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3000 Miles to Graceland

Starring Kurt Russell and Kevin Costner, Courteney Cox and David Kaye
Screenplay by Richard Recco and Demian Lichtenstein
Directed by Demian Lichtenstein

IN SHORT: 3000 light years is how far away you should stay from this thing. [Rated R for strong violence, sexuality and language. 122 minutes]

The projectionist running our sneak of 3000 Miles to Graceland pushed the "start" button and walked away from his booth. He forgot to turn on the sound system in the theater which means that we spent SEVENTEEN minutes in silence, watching what would turn out to be the only part of this movie with anything resembling character development. Once the film was restarted, with all of its soundtracks intact, we came to the following conclusion: If co-writer/director Demian Lichtenstein had spent as much time on the story as he did editing elaborate visual sequences that add nothing to its telling, he might have turned out a watchable movie. Not necessarily a good one, but at least one that would have kept you in your seat wondering if anything of interest was ever going to appear on the screen. But he didn't. So, for all of you who loved The Way of the Gun, which also featured major firepower and minor story, here's another one for you.

On the wrong side of the wrong side of the bad side of the worst side of the Vegas strip sits the snarkiest looking dive of a motel called the "Last Chance". This pathetic hole is the kind of joint that is perfect for would be thieves to plan their nefarious deeds and hole up afterwards. It's also a great place for newly freed ex-jailbird Michael (Kurt Russell) to pick up the far too pretty and clean to be a ho' single-mother Cybil Waingrow (Courteney Cox). Cybil's cute as a button kidlet Jesse (David Kaye), on the other hand, takes to the sleazy depths, demonstrating a talent for sneakery and thievery as mom and Mike find, um, common interests in the bedroom. Afterwards, Mike hooks up with his jail cellmate Murph (Kevin Costner), who may think he's Elvis' illegitimate heir, and three others (Christian Slater, David Arquette and Bokeem Woodbine).

The Five Elvi head off to an International Elvis Convention, underway at the Riviera Hotel, packing weaponry big enough to take out a tank. Elvis impersonators rock the lounge on the other side of the joint, as oblivious to the not insignificant sound of armor piercing bullets whizzing through the air as is the old lady at the slot machines. "5 Elvi" begin the heist, scattering blood and bodies all about. 4 Elvi make a safe escape thanks to a cohort played by Howie Long. 3 Elvi will disappear thereafter and the remaining two will spend the rest of the movie trying to rip off what's left of the money, the woman in the middle or her kid. You also get lots of explosions, low-riding motorcycle gangs, lots of explosions, incompetent police officers, lots of explosions, cinematic nods to every cowboy movie ever made and, needless to say, lots of explosions. 3000 Miles To Graceland is one long steady slide into the abyss, with a short pause to allow former Saturday Night Live'r Jon Lovitz to whimper and beg for his miserable life. It doesn't matter what the character is. Stock Lovitz is stock Lovitz.

Blame The Matrix, which may not have been the first movie to feature ballistic overkill in its climactic gun battle, but did so with style and big wow special effects. Since then, at least once a year, we've seen productions who missed the point. The gun battles get bigger and bigger, and the weapons even more so. The amount of destruction increases exponentially and the style factor drops to near zero. Almost less than zero in the case of 3000 Miles to Graceland, which begins with what would otherwise be the big bang-up ending of dozens of other movies. Once the big blow-out is finished, the question remains, "Where do we go from here?"

For the makers of this thing, the answer should be "back to film school." Even the professors we couldn't stand made it crystal clear, at least to us, that it is important to create characters that the audience gives a damn about. Even the bad guys. Slow moving, lovingly crafted death scenes and the weepiest sounding soundtrack on earth, which is you hear when the supporting cast starts to get blown away, isn't going to make you care. Great visuals mean even less, if they get in the way of the story.

We know that there is some kind of a story buried in this mess. The two cops on the trail of the Elvi (Kevin Pollack and Thomas Hayden Church), when not making inquiries as to each other's taste in femme body parts, spend their screen time explaining what has been happening in the chase. When all is said and done, gee whiz, another big gun battle (this one featuring rapper Ice-T and more pretentious visuals than you can shake a stick at).

On average, a first run movie ticket will run you Eight Bucks. Were Cranky able to set his own price to 3000 Miles to Graceland, he would have paid...


'cuz Lovitz is funny (as is the nod to Joel Schumacher Batman movies).

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