3,000 Miles To Graceland

“3,000 Miles To Graceland” is one of the most stupefying experiences to come out of a major studio this year. Shot by another music video wunderkind and starring the usually reliable Kurt Russell and Kevin Costner, “3,000 Miles To Graceland” is an unforgiving mess. Nothing makes sense in this homage to gritty crime noir thrillers.


3,000 Miles To Graceland DVDHow could no one see this auto wreck of a film coming? It shakes and rattles like an old jalopy ready to fall apart. It’s noisy, obnoxious, and just plain ugly. This movie wasn’t green-lit. It barreled through the signal without any regard to plot or character development. You constantly shake your head in disbelief, wondering how something so numbing and mindless could pass for entertainment.

Director Demian Lichtenstein is the only one who seems to be having a grand time. What does he care? He went from directing music videos to directing Kurt Russell and Kevin Costner in a big studio movie. He’s like a kid in a candy store, anxious to try a little of everything. His cinematic flourishes expose a one trick pony. This film is all flash, and even then, it’s pretty dim.

The script by Richard Recco and Lichtenstein starts off with a bang, but once the smoke clears it becomes obvious that most of what follows is going to be a waste of time. The dialogue is trite and filled with false sentiment, while the plot is so out there even a more talented director would have trouble reeling it back in. The paychecks must have been more impressive than the script.

Which might explain why stars like Kurt Russell, Kevin Costner, and even Courtney Cox would stoop so low. None of the above the line talent is bad, they’re just trapped in a bad movie. They say the lines and move on. No one did this film to advance their careers. Maybe the rent on the Malibu beach pad was due that month.

The script’s biggest problem is that there isn’t one redeemable character in the lot. That’s not a bad thing. The Coen Brother’s “Blood Simple” is a perfect example of this. “3,000 Miles To Graceland” plays like a check list of bad ideas crammed into a film that runs long at 90 minutes, yet stays on the screen for over two hours.

Russell and Costner play former convicts who conspire to rob the Riviera Casino in Las Vegas. Dressed as Elvis Impersonators, they use an Elvis convention as their cover. When the robbery goes south, the men are forced to shoot their way out. All of this should be exciting and taut, but it’s not. The director seems more impressed with his special effects budget than the actors. Talk about mindless violence. The shootout seems to go on forever, and not once do you care about the winners or losers. You just want it to end.

That pretty much sums up the film. It’s rare when I feel compelled to check my watch during a movie, but this one made me look three times. I wanted it to work. I mean, what a great goof. Elvis impersonators rob a casino during an Elvis convention. There’s great whimsy there, none of which makes it to the screen.

Russell is likeable as the least offensive robber, but it’s ludicrous that the filmmakers except us to embrace his character. Even though he doesn’t kill anyone during the course of the robbery, all of his chums do. That makes him culpable. To help stack the cards in his favor, the writers shamelessly manufacture a “Shane” relationship between Russell and a young boy and his single mother.

It’s an extremely weak attempt at neutralizing his character. Costner, on the other hand, has no problem playing the one-note bad guy who would kill his own mother if she interfered with his work. He gets in, kills people, and exits. It’s only when he’s forced to recite the dumb dialogue that his character seems to run into trouble.

The most disturbing thing about “3,000 Miles To Graceland” is that the director can’t make up his mind if he wants to make a hard-boiled crime caper or a goofy heist film. You can tell the writers emulate Quentin Tarantino. Unfortunately, they’re not as clever or engaging. When the crooks start talking about a “Death Match” between Frank Sinatra and Elvis Presley, you feel like you’ve wandered in on another film.

The same applies when Costner’s character faces down a Nevada State Trooper on the highway out of town. I have no idea what that scene was about, or the one where single mom Courtney Cox takes off in a car filled with loot, leaving her son behind in the wake. It’s a lame plot device, one of many, used to hide the fact that there isn’t much going on here. It’s almost as if they pieced the plot together as they went.

Christian Slater, Bokeem Woodbine and David Arquette fare the best, playing the remaining members of the gang who meet an early demise. They’re spared the embarrassment of dragging this dead horse through the middle of town.

COMPLETE CHECK-UP

VISION: 20/20

check.gif (406 bytes) 2.35:1 Widescreen

check.gif (406 bytes) 16:9 Enhanced

The digital transfer perfectly captures the garish glitter of Las Vegas without flinching. Despite the presence of numerous digital transfer nightmares, there isn’t one iota of artifacts, noise or shimmering on the DVD. The colors are bold and bright, while the muted scenes look sensational, with nice attention to detail. Flesh tones are positively pretty, while the neon colors and natural sunsets all look natural. Depth of focus is impressive, as are the industrial strength blacks that hold up under the most stringent conditions. Whites are pure, shadows are terrific and full of data, and overall image is sharp and vibrant.

HEARING: Good

check.gif (406 bytes) 5.1 Dolby Digital Surround

check.gif (406 bytes) 5.1 Dolby Digital Surround French-Canadian

The 5.1 Dolby Digital Soundtrack more than gets the job done, but it’s not nearly as definitive as you would expect for an action film. The surround effects are okay but not overwhelming. Rear speakers seem a little shy when it comes to a powerhouse presentation, providing a clean flow of musical cues and realistic ambient noise but not much else. The front sound stage comes alive with excellent stereo split and impressive high and low ends. The basses are great, especially during the film’s more explosive moments. Dialogue mix is okay, but front-to-rear spatial separation seems off and not very complex. The musical numbers punch through the system with assurance, filling the room with crystal clear high and middle ends.

ORAL: Good

check.gif (406 bytes) Closed Captions in English for the Hard of Hearing

check.gif (406 bytes) Subtitles in English and French-Canadian

COORDINATION: Weak

check.gif (406 bytes) The film’s original theatrical trailer.

check.gif (406 bytes) Main and scene access menus.

PROGNOSIS: Will Live

check.gif (406 bytes) The film wasn’t very good, and the DVD doesn’t offer much more incentive.

VITALS:

check.gif (406 bytes) $19.98/Rated R/125 Minutes/Color/Snapcase

ATTENDING RESIDENT: John Larsen

PATIENT: 3,000 MILES TO GRACELAND

BIRTH DATE: 2001

HMO: Warner Home Video



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