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3000 Miles to Graceland

movie review out of 4

All-Reviews.com Movie Review: 3000 Miles to Graceland

Starring: Kevin Costner, Kurt Russell
Director: Demian Lichtenstein
Rated: R
RunTime: 120 Minutes
Release Date: February 2001
Genres: Action, Suspense


*Also starring: Ice-T, David Kaye, Courteney Cox, David Arquette, Thomas Haden Church, Jon Lovitz, Howie Long, Christian Slater



Review by Harvey Karten
No Rating Supplied

Film critic Phillip Lopate writes in an essay called "The Last Taboo," "One is entitled to ask: Why this narrow obsession with a few pop culture idols--Elvis, Marilyn, James Dean? How can it be that a complex national culture should have allowed itself to be stripped down to such few, barren archetypes? Jim Jarmusch, a very gifted, intelligent filmmaker, makes movies about lowlifes who make pilgrimages to Memphis where they are visited by Elvis's ghost."

Marilyn, maybe I can see. Elvis: why? Perhaps he foretold the sexual revolution as his audience got accustomed to the gyrations of his hips. In any case, Demian Lichtenstein's movie, which the director co-wrote with Richard Recco, misses an opportunity to explore much of the Elvis phenomemon but rather takes the curiosity for what it is and delves into one result of this national obsession with the rock 'n' roll performer. At a Vegas festival each year, contestants dress like Elvis, sideburns and flashy duds, and take their guitars and their voices to a club to perform together with a bevy of barely dressed dancers. Lots of money is on hand with security to match, but a group of mostly moronic bandits, some of whom seem to be in on a planned robbery more to have a good time than for the money (and perhaps influenced by the theft of an 83-carat diamond in Guy Ritchie's caper movie "Snatch"), fill their guitar cases with other than musical instruments and converge on the club.

What follows is the first of a collection of shoot-ups that would turn Rambo green with envy and which, coupled with the chain-smoking of Kevin Costner performing in the role of Murphy is bound to bring on heavy criticism from those who want to tone down the violence in films. While young director Demian Lichtenstein--who went to NYU film school and moved into directing music videos with the likes of Eric Clapton, Queen Latifah and Gloria Estefan--is obviously influenced by the intensity of the disorder in movies like "Pulp Fiction," "Reservoir Dogs," and "True Romance," he scarcely stylizes the enormous firepower on display during the picture's 130 minutes. What's more he tosses in an improbable romance between Cybil (Courteney Cox) and the center of the story's minuscule charm, Michael (Kurt Russell), sandwiching in the obligatory street-smart kid-who-becomes-attached-to- handsome stranger, Jesse (played without appeal by David Kaye).

"Graceland" involves scores of killings, principally of security officers, federal agents, and local cops. To justify the mayhem, Lichtenstein has created one Murphy--perhaps the most heartless villain of recent cinema, a guy who thinks nothing of plotting the cold-blooded murder of an 11-year-old boy. In the most wicked role of his career, Kevin Costner is loyal to no one and thinks nothing of double-crossing his entire team of brigands including Michael, with whom he had recently spent several years in prison as a cellmate. Michael, who comes from Jersey City (which he estimates is 3000 miles to Graceland), falls into a meet-cute with Cybil after chasing her young son--who had just stolen the caps from his car. After a couple of discreetly shown scenes of some of the most animated sex you can imagine, Cybil is certain that she has met her true love, the man she later admits that she wants to spend her whole life with "from the moment I saw you." As the swiftly-paced caper movie turns into a road flick--involving a three-way chase among Michael, Murphy and Cybil in which several million dollars exchange hands as fast as an Internet day trader can click the keyboard--the audience witnesses some serious firepower from some fancy automatic weapons, several explosions, a car wreck, yet another car sent to a watery grave, and a James-Bond style ending to a James-Bond style movie (minus Bond's charm).

Unfortunately this last point is the key to the film's muddle. Without the charisma, the wink, the chic regularly supplied by heroes like James Bond, "3000 Miles to Graceland" is yet another mindless, derivative, headache-producing assortment of senseless brutality and unconvincing romance with an obnoxious kid thrown in to reassure us that we're not about to witness more than a smidgen of originality or delight. (The one smidgen comes from a scene involving Jon Lovitt as a money launderer. Watch for that.)

Copyright 2001 Harvey Karten

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