GONE IN 60 SECONDS – DVD review

One of the few times I’ve known a Director’s Cut to turn a bad film into a good one was “Daredevil.” That hasn’t changed. The new, unrated Director’s Cut of “Gone in Sixty Seconds” contains nine more minutes than the original edition. Can nine minutes make a difference? I dunno. In this case, not much.

That said, I did enjoy the Director’s Cut marginally better than I did the theatrical version. It appears to have a few more minutes expanding the characterizations of the lead players. But there is no indication in the chapter headings and no audio commentary to explain where the new material has actually been added.

The Director’s Cut is also touted as “Unrated,” as though we were going to see costar Angelina Jolie suddenly ripping her top off and driving naked down Sunset Blvd. It ain’t gonna happen. “Unrated” simply means the new version of the movie was never submitted to the motion-picture ratings board. If it had been submitted, believe me, it would have gotten the same PG-13 as before.

Most of what I said about the previous edition applies here, too. Like, sometimes Hollywood does a thing perfectly, such as devise a flawlessly descriptive movie title. “The Perfect Storm” is an example. Truth in advertising and all that. And so it goes with “Gone In Sixty Seconds.” You’ll forget most of the movie exactly one minute after you watch it. It was produced by Jerry Bruckheimer, the force behind such action films as “Top Gun,” “Days of Thunder,” “Con Air,” “Armageddon,” and “The Rock.” He has produced a whole string of popular, high-octane adventure thrillers, some of them filled with edge-of-your-seat excitement. Regrettably, this is not one of them, despite the new edition’s additional nine minutes.

Based on the 1974 movie of the same name, “Gone In Sixty Seconds” is about a car-theft ring. Like it or not, it glorifies stealing cars. I’ve seen the ’74 film, and for all its faults, its closing forty-three minute car chase beats anything this new version has to offer. In the 2000 update, Nicolas Cage plays the laid-back main character, Memphis Raines, a mild-mannered ex-thief, now six years retired. He’s forced back into action when his kid brother, Kip (Giovanni Ribisi), gets into trouble with a tough bunch of car thieves for bungling a job he’s supposed to be doing for them. Memphis is coerced by the gang into stealing fifty cars for them in four days, or his brother dies.

The brother is only slightly less an idiot this time out, and he still doesn’t generate much sympathy. His problems start when he steals a Porsche from a showroom window and then drag races another car all the way back to the gang’s hideout, attracting half the Los Angeles police force along the way. This doesn’t amuse the gang’s boss, Raymond Calitri (Christopher Eccleston), who decides to squash Kip in an automobile compressor (he’s obviously seen “Goldfinger”). We know Calitri is the head villain because he speaks with a British accent.

To help him boost the cars Calitri wants, Memphis enlists the aid of a few of his former thieving buddies, including Robert Duvall as an old friend, Otto; Will Patton as an old fellow crook, Atley; and Angelina Jolie as an old girlfriend, “Sway.” Duvall gets to say maybe two words more than he did last time, and Jolie still has virtually nothing to do, romantically or otherwise. I liked the pun in Otto’s name best, as well as a character called “Sphinx” (Vinne Jones) because he’s quiet. Kip, the brother who is extricated from the half-squashed car, goes along on the heists and brings some of his dimwitted pals with him. They are all forgettable.

The first quarter of the film is devoted to Memphis getting his old gang back together. The second quarter is given over to setting up the heists. The last half of the film is about the thefts themselves and the inevitable car chase that by Hollywood law has to conclude these kind of movies, this chase among the longer ones on record. The chase was snatched from the original ’74 motion picture, which was far longer, and more inspiring. Following on Memphis’s heels the whole way is a cop, Detective Roland Castlebeck (Delroy Lindo), who is always one step behind. Oh, and for good measure, there’s also a rival gang of hoodlums out to kill Memphis for blowing up their car. Don’t ask.

Director Dominic Sena is known for “Kalifornia” (1993), a dark, moody road film, and “Swordfish” (2001), a standard caper flick. In “Gone in Sixty Seconds” he seems intent on creating an MTV music video, barely touching on characterizations or atmosphere while he quick-cuts from one shot to the next. The pace of the theatrical version was not so much exhilarating as it was numbing, but this time it seems more laid back, except in the final car chase.

In its favor, the film does have a sort of “Mission: Impossible” fascination about it, and I have to admit there’s a certain goofy charm about the whole business, with touches of good humor here and there. The sheer audacity of the filmmakers expecting us to believe an iota of it is in itself kind of amusing. But the last half hour, with its climactic chase sequence, is almost worth putting up with the rest of the film, as we witness most of the Los Angeles and Long Beach police departments mobilized, multiple patrol cars demolished, and half the population of Southern California endangered. Incidentally, it’s no coicidence the car Memphis is driving is a Mustang (think “Bullitt”).

Additionally, for a car fanatic it’s fun to see so many beautiful and exotic automobiles on display: Ferrari, Porsche, Lamborghini, Mercedes, BMW, and the prize of the lot–the steel-gray ’67 Shelby Mustang GT-500, all of them given girls’ names by Memphis, another romanticism that’s supposed to endear us to him. Every little bit helps.

Video:
I noticed nothing changed about the picture or sound since last time. The image, projected in a anamorphic widescreen ratio that measures close to its original 2.35:1 theatrical-release dimensions, is mostly dark, leaning heavily to browns, golds, grays, and murky shadows. I suspect the director had seen “Blade Runner” too many times. It’s somewhat soft on detail, too, but reasonably clean and transferred at a bit rate higher than average.

Audio:
Really, it’s the audio that’s the star of the show. The soundtrack alone is almost worth the price of admission. I wasn’t too keen on the actual sonics emanating from the Dolby Digital 5.1 tracks, mainly automobile noises–engines revving, squealing tires–along with pop music and the like; but the directionality is outstanding, among the best I’ve heard from an action movie. Sounds come not only from the five speakers and the subwoofer but from every conceivable location between the speakers. This is truly all-enveloping surround sound with excellent spatiality. What’s more, it has wide dynamics, strong impact, and deep bass. The audio rather upstages the picture, in fact. Now, if only the music weren’t so loud and distracting.

Extras:
Among the Special Edition DVD bonuses are several new items and several old ones carried over from the regular edition. The extras are mainly a series of short featurettes. “Action Overload” and “0-to-60” take the viewer behind the scenes and into the action, with music-video overtones. “The Big Chase” is a series of three featurettes: “L.A. Streets,” “Naval Yard,” and “The Big Jump,” each about three-to-five minutes long, with the director and producer explaining how and why the sequence was created. “Wild Rides” includes car stunts, and “Stars on the Move” highlights the actors in the movie and their various roles: Memphis, Kip, the Young Gang members, the Old School members, and the Adversaries. Each of these segments lasts from one to three minutes. Then there are some conversations with producer Jerry Bruckheimer, about seven-and-a-half minutes worth, that may interest anyone who is into the action-movie genre. And there’s a music video by The Cult. There are the same thirty-two scene selections as before, despite the added minutes, and a widescreen theatrical trailer. English and French are the spoken-language choices this time out; with French and Spanish subtitles, and English captions for the hearing impaired.

New to the Director’s Cut is a fancy, partially metallic-colored slipcover that protects the keep case. From what I don’t know. And what protects the slipcover? Buena Vista also provide a handy chapter insert. Bless them. But their animated menu screens still go on too long.

Parting Shots:
I’m not going to say “Gone In Sixty Seconds” is the worst action movie ever made, it certainly isn’t, but even in its new Director’s Cut, it barely rises above average. Mainly, we get to see a guy ingeniously stealing cars, and even here it develops little suspense. Beyond the thefts and the final chase, there’s not a lot going on.

As far as car chases go, I like the original ’74 version of “Gone in 60 Seconds,” “The French Connection,” “Ronin,” and the granddaddy of all such films, “Bullitt,” which has the advantage of a better plot, better acting, and a new and better special-edition package.

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