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3000 MILES TO GRACELAND

Review by Gordon Justesen

Stars: Kurt Russell, Kevin Costner, Courtney Cox, Christian Slater, Kevin Pollack, David Arquette
Director: Demian Lichtenstein
Audio: Dolby Digital 5.1, French Dolby Digital 5.1
Video: Anamorphic Widescreen 2.35:1
Studio: Warner Bros.
Features: Trailer
Length: 125 Minutes
Release Date: August 7, 2001

"Are you gonna kill me?"
"Not until you get the safe open."(Laughs) "Now thatís a joke. Open the safe."

Film ***1/2

Given the energy and star power of 3000 Miles to Graceland, it amazes me still that the film sunk enormously at the box office. I guess if anything hurt the film in its performance, it was most likely the marketing campaign. The movieís trailer sold it as more of comedy, concentrating mostly on the fact that the lead characters in the movie are dressed up as Elvis impersonators, and didnít really display any of the raw violence, which may have turned many people off. I remember seeing the movie on its opening night, and seeing many adults leaving the theater about midway through the movie. I myself was caught by surprise, because I didnít expect such a raw action movie, but I quickly found this to be a very exhilarating ride nonetheless.

Very rarely has there been a movie quite like 3000 Miles to Graceland, a gleefully violent and outrageously over the top piece of pulp noir that more or less salutes the tasteless underworld itís exploiting. The movie, directed in a style that resembles that of an Oliver Stone movie, could easily be considered Natural Born Killers Goes to the Elvis Convention. When I say tasteless, thatís not defining the movie as bad in anyway. In fact, I appreciate a deliciously violent tale every once in a while, a la The Way of the Gun, involving numerous sinister characters, very seldom good guys, and plentiful gunplay. Add in two veteran stars, Kurt Russell and Kevin Costner, at the helm, and what you get is a sharp, mad dog thrill ride of a movie.

The center of the movie is a heist in a Vegas casino in the midst of a prestigious Elvis convention. Five criminals, led by career criminals Michael (Russell) and Murphy (Costner), disguised as Elvis impersonators, stage a heist that promises them $3.2 million in stolen loot. Despite a true bloodbath of a shootout, which is without a doubt one of the most violent scenes Iíve ever witnessed, the gang succeeds in retrieving the money. But it soon turns into the ultimate betrayal, as Murphy double crosses his crew by killing them, claiming the money for himself. Michael, however, by way of a bulletproof vest, and intends on hunting Murphy down to execute some serious payback.

Kurt Russell has top billing, and he does make a credible good thief, but this is without a doubt Kevin Costnerís movie. I canít remember the last time I saw the actor look as if he had so much fun in a movie, and Costner, who is used to playing more serious roles, proves here that he can go all out to play a vicious, psychotic to the max bad guy. Itís not the first time heís tackled a villainous role, as he did in 1993ís A Perfect World, but he played one with more of a softer side, where as Murphy is completely remorseless and uncaring about how many innocent lives he takes. I was thoroughly impressed with this wonderfully breakout performance. I especially get a kick out of seeing him acquire a machine gun and blasting cops to kingdom come in the filmís climatic showdown. The shootout in the casino is something to be seen, too.

Loud, fast, and loaded with sharp thrills, 3000 Miles to Graceland is clearly trash, but great entertaining trash at that. A mindless thrill ride that knows it is one, and does not dare to apologize that it is. Highly recommended, and one of this yearís most truly underrated movies.

Video ****

As sharp as any Elvis sideburn could be. Warner has issued a purely fantastic looking disc for its presentation of 3000 Miles to Graceland. The anamorphic transfer is clear, tight, and crisp as any great transfer can get. Colors come out beautifully, too, as they are displayed in vibrant perfection. Itís a grand treatment of a movie that does create a rather distinctive style in terms of directing and editing. Certainly one of the best video transfer of this year.

Audio ****

As loud and ferocious as the film itself, 3000 Miles to Graceland is issued a roaring 5.1 Digital presentation, which perfectly captures its action movie tone. In addition to capturing the raw punch of the action scenes and explosions, the movieís thunderous soundtrack, which includes mostly hard rock and techno, also kicks in wonderfully. Indeed an audio job that enhances the movieís jolt of action.

Features *

Only a trailer.

Summary:

3000 Miles to Graceland may not satisfy everyoneís taste, but for my money, itís two hours well spent of extreme, explosive behavior.