Rated R - Running Time: 2:06 - Released 2/23/01

One can certainly see the MTV influence in Demian Lichtenstein's crime drama 3000 Miles To Graceland; it's busy, colorful, and full of cool music, but its characters are superficial and broadly drawn. Lichtenstein, a pop music video director who has worked on the small screen with the likes of Sting, Eric Clapton, Queen Latifah, and Gloria Estefan, obviously has the chops to craft fast action and imagery, but his desire to expand from the 5-minute mode results in an overlong, overindulgent melodrama that wears the viewer out with too many stimuli and too little depth. It features well-known performers who don't do badly with what they have, but the script by Lichtenstein and newcomer Richard Recco is as shallow and flashy as its director's treatment of it.

The film involves a group of five professional criminals who rob a Las Vegas casino together during International Elvis Week. In order to blend in, they all arrive dressed as Elvis. The group's two leaders are sideburned, lip-snarling, hip-swiveling ex-cons Michael (Kurt Russell, dusting off his costume from the 1979 TV movie Elvis) and Murphy (Kevin Costner), whom we meet at a roadside motel as they book a room in which to hole up afterwards. While there, Michael meets a single mother named Cybill (Courteney Cox) and her 11-year-old delinquent son Jesse (David Kaye). The robbery, while successful, results in many law enforcement officials and bystanders, and one gang member, dead. Back at the motel, tensions erupt, more killing occurs, and Cybill finds out about Michael's participation in the crime. Soon the situation devolves into an every-man-for-himself scenario, with Murphy, Michael, and Cybill all chasing each other toward Canada, each possessing the gymbag full of cash at one point or another, only to meet up for a spectacularly flashy and shallow confrontation in Mt. Vernon, Washington.

While I haven't been thrilled with the work of Kevin Costner, Kurt Russell, or Courteney Cox in the last several films I've seen them in, I must say they do better here. Costner is not usually cast as the villain; it's at least a change of pace to see him playing someone who doesn't save the day, but his super-bad-guy character is hard to swallow. On the other hand, he never once pitches a fastball — a definite plus. Russell and Cox manage to eke out a reasonable relationship; Cox does attempt a modicum of actual acting. The out-of-place participation of people like David Arquette (probably only present because wifey Cox got him on the film) and rapper Ice T, who plays an anonymous gunman not introduced until the last ten minutes, further shows director Lichtenstein's connection to the music biz. These guys are not here for their acting ability, they're here for marketing. Another fish out of water is comedian John Lovitz, whose distracted, self-conscious style, straining not to be funny against his every instinct, is noticeably jarring. Finally, the two U.S. marshals assigned to the case (Kevin Pollak, Thomas Haden Church) are such regular guys, we almost want to see them succeed in catching the crooks, who, while ostensibly the protagonists, are not particularly likeable in any way. Interesting directing choice.

3000 Miles is packed with action, color, time-lapse photography, and even a gratuitous music video at the end (performed by Russell in full Elvis regalia). But writer/director Lichtenstein's direction has not matured from the frenetic style of his other work, and the result is a case of cinematic overkill. ***½

Copyright 2001 by John R. McEwen and The Republican

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