- The Washington Times - Friday, February 23, 2001

Its "3,000 Miles to Graceland," and it spurns anything that could be mistaken for a cinematic state of grace. A foolish celebration of degeneracy, the film exemplifies Hollywood mercenary entertainment of the crummiest kind. Only "Charlies Angels" may surpass it in recent memory as sensationalized rubbish.

An allegorical prologue that pits computer-generated scorpions in a mock battle to the death anticipates a lowlife rivalry between Kevin Costner and Kurt Russell.

The former, evidently realizing a long-deferred ambition to play an overblown villain, preens himself on reprehensible and menacing vibes as Murph, a ruthless psychopath who seems to have engineered an elaborately destructive and harebrained stick-up at the Riviera Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas.

The caper is designed to culminate in maximum slaughter of security personnel as Murph and four associates, all disguised as Elvis Presley impersonators during a so-called International Elvis Week, make a getaway by helicopter.

Mr. Russells Mike, a debatably salvageable crook who supposedly shared a prison cell with Murph, is the only confederate who remains alive after the ringleader decides to downsize his own gang. Recruiting a lecherous, opportunistic bimbo named Cybil (Courteney Cox) and her precociously criminal brat, 10-year-old Jesse (David Kaye), as "family" camouflage, Mike tries to outmaneuver Murph on an escape route from Vegas to Twin Falls, Idaho, where a money launderer played by Jon Lovitz has agreed to exchange marked casino bills for less incriminating currency.

Theoretically, the race is a blueprint for suspense, but director Demian Lichtenstein has no aptitude for such rarefied stimulation. He prefers to clobber the audience along with countless expendable characters. Strangely anxious about Murphs bona fides, the filmmakers keep adding scenes in which he plays the homicidal despot, killing a gas-station manager and then igniting the station, outdueling a rather elderly highway patrol officer, murdering Mr. Lovitz and a bystander with bow and arrow.

Because Miss Cox and her child are considered indispensable to a happy ending, they get off with mere intimidation. But the Riviera shootout is echoed by a finale that also requires several minions of the law to be riddled with bullets before Murph can be counted out. Even then the presiding cops, played by Kevin Pollak and Thomas Haden Church, are required to tip their hats to the tiresome wretch.

While pretending to wreck the Riviera and then beat it out of town, "Graceland" also continues the Vegas slump that has extended, if memory serves, from "Showgirls" to "Pay It Forward." Another sore point: The Elvis impersonators are a disgrace to their valiant counterparts in "Honeymoon in Vegas," the last agreeable movie with a Las Vegas setting.

The wittiest line in the script does strike a welcome note: "We dont need this." True, but some perverse system of incentives in the movie business seems to guarantee that we get an awful lot of it.

1/2 out of four stars

TITLE: "3,000 Miles to Graceland"

RATING: R (Frequent graphic violence, profanity and sexual vulgarity; facetious use of a juvenile as a criminal accomplice)

CREDITS: Directed by Demian Lichtenstein. Written by Richard Recco and Mr. Lichtenstein.


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