Car Alarm

Is 'Gone In 60 Seconds' Worthy Of AATA Investigation?

NOW THAT THE temperature in Tucson is hanging out in the 110 area, I'm sure a lot of you are thinking, "Wouldn't it be fun to go steal a car--you know, just to get out of the heat for a while!"

Well, before you go have any such "fun," you should know that the Arizona Automobile Theft Authority (AATA) is actively fighting the image of car theft as fun. In fact, the AATA believes that automobile theft should be illegal! (I mean, I know it is illegal, but they think it should be illegal).

With all the real auto theft in Arizona (Arizona is No. 2 in the country for auto theft--which just shows that there's room for improvement!), you'd think the members of the AATA would be too busy to go to the movies, but they took time out of their crowded schedules to go see Gone In 60 Seconds, because it's the first big movie with an auto-theft theme in many years.

What about this film would especially concern the AATA, you might wonder? Well, according to their recent press release, "We are especially concerned about the impression on young people in the audience who traditionally model their behavior after what Hollywood portrays as 'cool.' " I myself am concerned about this. For example, if teens start modeling their behavior on what they see in Gone In 60 Seconds, we could have thousands of adolescents producing extremely boring movies which are overloaded with expository dialogue and pointless chase sequences.

Gone tells the story (and I mean tells the story, not "shows" or "hints at" or "portrays") of retired car thief Memphis Raines. We know he's retired because he keeps mentioning that he's retired, and why he's retired, and why he doesn't want to get back in the business, and how things would have been different if only his dad hadn't died and lost the car dealership, and how he and his younger brother were raised by their widowed mother and the younger brother models his behavior after Memphis' and now the younger brother is in trouble and Memphis has to steal 50 cars in four days or the bad guys will kill his younger brother.

Roughly the first half of the movie is spent spelling this out by having all the characters just talk at the camera. Let me just say, if young people start modeling their behavior after this kind of thing, then the next few raves and keggers you go to are going to be really dull.

It's not just that the endless monologues are boring, either. They're also laughably silly and trite. There's an evil car thief and then there are the good car thieves, and one of the good car thieves describes the evil car thief as, "a jackal tearing at the soft underbelly of our fair town." Really. Because car thieves always say things like "our fair town."

Between car chases and bad dialogue, there's also a romance thrown into the mix. Well, it's not so much between the crashes and bad dialogue as it is constituted by the chases and dialogue. Memphis spends a lot of time trying to get over on "Sway" (Angelina Jolie, who, having received her Oscar, is now following in Nicolas Cage's footsteps in switching from serious drama to high-paying action films) by telling her about his screwed-up childhood while they steal cars together. It's an interesting pick-up strategy, combining the worst of the whiny loser approach with the off-putting bravado of the bad-boy school.

Anyway, about halfway through the film the car theft scenes start, and one prays for some actual action in this oddly mislabeled "action film." Sadly, these are some of the worst car chase scenes since OJ's white Bronco outing. The problem is that there are too many of them crammed into one movie; if Memphis had only to have stolen, say, 10 cars instead of 50, then I think there would have been room to make the individual theft and chase scenes somewhat more interesting, but there's just too many car thefts packed into too little time for any of them to really stand out or be effective.

In fact, according to the AATA, there are on average only 11 cars stolen in Arizona in the time it takes to watch the 50 car thefts that occur in Gone In 60 Seconds. Frankly, I'm pretty sure that watching any of those actual crimes would be much more fun than watching the 50 imaginary ones in the film, so I figure that the AATA's fears about Gone are pretty much unfounded. I mean, even if the film wasn't so boring, the fact that the car thieves are played by Will Patton, Robert Duval, Nicolas Cage and Giovanni Ribisi (three bald men and one bald teenager) pretty much ensures that Gone in 60 Seconds will give to the whole concept of car theft nothing but the heavy veneer of extreme uncoolness.

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