“Two Rogers don’t make a right”
There are more than a few unexpected things concerning the Gone in Sixty Seconds remake that surprised me. One was the huge cast of familiar faces. Another the full embracement of its spectacular levels of cheese. And despite marketing materials and especially the poster, Angelina Jolie is far from a second lead and barely onscreen thirty minutes. Heck, besides the botched heist at the beginning that sets the chain of events that brings Randall ‘Memphis’ Raines (Nicolas Cage) out of retirement in motion, we don’t see another boost until more than halfway through. What shocked me most, though, was how effective this last surprise became since stealing cars is the work’s least appealing aspect. The colorful characters and their off-the-wall retorts are what make it enjoyable. Thievery merely provides the catalyst to stick them in the same room.
Loosely based on H.B. Halicki‘s 1974 opus (the writer/director/star actually died as a result of a freak accident filming a sequel in my hometown of Tonawanda, NY), Scott Rosenberg retains the concept of a long list of cars needing to be lifted in a short period of time via a much different route. Master thief Memphis is six-years retired by the time little brother Kip (Giovanni Ribisi) decides to follow in his footsteps and allow impetuous immaturity land him in the crosshairs of Raymond Calitri (Christopher Eccleston). He botched a huge job that entailed his acquiring fifty specific vehicles, leaving him with only five days to start from scratch or be killed. Memphis catches wind of the ordeal through old friend Atley (Will Patton), returning home to orchestrate the task with his former team of misfits.
These include mute tough guy Sphinx (Vinnie Jones), hot-tempered driving instructor Donny (Chi McBride), ex-girlfriend Sway (Jolie), and the man who taught him everything he knows about cars, Otto (Robert Duvall). Most are reformed criminals, long-since dormant to the point where Detectives Castlebeck (Delroy Lindo) and Drycoff (Timothy Olyphant) moved on to other things. The mistake Kip made coupled with a sighting of Memphis visiting their mother (Grace Zabriske) puts smiles on both cops’ faces as they anticipate what it could mean. A quartet of aged boosters might succeed getting close to fifty cars in the few days left, but help from little bro and his numbskull friends would be best. So in come electronics wiz Mirror Man (T.J. Cross), muscle Tumbler (Scott Caan), computer geek Toby (William Lee Scott), and “caterer” Freb (James Duval).
It’s a rag-tag bunch with the propensity to make mistakes due to youthful inexperience and a lack of time for the adults to ensure everyone was using his brain. Deciding to snatch all the vehicles in one night assists in not allowing much room for error, but the planning days beforehand hold plenty of surprises. The detectives start sniffing very close to home, Calitri all but disappears until his climactic confrontation, and off-the-cuff antics ensue. I’m talking dressing Mirror Man up like a pimp to distract an impound guard, crazy measures taken to get a subplot of local hoods off their tail, and an impromptu case of proving one’s worth by introducing drugs into the fray. Think a series of skits with more than enough humor, weak yet hilarious oneliners, and over-sentimental discoveries about the past to entertain.
The action is decent, although there isn’t much until an end chase scene with “Eleanor” the Shelby GT500. There are many quick cuts and revving engines as the destruction mounts, but Gone in Sixty Seconds is otherwise more heist than The Fast and the Furious escapade. Just look at the opening scene with Ribisi stealing a new Mercedes with a brick. This film excels at its over-the-top set-ups and colorful personalities constantly finding ways to butt heads and/or grin at the audacity/ingenuity of someone preconceived as a waste of space. A prize of $200,000 looms overhead too—a sum I found comparatively small in regards to the job at hand—but you can pretty much ignore the payment even exists since the real reason everyone gets involved is to save Kip’s life. And enjoy the adrenaline rush.
So don’t expect much plot—I mean even less than what’s in a Fast & Furious film. There’s no grand mythology at play besides the love of siblings and the rekindling of friendships after promises were made and broken. Comic relief comes from Cross, Jones, McBride, Caan, and Olyphant while Patton, Jolie, Duvall, and Lindo provide a contrasting professionalism. Eccleston is brilliantly hammy once his nickname “The Carpenter” rises to the surface, but he’s merely incentive rather than a key opponent. As for Cage, this script is perfectly suited for his unique quirks. Who else could literally pump himself up with waving fingers and eyes closed to the dulcet jam of “Low Rider” and seem genuinely in the moment? Dominic Sena proves his worth as director by simply allowing this type of tongue-in-cheek nonsense to make it onscreen.