March 1, 2001

3000 Miles Off The Mark

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Our society has always loved fairy tales; stories that focus on a hero with an enemy who is almost too evil. This hero, however, eventually gets the girl and triumphs despite all odds. Fairy tales have forever been translated to the silver screen — Disney has thrived on such ‘sappy’ tales that manage, despite all their cheesiness, to touch us in the oddest places. In a fairy tale, the world is somehow better and more gratifying.

These days, the modern action film has become our fairy tale, albeit one with a lot more violence. Enter the tired and cliched, 3000 Miles to Graceland, directed by Demian Lichtenstein. Our hero, named only in the movie as Micheal (Kurt Russell), is trying to get himself out of a robbery gone wrong with the loot, 3.2 million dollars in cold hard cash. The heist, led by Murphy (Kevin Costner), takes place in Las Vegas during International Elvis Week. This gives the movie the excuse to dress five guys in Elvis suits while carrying many semi-automatic weapons. I’m not sure if the audience is supposed to find this at all humorous, but I do know that Kevin Costner has definitely seen better days . Murphy and Micheal turn out to have a very uneasy relationship, made all the more uneasy by the fact that Murphy kills his gang in order to keep all the money. He fails to really do away with Micheal, though, who survives and drives away with the cash.

In the meantime, Micheal has met and “dallied” with Cybil Waingrow, played by Courteney Cox. For reasons unbenownst to the audience, Cybil decides to tag along with Micheal, whom she knows to be a violent murderer and a criminal, and in her motherly wisdom brings her young son Jesse along for the ride. While Micheal, Cybil and Jesse make their way from Nevada to Washington, where Micheal plans to get away to Canada, Murphy is never far behind.

Along with numerous so-called plot twists (is it really a twist if it’s expected?), there is also a sub-plot involving Murphy’s claim to be the illegitimate son of Elvis Presley, which apparently explains his fanatical attachment to the King, along with his psyschopathic tendencies. I don’t really blame Costner for his portrayal of Murphy. The movie seems intent on portraying him as a cartoon but then at the end tries to give him emotional depth.

Anyway, there are some good moments in this movie. At one point a Nevada police trooper, who after pulling Murphy over, draws his gun, twirls it around his finger, and stares Murphy down. This is pretty funny, especially considering the fact that being from Nevada, I love seeing it portrayed as the ‘Wild West.’ It would have been pretty cool growing up in the Wild West — you know, the whole lawlessness and guns thing — but nowadays the closest thing to the Wild West in Nevada is the Wild West Casino, located in dowtown Reno. (Cox seems intent also on giving her character a Texas-like twang … does she understand that Nevada is a lot closer to Hollywood than the South?)

Sometimes the movie’s over-the-topness works for it, though. Kurt Russell plays the bad guy with a soft heart pretty well. Other times, such as when Cybil tells Kurt that she knew, “right from the first moment I saw you that I wanted to spend the rest of my life with you,” (choke, gag) the movie’s cheesiness falls completely flat.

See, a fairy tale can only work if the tone in which it is directed is as child-like as its acting and script. Violence in a surreal setting can also work — take Pulp Fiction for example. But Lechtenstein has neither Tarantino’s talent nor artistry, and as for the acting, can I just once and for all ask the cast of “Friends” to please stop making movies already?

If you like pointless violence, enjoy making fun of bad movies, or just have a thing for Elvis, you should watch 3000 Miles to Graceland. Also watch it if you need a break from thinking for a while. I have nothing against action films. They can sometimes be entertaining and funny. Too bad for this movie — it’s neither.

Archived article by Paula Neudorf