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Gone in 60 Seconds Print E-mail
Thursday, 01 March 2007

Image H.B. Halicki’s 1974 version of “Gone in 60 Seconds,” was the template for the modern car chase film, inspiring dozens of imitators, from “The Gumball Rally” to “Bullitt” to “The Blues Brothers.” This Jerry Bruckheimer produced remake was released in 2000 and jettisons most of the original’s plot and characters, and builds the new film’s story on two things -- a crew of highly adept car thieves, stealing a large number of cars (50 here, 48 in the original) in a short time, (1 night here, several days in the original) and a climactic chase with the police as the protagonist attempts to get away with the final car-- a hard to find muscle-car dubbed “Eleanor.”

The new story focuses on Memphis Raines, (Nicolas Cage) the king of car thieves, who has retired and is running a small go-cart track for tykes. Unknown to Memphis, back in Los Angeles, his little brother, Kip (Giovanni Ribisi) has been stealing cars as part of a small auto-theft ring. After he bungles a job, the police raid his base of operations. Kip and the group escape, but their mistake brings down the ire of deadly British gangster Raymond Calitri (Christopher Eccleston), who has a buyer lined up for the 50 cars they were going to steal. Memphis is brought in by a family friend to intercede, so Calitri makes him a deal -- his brother’s life will be spared if Memphis can deliver all 50 cars in one week to the port in Long Beach. Memphis puts together a crew of likeable crooks (Robert Duvall, Frances Fisher, Scott Caan, Angelina Jolie, James Duvall etc.) to pull off the job in one night, but unfortunately, Detective Castlebeck (Lindo), the cop that failed to bring Memphis in during his reign, has clocked his arrival back in town and is hot on his trail.

This overproduced, ridiculously slick actioner wastes a remarkably large cast of talented actors in an empty, pointless heist film. The pacing is awkward, moving in fits and starts, most likely due to a script written and ghost-written by a dozen people, as is the Bruckheimer way. The basic setup is pretty contrived, and that no one ever seriously thinks of solving all their problems by just sending Kip out of town and away from mortal danger, is a maddening annoyance. Cage is fine, though fairly undistinguished; the overabundance of characters makes them highly forgettable and paper thin. Angelina Jolie (as Cage’s ex-girlfriend who is finally convinced to help them) looks weird and acts weirder in an underwritten role. Despite her prominence in the advertising and disc jacket art, she’s hardly in the picture. Chi McBride (as Donny) is the most entertaining of the bunch and has several funny lines and bits of business. Eccleston is snappy and magnetic as the ambitious and murderous Calitri, but he’s woefully underused. The character only appears in three scenes-- the setup, the finale, and a phone call he makes in the last third of the film. He’s badly missed during his long absence. The film could really have used another scene or two with him to amp up the sense of danger and to shake up the story which bogs down early on. The surplus of characters also tends to make this a very diffuse and unfocused enterprise.

One gets the sense that the filmmakers want this to be an intense crime film, but are soft-pedaling the violence and the language to remain in the PG-13 arena. It sits on the fence, not soft enough for family entertainment, and not violent enough to make it intense or adult. It’s not so much a case of scenes being cut or censored to make the rating, it feels conceptually dulled.

There’s also a sub-Tarantino quality to much of the proceedings, such as a lame scene where Cage and the gang have to listen to a song to gear up for the heist, the script’s inordinate amount of pointless chatter, a pretty annoying and ridiculous scene where Lindo makes a surprise visit to Cage’s garage, and a lame attempt at making Eccleston’s character ‘unique’ by giving him an atypical hobby (woodworking). It’s the kind of writing that wouldn’t exist in a pre-Tarantino world, and without his unique ear seems derivative and awkward here. There’s some capable stunt work and a pretty good car chase in the last section of the film, but overall it’s highly undistinguished work and it all adds up to nothing.

“Gone in 60 Seconds” is the kind of film popular with the demo crowd, and the Blu-ray disc fits the bill in spades. The film is a glossy, densely packed and over-designed spectacle and benefits greatly from the extra resolution afforded it in high definition. Imagery is consistently razor sharp and pristine, with an incredible level of facial detail. Surfaces look almost three dimensional at times, and some of the jammed wider shots (particularly of Calitri’s junkyard-- filled with heaps of junked cars, with loading cranes, showering sparks for no particular reason) have a near microscopic level of clarity and sharpness. One is able to make out extreme details in the production and nearly count the sparks falling. The photography tends to have a sunset/burnt desert look to it, but a full palette of vivid colors is featured in other settings, such as the bright colored cars, the glowing dashboards, character’s clothes and the like. Some print grain is visible but it’s purely an aspect of the original cinematography and processing. There are a couple of instances of shimmer and aliasing on some air conditioner vents and such but these might be invisible on a 1080p display.

The uncompressed PCM track is as vivid, powerful and detailed as in a theatrical screening. As expected from a big budget studio summer action film, it’s a very busy mix. The opening titles feature punchy music and songs while car engine noises are steered around the front and rear speakers. The rest of the picture is nearly as fully mixed. The score and sound effects have tremendous vibrancy and intensity, never sounding distorted or muddy. The dialogue remains clear and the sound effects are well-balanced with them. It’s a loud mix--not anywhere near as punishingly loud as “2 Fast 2 Furious” but it’s a pretty weighty and aggressive mix.

The film presentation itself is near-perfect, but the bonus materials are lacking. Another subpar release in the Blu-ray extras sweepstakes, this disc only includes a short featurette on the bridge jump stunt. It’s a bleary, standard def and lower quality presentation, but is interesting, content-wise. In contrast to this aurally and pictorially superior Blu-ray release, the standard definition DVD offers a jam-packed special edition including an expanded director’s cut. While it’s nice that the theatrical cut is preserved on high definition, the Blu-ray studios have got to clue in to the mixed signals they’re sending the consumer by these bare bones releases.

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