Gone in 60 Seconds (2000)

D: Dominic Sena
S: Nicholas Cage, Angelina Jolie

Morally irresponsible vehicular pornography which actually proves surprisingly palatable given that it represents the latest output of the producer Jerry Bruckheimer's ouevre from the line of Con-Air. This time it is a remake of a 1970s car chase movie distinguished by an extremely distended climax consisting of... a car chase. Why anyone would want to remake it is beyond me, especially because its essential elements were no more than featuring a gang of professional car thieves who... steal cars. But hey, who can fathom the Hollywood mind anyway? So here it is, replete with in-joke references to the original film, a multi-million dollar action drama in which a group of professional car thieves... steal cars.

Okay, there is a bit more to the plot than that. Specifically, it concerns how ace car thief Nicholas Cage is drafted back into the game when his younger brother Giovanni Ribisi botches a job for nasty international crook Christopher Eccleston (Elizabeth, Shallow Grave). He gets what is left of his old squad back together, including former lover Angelina Jolie and mentor Robert Duvall (shades of the Bruckheimer-produced Days of Thunder?) to complete the mission, including the theft of a 1967 Ford Mustang, a vehicle with which our hero has had some history (this was the car in which most of the 40 minute chase in the original took place). Meanwhile cops Delroy Lindo and Timothy Olyphant are on Cage's tail, representing the token presence of social order in the movie, as, despite attempting to argue that our hero is acting from the purest of motives really, the film essentially and more or less unambiguously celebrates the antics of a group of criminals in a way few films have done for quite some time other than Guy Ritchie's adolescent fantasy Lock, Stock, and Two Smoking Barrels. It even provides itself with a cop-out ending which makes car theft a 'victimless' crime and delineates Eccleston as the real force of evil who is rightly dispatched by our central character.

There's something queasily immoral about the whole thing, but luckily it chooses to steer clear of asking the audience to think very much. This is a bio-mechanical testosterone and gasoline fantasy in which the cars are named after women and the leading woman (Frances Fisher has an almost invisible role as Duvall's wife) lusts unashamedly after both our hero and other cars. Cage portrays a character to whom cars are the only thing with real spiritual meaning (oh, and family; gotta have family, right?), and his characterisation amounts to a fusion of man and machine which makes Crash look tame. It is mercifully quick about it though, and with lots of violent action without too much serious consequence to life and limb, it is little more than a live-action cartoon, a kind of Wacky Races without the colour scheme, in which a group of 'characters' steal a variety of cars of different makes and styles and elude the police. Among the team of 'colourful' misfits who collaborate in the boost is former soccer player Vinnie Jones (as the mute nicknamed 'Sphinx'), last seen in Lock, Stock, and Two Smoking Barrels. He registers as a physical presence, but he doesn't have a character to play: no one has other than Cage.

Gone in 60 Seconds is more or less exactly what you expect when you pay to see it. As such, it is an efficiently crafted bit of hokum which will pass the time nicely if you are predisposed to its charms. Of course you may need to be locked in an adolescent mode to fully appreciate them (and to ignore the nagging moral conviction that this film is pro-criminal propaganda), and share the characters' obsession with engine noises and polished chrome, but then, obviously someone does, otherwise they would never have bothered to make, let alone remake it.

Review by Harvey O'Brien PhD. copyright 2000.