AdSense to Search

Custom Search

Monday, July 11, 2016

3000 Miles to Graceland Review (2001, Action/Adventure/Crime Thriller, Warner Bros./Franchise Pictures/Morgan Creek Productions)

This used to be a guilty pleasure.

But not anymore. Demian Lichtenstein was previously a music video and short film director, not having gained any kind of notable standing in the biz. This is his first full-length feature, and it really shows. I used to get some kind of kick out of watching this movie, even if it baffled me in so many ways (why even mention Graceland at all? They don't go anywhere near Graceland!), but since my last sitting I can't stand it anymore. Masochism only lasts for so long, I guess.

The opening sequence shows us one of the MANY flaws of the movie right out of the gate: misuse of resources and rather bland special effects. We have two cartoon portrayals of scorpions, rendered in laughable CGI, duking it out in the desert. Defenders of the film, even with few legs to stand on in the act, like to point out how this represents the conflict between the two main characters of the film. You know, Russell & Costner on the film poster. However, this sequence is too shitty to recommend and it coalesces into one of the most hit-and-miss parts of the movie. And that is saying something.

After some really lame jokes, including several fart jokes in quick succession, the plot seems to begin. Our "hero" Michael (Kurt Russell) runs into a bratty, 11-year old rip-off of Jesse James (he's even stated in the movie to be named after the legendary bandit) and he then runs into Courtney Cox, or Cybil (with a 'C' for emphasis, repeated throughout the film like a really poor gag). They have bizarre sex scenes, made so by the sheer theatricality of both, and Michael takes off for the heist.

Wait, what?

Yeah, so the point of all the Elvis impersonation is that it's a gimmick meant to get them into a casino so that they can rob it. It's also the Riviera. Now, the remake of Ocean's Eleven gave us a moderately entertaining build-up to the more entertaining final act, and so it works in that film. Here, there's almost no build-up at all and because of it, it doesn't work. Plus, Ocean's Eleven still saw the team having to give the heist their all; here, they just storm into the money-counting room, take what they want, and blast their way out. Where were the guards, anyway? The two security personnel who were watching the cameras were a complete joke, too, only catching on well after the money-grabbing was done. The team here shoot up the entire casino like they have lost all sanity, even blowing a dwarf through the air, and they help an old slot jockey woman win the jackpot (oh, yeah, this was supposed to make all of us laugh). Meanwhile, perhaps a symptom of poor editing, everyone who is watching the Elvis impersonation show seem to be completely oblivious to the carnage happening right around the corner. It's very off-putting when you seem to be watching two different movies in one, neither of them good to boot.

Anyway, a very preposterous cliche is committed on screen, following this turn of events: A lone gunman, a detective perhaps, comes running at the team as their elevator is about to ascend to the roof. The gunman gets his had stuck in the door as it closes, and he's firing wildly. It's a small elevator so at least ONE person should have been hit by now, right? Well, that one person has to be the one black man of the team. He is smack dab in the center of the gun's position, after all. Plus, Bokeem Woodbine was probably asking for more money for the role so they had to flip him the bird in some creative way. As they are flying away on helicopter, they try to revive him only to toss his dead body overboard. Roger Ebert made a commentary on this particular part of the movie and absolutely tore it to shreds because of it.

Then some hypocritical double-crossing happens and the actual plot kicks off. Cybil (with a 'C') and her snotty son tag along with Russell in order to make off with the money that Costner somehow didn't, and a chase ensues, Cybil (with a 'C') abandons her son with Russell in order to get that money for themselves (but she still likes Russell so it's okay or something), Costner catches up with them all in the Northwest United States (possibly Oregon or Washington), Ice-T shows up as a "one-man army" and gets killed within minutes because his character is actually an idiot, and Costner gets killed because he's the bad guy. And everyone else make off with the money on a boat while Uncle Kracker's fifteen minutes of fame still plays as the credits roll.

There are so many nonsensical sequences in this film that it is totally mesmerizing. Not in a good way, of course. The betrayal that Cybil (with a 'C') plays out in an awkward fashion while off-beat country music plays, oh and a Schnitzel is standing on the road next to Russell after he tries to stop Cybil (with a 'C') from getting away. Every scene with her son makes me want to kill the kid, but thankfully his acting career didn't seem to live on. A poorly-edited couple of scenes involving Jon Lovitz as a fence of sorts plays out, acting as a twist that Cybil (with a 'C') isn't actually dead. Some idiot of a lawyer (1-800-1GO-FREE!) shows up as a failed joke. Costner steals an inconspicuous mascot truck from an old man. Costner goes to a gas station, fills up his ride, douses the place in gasoline, kills its owner, steals the owner's wife (sister? Cousin? What the fuck?), blows bubble gum with her and gives her away to the leader of what actually looks like a low-rent 'biker gang'. The brat tries smoking and pukes doing it. Same brat previously relieved himself in a gas station bathroom, getting repulsed by what may have been the fifth fart joke in the movie so far. He manages to steal a hefty wallet from a guy he bumps into as he's walking. Russell is still the 'good guy' while all of this goes on.

Costner catches up with Cybil (with a 'C') and the brat while in that goofy truck, interspersed with snippets showing Cybil (with a 'C') 'reacting' to the hit & run tactics of Costner in truly bizarre and exaggerated ways. Previously, Russell & Cox have an argument in a hotel while Russell is naked (concealed by a towel, thank goodness) and Cox actually caresses him underneath. She wants more money from Russell but the latter tells her to shut up and keep pleasing his phallus. They report Russell's stolen car to the police and it ends up backfiring on him, also reuniting him with Costner for a few minutes. He gets bail thanks to the brat. Sappy revelations are made when they bring Cybil (with a 'C') to a secluded, but rather beautiful location overlooking the local treeline and she confesses to what she had done before. He leaves them to their devices. Oh yeah and later on, Costner teams up with his go-to-guy and says that they need a team of gunmen to hold off heavily-armed police. Ice-T shows up, probably making a few thousand for his brief appearance, and Costner understandably growls about the lack of a 'bunch of guys'. Go-to-guy assures Costner that Ice-T "IS a bunch of guys" and predictably, because this movie hates black people so fucking much Ice-T gets killed while spinning around shooting machineguns, on an overhead hook-line. The former's kill count remains a total mystery for the rest of the film. Go-to-guy takes a few bullets for Costner, Costner derides him, and Costner gets cornered. 

Before he gets cornered he "provides cover" for the brat, who Costner kidnapped and brought to this scene. Let's not forget that law enforcement won't 1) shoot at a minor who is 2) unarmed and not even the tiniest threat to the police, nor is he the fucking target. Costner has a big fucking machine-gun and mows down many of the local law enforcement before taking a number of shots himself. He stares himself in a mirror, revealing the love & hate relationship he has for himself, while Elvis music plays. Oh and I must state that previously in the movie, it is discussed that Murphy MAY just be one of Elvis' many illegitimate sons, and that Murphy believes he is such. Murphy also got into a goofy fucking shootout with some town Sheriff in the middle of nowhere, for no particular reason. Costner avoided the bullet, slightly, because the Sheriff's bullet BOUNCED off of Costner's bullet while his kept on course. Of course, Costner had to win that duel because physics only benefits the title characters.

Russell survives another shot to his torso, revealed to have been wearing YET another vest. He's taken away by, you guessed it, Cybil (with a 'C') and her bratty son, and they go to Russell's boat. They sail off, somewhere, with nary a care in the world for their destination and even the film doesn't give a toss. And that's a wrap.

I know I went kind of all over the place, but so did the film. Another thing that goes all over the damn place, other than the vapid plotline, is the soundtrack. This soundtrack makes no sense, other than when classic rock/R&B/blues play of course. We've got electronica, dance music, nu-metal, funk music, country, blues, contemporary pop; everything you can think of is in this soundtrack. The thing is, however, is that this soundtrack is total nonsense. Where's the theme of the whole thing? Why is Spineshank in the score? Why choose Uncle Fucking Kracker to close the film?

And the heist sequence. It should have played out later in the movie, with more buildup. Instead, it happens right away and it really isn't all that thrilling to watch. The stakes aren't that high, even, since they don't steal all that much money anyway. The gimmick is there, and that's fine, but no one in their right mind should care about the end-product of what we got for a "heist" movie. 

Then there's the fucking title, which is absolutely misleading. What the fuck does Graceland have to do with the entirety of the movie? Yeah, Elvis is from there, but Elvis, and the impersonation of such, is all that the film even brings up. The action plays out as far as the Midwest, but then slingshots back to the west coast. The title could have been totally different and it wouldn't have mattered anyway.

The film has quite an ensemble cast, with Courney Cox being the eye-candy (and she's really not a bad actress) and Russell being the anti-hero. Costner is obviously the big bad, but Costner lacks the gravitas to really sell it. Everyone else doesn't matter because they ALL die. And the movie fucking hates black people, because none of the black cast members get a good showing (the only one who doesn't die instead gets a broken nose, courtesy of Costner). And that fucking kid should have been killed. We also get David Arquette, Christian Slater, and even the meager Kevin Pollak. But all of them are wasted, even if David Arquette's role is relegated to that of 'comic relief' (note: pulling terrible dance moves, farting all the while, isn't my idea of comic relief), or Bokeem Woodbine is destined to fulfill the tired trope of "Black Man Dies First."  It's like if Steve Buscemi's "Carl" character from Fargo was fed into the wood chipper within five or ten minutes of screen-time; it would have sucked.

And the action isn't all that good. It's all flash with either a lack of or plain infuriating substance. Sometimes I felt like I was watching several different movies throughout its duration, accidentally spliced in and of course, doing nothing for the material at hand. And the direction is terrible. Lastly, why the fuck would you even put "Maryland" in the title when they don't go anywhere close to Maryland? It has nothing to do with the movie!


The Good:

+ Courtney Cox was sexy. Still kind of is today.
+ Kurt Russell TRIES, at least, to act in this role.
+ There's a Steve Ray Vaughn track that plays somewhere
+ There could have been something halfway decent here...

The Bad:

- ...however, the end result came out terrible.
- The plot
- Wasted cast.
- Kevin Costner hardly even tries as the bad guy.
- The heist plays out much too early.
- The "Black Man Dies First" trope is in full effect here.
- Those two fucking U.S. Marshalls don't do anything for me. Oh, they finally do something at the end, which is killing Murphy, but everything before that is an annoying distraction.
- This movie, in fact, hates black people. No black person is given a good role. And I'm Caucasian!
- Inconsistent soundtrack that hardly ever plays to the mood.
- I wanted to kill that Jesse kid.
- Poor editing. (The shootout in the casino is a strong example of this)
- Contains 5 or more fart jokes.
- The final third of the movie is sleep inducing.
- Ice-T is a "one-man army" who ends up only killing a couple of cops. Gets killed because he's spinning on an overhead hook-line shooting two sub-machineguns because ACTION MOVIE!
- Uncle Kracker music in the credits? Fuck you.
- Nonsensical plot twists.
- Totally insane diversions from the plot, including that gas station sequence. What is up with the girl? Why blow it up?

No comments :