- The Washington Times - Friday, June 9, 2000

The scenes in "Gone in 60 Seconds" have a funny way of failing to linger in the memory, so it was considerate to schedule the press screening very close to the opening date.
Another 48 hours, and the movie might have seemed as hard to place as its prototype, a 1974 exploitation movie of the same title, reputed to be a cult classic in some circles.
Perhaps it was the sheer novelty of glorifying car thieves. As a rule, movies show far more interest in jewel thieves and bank robbers.
The most fashionable criminal profession at the moment is youthful drug dealing, if "American Beauty" and "Road Trip" can be given any credit for reflecting Hollywood's most-favored vices.
"60 Seconds" encourages us to root for a raffish gang of car thieves in Long Beach, Calif. If I was counting correctly, definitely a pastime endorsed by the movie, which does a lot of clock-watching and deadline-anticipating to simulate suspense, the team is kind of a Gnarly Nine. Its members are recruited on short notice when Nicolas Cage, a former virtuoso who has gone straight, must save the neck of his kid brother, Giovanni Ribisi, in too deep as a subcontractor for smuggler and villain Christopher Eccleston.
Mr. Cage's Mission Impossible as the once-legendary car booster Randall "Memphis" Raines: Complete the contract of 50 stolen vehicles that Mr. Ribisi botched, leaving his life as forfeit in the aftermath.
The hero has about four days to get the felonious but brother-redeeming job done after confronting nemesis Raymond Calitri in his demolition-yard fortress, which seems to put director Dominic Sena in mind of infernal metaphors.
Some preparation and planning are necessary. Randall calls in favors from some trusted confederates, notably Angelina Jolie as slinky barmaid Sway (short for Sara Wayland), Chi McBride as driving instructor Donny Astricky (as tricky as what?) and Vinnie Jones as the monolithic Sphinx, who seems to have been stolen from "Mighty Men" but deprived of humorous distinction.
Randall also must case the merchandise, listed and coded (by female first names, an endearing sexist touch) in a customizing garage owned by mentor Otto Halliwell, a light workout for Robert Duvall.
The press kit helpfully reprints the list, which probably should be available on request at participating theaters.
The publicity also generates more human interest than the script by informing us about the first cars of every principal cast member: a Triumph Spitfire for Mr. Cage, a Ford pickup for Miss Jolie, a 1966 Caprice for Mr. Ribisi, a simple Ford for Mr. Duvall.
But I digress. About a day of systematic stealing time remains after the preliminaries have been trifled with. In retrospect, a contest to deliver 50 pizzas in an hour or win a custom car by delivering the most within an arbitrary but snappy time limit seems like a far more amusing pretext.
Screenwriter Scott Rosenberg leaves plenty to be desired as a cool caper contriver. That's no big surprise, given his previous credits: "Things to Do in Denver When You're Dead," "Con Air," "Armageddon."
Despite Mr. Eccleston's unmitigated snarliness and the presence of two troublesome but more or less sympathetic cops (Delroy Lindo as Castleback and the very droll Timothy Olyphant as Drycoff, a facetious name of mystifying intent), the 50-car caper generates scant illusion of melodramatic urgency.
The filmmakers seem more inclined to lark it up, as if they were remaking the cross-country speed-burner farces "Gumball Rally" and "Cannonball Run."
The finale is a showoff set-piece attributed to Mr. Cage, who pretends to steer the prize car on the wish list, a 1967 Mustang GT 500 designed by Carroll Shelby, around and over numerous obstacles, including a tie-up on the lofty Vincent Thomas Bridge between Long Beach and San Pedro.
Clearly, Randall's getaway acquires an essentially fantastic and comic aspect that deflates the script's menacing fake-outs, but the filmmakers slog on with a superfluous shootout.
A featurette about the cars and stunt drivers of "Gone in 60 Seconds" promises to be a better attraction. Paramount might be wise to package it with the home-video edition. The feature certainly isn't built to last as an escapist entertainment.


One star (Maximum Rating: Four Stars)
TITLE: "Gone in 60 Seconds"
RATING: PG-13 (Occasional profanity, vulgarity and graphic violence; systematic glorification of car theft; fleeting nudity and sexual allusions)
CREDITS: Directed by Dominic Sena
RUNNING TIME: About 115 minutes

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