act of burning love.
"2001 Just Keeps Getting Worse!"
Then, another car shows up to this little heartbreak hotel outside of Las Vegas. This one carries Michael’s “partner” Murphy (Kevin Costner), the big boss man and his gang of backseat sideburn caricatures (Christian Slater, David Arquette & Bokeem Woodbine). We know why these characters are getting together from the film’s ads, but none of them ever say a word about it. They meet up with helicopter pilot (Howie Long) and you can almost hear Antonio Banderas saying “bring yer gee-tars” from Desperado when they gaze upon a group of guitar cases that aren’t exactly meant for musical instruments.
It’s now or never as no time is wasted getting to the robbery here and, soon enough, more cops are being taken out than on Rush Street at Midnight in a John Woo film. Obviously these guys have no scruples about killing everyone in the joint and laying the place to absolute waste in the biggest massacre Vegas has seen since the East/West rapper’s convention. Real professionals. However, once they escape, that’s when your heartaches begin as slowly but surely the movie starts becoming worse…and worse…and even worse.
Time and time again I’ve wondered why criminal teams always have to act like egotistical rock bands. With success shining upon them from the road ahead, it’s a matter of time until they turn on each other like little boys who want to take their undeveloped balls and go home. It only spells T-R-O-U-B-L-E and a lack of imagination on the writer’s part. It’s no coincidence that Murphy wears a scorpion on his belt buckle and ring. Subtlety also isn’t lost on Michael wearing the white Elvis costume while Murphy wears the black. Plus, you know how you know Michael isn’t all that bad? He’s the only one who chooses not to kill anyone at the robbery. Pretty slick writing, huh? Just a little bit.
Even the double-crossing plot thread seems even shadier than those who act upon it. Murphy seems genuinely upset when one of his crew is killed during the escape. More upset than the crew even as the guy’s body is jettisoned from their helicopter Con Air-style. He’s even reluctant to split the dead guy’s share amongst the four survivors. So is it then, suspicious minds, that leads Murphy to slaughter the rest of the crew after one of them questions (and threatens) him about the extra money? Apparently, because faster than you can say “your cheatin’ heart”, “don’t be cruel” or “I got stung”, only the strong survive (or the two above-the-title stars). It helps when the “shoot ‘em twice” philosophy of Murphy is forgotten when he fails to make sure he really left Michael for dead. More and more you have to admire Robert DeNiro’s group from Heat (one of the best crime pictures of the 90s.)
So everyone goes their separate ways as a robbery movie turns into a road movie. Wow, we’ve never seen that before. “The Getaway”, anyone? It’s a long, lonely highway with Murphy heading towards the money launderer (without the money!) in a car that doesn’t produce a scratch after hitting a pair of coyotes and a trip into a ditch. Michael, Cybil and the annoying kid bring up the rear (with the marked money!) and you can see where this movie is headed. Nowhere fast.
It’s always disheartening when you’re watching a film, even a stupid entertaining action flick, and you can see at least three better films just staring at you in between the rehashed dialogue and bang-bang cliches. And the ideas are right there on the screen which means the filmmakers are even dumber than we thought, to seemingly sprout up ideas, ignoring them completely (or not even recognizing them) or didn’t have the balls to follow through on them.
One of them is the ages-old paradox of who is more worthy of our praise? Elvis Presley or Frank Sinatra? When you think about the two of them and what we now know, Sinatra did have his criminal ties but was always perceived as a gentleman to the public. A professional. Not to say that Elvis wasn’t, but one Devil’s Gold sandwich (a hollowed out loaf of bread, a jar of peanut butter, a jar of jelly and a pound of bacon) too many coupled with a little too much medication kind of made the King a little sweaty and bloated during the later years…and DEAD!!!
Murphy gets upset with anyone who questions the King’s reign. Then you have Cybil’s kid who likes to brandish toy guns and lift wallets. At one point he dons a Sinatra hat, wears it like Sinatra and gets Kurt to wear one too. Of course, this idea ends there. If they were smart, they would have hired Sinatra reincarnate Dakota Horvath to play the kid. But that’s way too inspired for this film. Instead, Kurt and the kid play out another episode of Criminal and a Half, where the kid learns a thing or two from the crook with a heart of gold. A ridiculous scene where Russell show him why smoking is bad for you reminded me of the show-and-tell in City Slickers where the father ends a profanity-laced account of construction work by saying “don’t do drugs!”
The film also skirts around the idea that Elvis’ will stated that his fortune would go to his daughter and any illegitimate child that he may have fathered. 75 people were DNA-tested. 73 failed. Any guess to whom the other two are? Clues are sporadically dropped and never certify anything. But isn’t it a more interesting idea to have the two inconclusive Elvis love childs fighting over his estate in a Melvin and Howard kind of way? If these two guys really believe this, then why the hell are they knocking over casinos? Michael says it’s because “you have to be original these days.” That’s good advice to the filmmakers.
Director Demian Lichtenstein - GET THE HELL OUTTA HERE!!! Sorry, had to get that off my chest. Someone has to start telling these idiot music video directors that speeding up & slowing down the action, blurring the color, inserting more hot flashes than Elizabeth Taylor at a paparazzi convention and cutting faster than Emeril Lagasse at a bris doesn’t show off your talent. It shows you’re just a music video director. And making a macho movie for guys is fine. But not when you throw in two female characters; one a double-crossing, whoring poor excuse for a mother; and the second, a young (seemingly molested) young gas station attendant who takes off with Costner for about five minutes to blow him and then get conveniently dumped off to the Hell’s Angels. That’s just blatant misogyny.
But the most gigantic sin of all is how to justify making a film around the legend of Elvis and only include 3 Elvis tunes? Yes, I counted during the end credits. Everything else in the film is that generic alternative/hard rock tone that is used in bad movies of this nature. It’s not even rockabilly for God’s sake. Don’t ask me why. Wouldn’t it be funnier to see the shoot-outs set to “All Shook Up” than something by Crystal Method or Filter? Even when Honeymoon in Vegas (a far superior “Elvis” film) used cover versions of Elvis tunes, it still knew to use ELVIS TUNES!!! My God, Cast Away used Presley’s music to greater effect.
Other than the World’s Fair and Cybill references, it doesn’t take more than two degrees to see some of the parallels here. There’s a hotel, a jail, and even a hound dog in a sweater. Of course, Kurt played Elvis. Christian Slater was an Elvis nut in a much better Elvis-laced film called True Romance. Costner dons a bow-and-arrow, a la Robin Hood, which he starred alongside one Christian Slater. A little off the subject, but so is this film which prides itself in coming in twos. We get two sex scenes. A pair of fart jokes. Two times characters are asked if they like bigger tits. Twice someone talks about how smoking is bad. And a character is saved by a bulletproof vest…a couple of times. Of course, if you don’t think twice, it’s all right.
In the respective careers of Kevin Costner and Kurt Russell, 3000 Miles to Graceland ranks somewhere below For Love of the Game and above Soldier. And yes, I am considering Sizzle Beach U.S.A. and The Postman from Costner’s resume. If Elvis didn’t die in that bathroom and the shock of Lisa Marie marrying Michael Jackson didn’t rob his last breath, 3000 Miles to Graceland will finally put him in the grave and immediately make him turn over. Elvis asked us to “walk a mile in my shoes.” 3000 Miles over 130 minutes is way too much. Funny how time slips away when you’re ripping a movie.Not a single idea in the forefront of this film can be deemed an original. And to recite a vicious circle that screenwriters Lichtenstein & Richard Recco are obviously too lame to think of, consider this. Frank Sinatra sang My Way. Then Elvis did it. Then even Paul Anka (who pops up here as a gun-packin’ casino manager) recorded a version, years after he translated and re-wrote the French version for Sinatra. It really is true how when you make a copy of a copy of a copy, the most recent one doesn’t pack the most quality. Doncha’ think it’s time we found some in the year 2001. (Note: The “music video” at the end of the film displays the kind of tone we all hoped we were going to see in this movie, as even the deceased villains get to dance goofy while Courteney Cox shakes her ass and Kurt Russell does his best Elvis impersonation, albeit lip-synched.)
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originally posted: 03/06/01 13:57:50