I really want to like Kevin Costner. I try, I really do. He has star presence, obviously. He can act, if he wants. And, he is one of those rare Hollywoodites that has the power to make just about any movie he wants. Unfortunately, for every Bull Durham he does, there's a 3000 Miles to Graceland.
This should have been so good. What a cool concept: Elvis impersonators pull off a casino heist during an Elvis Festival in Las Vegas. Even cooler was the idea of Kevin Costner, Kurt Russell, Christian Slater, and David Arquette as the Elvises. I was really pumped to go see this movie, for more reasons than one. I was in Las Vegas last spring and was coming out of the Coca Cola building next to the MGM when I heard automatic gunfire coming from the alley behind me. I ran out of the alley, and went across the street to a pancake house. As I was trying to get the waiter to call the cops, the manager came running out and yelled, "They're filming a movie! They're filming a movie!" He told me that the movie was being called 3000 Miles To Memphis (he was close), and that a helicopter would very soon be circling the strip and landing on the building I had just come out of. Sure enough, here came the helicopter. Watching for that scene in the theater was the only part of the movie I enjoyed.
What could have be a fun, hip crime caper turns out to be an orgy of violence that just goes on and on and on. How much can we destroy? How many cops can we shoot? How many different kinds of machine guns can we employ? Endless numbers on all counts, apparently. I don't generally mind mindless action flicks, but there was a disturbing lack of morality in this one that made it nearly impossible to like. There is not a single redeeming character in this film. Kurt Russell, the supposed hero, is callow and cruel. Costner is a twisted psychopath, willing to kill anybody who gets in the way of . . . what? The money? His pride? It's never made clear what, if anything, motivates Costner, although you get the feeling he is supposed to be driven, tortured. There is a lame attempt at justification by way of an "illegitimate-son-of-the-King" subplot, but it never really gets off the ground. Worst of all is Courtney Cox-Arquette, in the small town, single mom with a heart of gold role. About midway through the movie, she steals Russell's car and all the money he had gained in the casino bloodbath, abandoning her ten year old son in the process. This film is so topsy-turvy that it has the gall to give her the moral high ground. "I didn't just leave my son with a stranger," she blubbers at Russell later, "I left him with you!" Yeah, you're a great mom. You didn't leave your son with a stranger, just an acknowledged thief who threatened to kill you after your one-night stand. Good job.
The most interesting characters in the film are completely wasted. Slater, Arquette, and Bokeem Woodbine as the other members of the Elvis gang show great potential, but are relegated to little more than cameos. The same goes for Jon Lovitz, who could have added some much needed humor, but just ends of dying horribly like everyone else. Ice-T makes a brief appearance as a hired gun, but it doesn't help. It's almost as if the writers were deliberately trying to keep anyone at all appealing or entertaining out of the picture. Kevin Costner tends to play it very serious and, as I understand it, he had a heavy hand over the whole production.
Kurt Russell and Kevin Costner in Warner Brothers' 3000 Miles To Graceland - 2001
There have been several reports that Costner and Russell each had conflicting views of how the movie should be edited, with Russell's version emphasizing the romance between he and Courtney Cox, and Costner's version emphasizing the violence. Costner's version won out, and though the result is terrible, I don't see how more scenes of dysfunctional love could have helped. The director, newcomer Demian Lichtenstein, is very proud of his technical virtuosity. There are lots of shots speeded way up and lots of slo-mo gunfights. So many, in fact, that I began to feel jittery and bored at the same time. The movie opens with a completely bizarre computer-game scorpion battle (???) and never finds a single cinematic theme to stick to.
3000 Miles To Graceland is a complete disappointment. A ridiculous plot, wasted talent, and a storyline devoid of any goodness whatsoever make for a wholly dissatisfying moviegoing experience. I never thought I would say this, but sometimes it's no fun being a movie critic. At least when I was just going to movies for me, I could walk out if it was terrible. Now I have a responsibility to you, the readers, stick it out, no matter how long it lasts, just in case it ever looks up. It never does, and it does take a looong time to get done. It may be 3000 miles to Graceland, but it feels a whole lot longer than that. Grade: D-
3000 Miles To Graceland is rated R for sexual situations, language, and violence.
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