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3000 Miles to Graceland

  down to earth
Kurt Russell and Kevin Costner share a quiet moment before their careers swirl down the crapper.

© 2001 Warner Bros
All Rights Reserved

If ever you stumble into a video store or local movie theater, and you come across a film directed by a man named Demian Lichtenstein, run the opposite way.

Scraping the very bottom of the creative barrel, "3000 Miles to Graceland" (IMDb listing) is — to put it candidly — the worst American motion picture to come along in the last decade. A trashy, faux-stylish actioner with a lump of coal in its heart and a peanut for a brain, "Graceland" just isn't worth the attempt. It's a disgusting buffet of egotistical actors, a director without any trace of capability, and a script that would've been considered dated back in 1995.

The story — if the word story here means "the stuff we put between the gunfire" — features Kevin Costner and Kurt Russell as two ex-cons who mastermind a Las Vegas casino robbery during an Elvis impersonator convention. The heist goes off clean, but Murphy (Costner) kills the team and runs off with most of the money. Michael (Russell) is left for dead, but survives with the help of a bulletproof vest. Soon taking up with a single mom (Courteney Cox) and her emotionally damaged son, Jesse (David Kaye), who want in on the loot, Michael tries to find a way to launder the cash and get out of the country. On a race to get to Canada before the law catches up with them, both Murphy and Michael cross paths and dollar amounts several times before meeting up in an abandoned warehouse to settle the score.

With the punishing egos of Costner and Russell on display, one could forgive Lichtenstein for his visual sins. A former video director who just doesn't seem to understand how movies function, Lichtenstein is hell-bent on lavishing "Graceland" with the kind of nauseating millennium polish that only people in Southern California could find the least bit pleasing. Giving his studio debut all the aesthetics of a Limp Bizkit video, "Graceland" is pathetic in its attempts to come off "cool." With smoky backgrounds, an assortment of different film stocks and speeds, and a steady diet of John Woo films for inspiration, "Graceland" is a heinous reminder just how wrong a film can get. I've seen oodles of bad films in my life, but rare is the film that runs out of inspiration before the opening credits even end. Lichtenstein is a hack. There's no other way to describe it. His DGA card should be burned along with the guy (maybe one of the 11 producers?) who thought two flatulence gags would be good ideas for this alleged "adult" motion picture.

For the action sequences, I'm sure Lichtenstein enrolled in the Michael Bay school of nonsense directing. The set pieces are claustrophobic, increasing with stupidity, and scored to the latest assortment of nameless heavy metal singles. It's fodder for the professional wrestling crowd, pornography for the impotent. "Graceland" is made for the audience that cannot be bothered with story or performance.

It's impossible to take "Graceland" seriously, and to make things worse, I think the movie hopes that you will take it seriously. How else can you explain a subplot with Michael acting like a father figure to the young Jesse? How am I supposed to absorb such drama after Ice-T straps himself by rope to the top of a warehouse and spins like a top with guns blazing, killing everything in his path? You can't be "The Killer" and "Father Knows Best" at the same time. Lichtenstein needs to go back to his Jay-Z videos where the minimal amount of storytelling is involved. He has no place in features.

There must have been something really amazing to attract Costner, Russell, Cox, Christian Slater, David Arquette, Ice-T, Kevin Pollak, Thomas Haden Church, and Howie Long to this stinker, because it certainly wasn't the script. A mismash of F words, Tarantino-inspired dialog, unabashed misogyny, and half-baked drama, the script (co-written by Lichtenstein no less!) could've used a page one rewrite, this time deciding right away what tone to take and not stumbling around in the dark for it when all the resources fail.

For Kurt Russell, this marks his second failed attempt at a shoot-'em-up success ("Soldier" was the first). He's a warm, genial actor who continually wastes his time and effort on macho flicks. For the rest of the cast, I hope the money was worth it. Your careers will never be the same.

"3000 Miles to Graceland" thunders into theaters with all the subtlety of a Bowie knife in the thigh. That sound you hear is the King himself spinning in his grave over the use of his music and image in such a wretched and mean film. Being only February, it might seem premature to place a lock on the worst picture of 2001, but if it gets any more lowly than this awful incubus, we are in for quite a discouraging year.

Filmfodder Grade: F

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