For the past three years, it has been my pleasure to pen these reviews. During that entire time, I’ve only had one hard-and-fast rule in regards to the films I’ve chosen to focus on: no remakes. I’ve purposefully avoided films such as Death Race (2008), and The Thomas Crown Affair (1999), because quite frankly, I resent the fact that Hollywood has run out of ideas to the extent that it is inclined to redo everything. Furthermore, remakes rarely amount to anything more than a crass attempt to cash in on the success of the original.
But what about a film that borrows only a title or a general concept and otherwise bears little resemblance to the original? Does that still count as a remake? I’ll let you decide. But for my money, the year-2000 film Gone in 60 Seconds deserves an appearance in this series alongside the original Gone in 60 Seconds (1974), if for no other reason than the fact it was a big budget, no apologies car movie!
Gone in 60 Seconds was co-produced by Jerry Bruckheimer Films in association with Touchstone Pictures, and was distributed worldwide by Buena Vista Pictures. Dominic Sena of Kalifornia-fame helmed the picture, based on a script by Scott Rosenberg.
Matching the heavyweight production principals was a luminous cast that included Academy Award winners Nicolas Cage, Angelina Jolie, and Robert Duvall. The supporting ensemble consisted of Giovanni Ribisi, Delroy Lindo, Timothy Olyphant, Will Patton, Chi McBride, Christopher Eccleston, and Frances Fisher.
Cage plays Randall “Memphis” Raines, a former car thief who has long-since gone straight. It comes to Memphis’ attention that his estranged younger brother, Kip (Ribisi), has followed in his footsteps, and has recently fallen afoul of the organized crime boss of Long Beach, California, Raymond Calitri (Eccleston).
Calitri, who had enlisted Kip in a botched effort to steal 50 rare, high-end cars, has kidnapped Kip and is threatening to kill him for his failure. Memphis meets with Calitri, and in exchange for his brother’s release, agrees to steal the 50 cars himself within 72 hours.
Facing an impossible task, Memphis enlists the help of his former crew, including an ex-girlfriend, Sara ‘Sway’ Wayland (Jolie). Together, the group of thieves devise a plan to steal the cars, but when they attempt to do so, they arouse the attention of two hardened auto-theft detectives (Lindo and Olyphant). With time running out, and the police hot on their heels, Memphis and his crew must use all of their criminal acumen to get the job done.
If that plot synopsis seems to suggest a largely simplistic narrative, you’d be right, and it’s one of the reasons why the film is so enjoyable. Essentially, Gone in 60 Seconds is a B-movie, a genre film that borrows heavily from countless prior movies that focused on a criminal with a heart of gold, and his attempt to outwit the bad guys. Subplots, cinematic metaphors, and narrative frills are not needed here, as the film is simply intended to be an enjoyable, popcorn movie.
What separates Gone in 60 Seconds from most genre pictures though, is its healthy budget and high-quality filmmaking. The producers definitely put their money on the screen, so to speak, with a slick look and soundtrack, and top-notch production design.
What’s more, the cinematography is gorgeous, the editing seamless, the action sequences are complex and finely executed, and the acting from the stellar cast is superb. Oh, and did I mention that Angelina Jolie’s charisma and sex appeal literally ooze off the screen?
But, for me, what makes Gone in 60 Seconds so thoroughly satisfying are the cars and the chase sequences they take part in.
To say that there is something for everyone here would quite honestly be an understatement. There are literally hundreds of fabulous cars in the movie, ranging from a 1937 Lasalle Touring Sedan to various and sundry Lamborghinis, Porsches, Rolls Royces, and other exotics.
Being a Mopar fan, of special note to me was an immaculate 1971 Plymouth Hemi Cuda, with chrome hood pins and fish gills gleaming in the film lights, and a gorgeous B5 Blue 1970 Plymouth Road Runner Superbird, replete with it’s towering rear aerofoil, black vinyl roof and aerodynamic polyurethane front fascia. Both of them rank high in my personal if-price-were-no-object wish list.
Also satisfying, was to see one of my favorite exotics of the ’90s, an outrageous, silver 1994 Jaguar XJ220, one of only 282 ever produced. At one time, the fastest car on the planet with a top speed of 212 mph, the sleek cat featured then state-of-the-art electronics and features. And, oh, that body work…
Representing the House of the Cavillino Rampante, the film features no less than nine Ferraris, including a few Ferrari F355 Spyders, a 550 Maranello, and several iterations of ’50s and ’60s 250 series cars. Also of special note to me, a gorgeous Rosso Corsa Red 275 GTB 4-Cam and F40, one of my all-time favorite Italian exotics. If you like Ferraris, you’ll have a lot to ogle here.
But there is no doubt as to who the automotive star of the film is. It is “Eleanor”, a Pepper Grey 1967 Ford Mustang fastback, dressed up to resemble a modded Shelby GT500.
Featuring black racing stripes and a custom grille, front and rear-fascia, hood, rockers, and scoops, Eleanor was prepared specifically for the film by Cinema Vehicle Services. Twelve cars were made in total, plus one for the private collection of producer Jerry Bruckheimer. That number included nine shells, and three fully-functional vehicles. Seeing as how Eleanor has become one of the most iconic cars in film history, it is of no surprise that one of the functional cars sold at auction in 2013 for over $1 million.
For me, Gone in 60 Seconds is a near-perfect piece of Hollywood fluff. With an appealing cast, an abundance of awesome cars, and a lack of pretension to be something greater than it is, the movie is a great way for the car nut or movie buff to kill a couple of enjoyable hours. As such, I give Gone in 60 Seconds seven out of ten pistons.
See you next time!