Logline: A retired car thief must return to his former life of crime in order to save his younger brother’s life. He now has four days to gather a team of boosters and steal 50 cars before it’s too late.

Yo! Ten years ago there was this crazy stupid movie called “Gone in 60 Seconds” about a bunch of character actors stealing cars for Dr. Who in quickly edited sequences, and I damn near forgot about most of it other than that big car jump stunt on the Vincent Thomas Bridge. In fact, I was really hoping that I’d quickly turn on it ten years later, saying that once again I was able to humiliate my younger self’s brain with derisive laughter. Then I’d go and watch a Jacques Tati movie or something and go on with my life.

So how’d that plan go?

Is It Better Or Worse Than I Remember?

Better.

I say that with no shame. It’s actually a vastly better movie than I was expecting. It’s slight, it’s dumb, and it doesn’t entirely work, but the trick is that the film already knows all of this. A lesser Jerry Bruckheimer-produced film still has the ability to hypnotize you with its nonsense when done right, and I continue to defend the man’s canon of work. At least he knows who he is. Do you know who you are? I DON’T THINK SO!

Going against the grain of this project (at least theoretically), I felt pangs of nostalgia while watching this slick cotton candy bullshit, back to when my sensibilities were not nearly as well formed. But to hell with intellectual evolution. I want to watch crap about wisecracking car thieves, dammit! I want a chase to go through a construction site for no other reason than to see a speeding cop car get annihilated by a wrecking ball! Why? Because I want to!

What’s Better About The Film?

  • I really don’t understand car worship, so I consider this movie almost educational in what I don’t know. While I’m sure it could be nerdier about the cars themselves, instead of just having the camera lust after them, it certainly taught me a few things about the vehicles and the people who love them. I mean, I drive a silver pine Prius. What the hell do I know about muscle cars?
  • This may seem like a backhanded compliment, but it’s not; I am actually kind of impressed that Angelina Jolie managed to blend in with all the other actors and not upstage everybody. Most reviews chalk this up to her barely being in the film, but even in those situations, Ms. Jolie usually vamps her way into our collective consciousness. Here, she actually takes a step back, and for that, I salute her.
  • Several times, the movie feels the need to tell us exactly where we are via identifying titles (e.g. salvage yard, police station), instead of just letting the movie happen. While a part of me considers this a waste of money spent on graphic design, however small, it actually makes me giggle now in a way I would not have ten years ago. I can’t imagine this is anybody’s idea other than Bruckheimer. My guess? He wants us to focus soooo harrrrd on the slick cars that he doesn’t want to waste any of our brainpower on anything like cognitive thought.
  • The subplot involving Johnnie B. (an uncredited Master P) and his gang of rival boosters almost seems an afterthought, but it infuses the first half of the movie with a jolt of energy. It leads to a good-sized ‘splosion as well as a nifty little gag where, to get away from the gang while hiding in a restaurant, Giovanni Ribisi tethers the back of the gang’s car to an 18-wheeler truck, which in turn brings the cops out of the restaurant allowing them to notice that the gang has a fucking armory of illegal weapons. (Elaborate, no?) It’s goofy, but it’s in the right movie. Besides, an uncredited Master P is better than no Master P at all. Unfortunately, he did not make anybody say “UUUUUUUUH!” (naNa naNa…naNa naNa)
  • Knowing that Grace Zabriskie, who has made her greatest impact on my pop culture brain with her performance as the manipulative and demented Lois Henrickson on HBO’s “Big Love,” can actually play warm. It actually kind of threw me, but in a good way. Usually I’m used to her either being terrifying (any of her David Lynch project appearances) or dead (“Child’s Play 2”). But a caring mother? Shocked the hell out of me.
  • It’s strange, but Long Beach isn’t represented very often on film. While much of this film was apparently shot in Ontario, LB gets a fair share of the film’s running time, which only made me realize I can’t name too many films or shows that take place anywhere near the area. If this movie is to be believed, it’s full of factories, back alleys and dark orange mood lighting. Not the most inviting atmosphere, but you know what? At least it’s getting name recognition.
  • In the same vein, I think I am more forgiving now about how easily the movie makes it seem for people to drive from downtown Los Angeles to Long Beach in a short amount of time. So during the “big night,” where they decide to boost all the cars over a shorter amount of time as to not tip off the cops, they make it seem like the neighborhoods are right next to each other, whereas any of us who have lived in Southern California knows it’s just simply not that easy. Maybe my forgiveness is based on my love for the dearly departed FOX show “24,” where this kind of thing happened almost every episode. But then again, that’s because Jack Bauer was driving, and when Jack Bauer is driving, anything is possible.
  • I fucking hate the Mirror Man character, but this line is too weird not to note:
    “I got a midget paging me now. Time is money!”
  • I know Ken Jenkins has almost 100 credits to his name, but I’m always surprised and delighted to see him on TV or in a movie playing anything other than Dr. Bob Kelso from “Scrubs.” Here, he makes a five-second cameo as a douchebag getting his car stolen, but all I can think of is him saying something unimaginably cruel about his invalid wife Enid.
  • It actually makes me want to watch the 1974 original film, which aside from the 30-minute climactic car chase sounds like an absolute piece of shit.

What’s Worse About The Film?

  • The film does a good job of reminding me of how cool Dominic Sena could have been, instead of what he has become. He will forever earn points from me for directing the gritty serial killer road trip thriller “Kalifornia” (Pitt vs. Duchovny, muthafucka), but then went onto do bullshit like “Swordfish” and “Whiteout.” Can we please get one music video director able to stick with the energy he brings to his debut film without having to watch him chase paycheck after paycheck? It’s a story as old as time. Or at least as old as MTV.
  • In the second half, when the “big night” finally goes into action, you can see the screenwriter’s gears turning, as he sets up not a throughline so much as little vignettes of all the obstacles the boosters face. And some of them feel desperate. I tell ya, though, I wasn’t expecting the “night” to be delayed by the dog eating a trio of Mercedes laser-cut keys. It’s a cliché, yes, but usually not in action thrillers.
  • Vinnie Jones is in a completely different movie. I suppose that’s the drawback to putting Vinnie Jones in almost anything, but here, he overpowers all the other actors without even delivering one line (until the end) to the point that all his presence does is make you think about “Snatch.” The movie, not the…other thing. You have a dirty mind!
  • The climax set in the Ebert-dubbed “flame and steam factory” is still a major letdown. It’s pointless, poorly choreographed and remarkably stupid. It feels like they gave up. Can you imagine how much better the climax would be if it were designed for, say, a late-80s Arnold Schwarzenegger movie? It wouldn’t pull punches or kill the emotional beats the way it does here.
  • With its use of songs from Citizen King, Apollo 440, DMX, the Crystal Method and Jane’s Addiction, the film’s soundtrack reminds me of how goofy and simple my musical tastes were back in 2000. That, or how bad most music actually was in those shitty-pop-and-bad-hard-rock that transitioned us from the great hip-hop and alternative music of the 90s to whatever the hell it is we have now. Don’t take my word for it. Check out the list.
  • The small running gag about shitty Asians drivers. Ouch, the year 2000. Ouch.
  • Hey! Don’t shoot the chickens!

Free-Floating Thoughts:

  • Great title sequence.
  • I love how the game they play over the walkie-talkies where they quiz each other on cars that TV characters drive, right down to license plate #s. (IMDb informs me that some of the answers are wrong, but that doesn’t really bother me.)
  • I want to imagine that, between set-ups, Robert Duvall horribly mocked James Duval for only having one “L” in his name.
  • I want to believe that all boosters groove out to War’s “Low Rider” before going about their business.
  • Wuh-oh. From IMDb — “In some Greek theaters, the title was translated to ‘Come in 60 Seconds.'”
  • Of the trusted critics I read while learning about any specific film, Elvis Mitchell’s overlong but spirited review is without question the best. It perhaps comes closest to how I feel.

What Did I Learn From This Experience?

You know what, all you Nicolas Cage haters? Shut your face. Sure, he has gone particularly insane over the last 10 years, buying then losing ridiculous mansions that nobody needs, giving his son a Kryptonian name and saying yes to every single project thrown his way, but I still think he’s a strong actor. And for every “Next,” “Bangkok Dangerous” and “Ghost Rider,” there’s a “Leaving Las Vegas,” “Adaptation” or “Wild At Heart” to school your brain. So quit your hate. While he should probably be in about one movie less a year than he currently is, you’d miss him if he went away. Don’t deny it!

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