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3000 MILES TO GRACELAND

by: James Berardinelli

You know you're in trouble when a movie has more Elvis impersonators than it has brain cells. You know you're in trouble when you're looking at your watch before the opening credits have finished. And you really know you're in trouble when the best performance is turned in by none other than Howie Long, that noted NFL pre-game show anchor guy and Radio Shack pitch-man. (I kept looking for either Terry Bradshaw or Teri Hatcher, but didn't see either of them.) Some movies are bad; 3000 Miles To Graceland is excruciating. It should be banned from theaters on the grounds that anyone unwittingly seeing it is being subjected to cruel and unusual punishment.

As the end credits for 3000 Miles To Graceland rolled, I stalked from the theater, muttering all sorts of unprintable things under my breath. Someone, perhaps unaware of my disposition at the moment, politely asked what I thought of the film. My rather terse response was: "I hated that movie. I despised that movie. I loathed that movie." (At that point, in my exasperation, I ran out of synonyms.) If I wasn't afflicted with an obsessive/compulsive disorder about watching an entire movie before reviewing it (hey, I went back to see Battlefield Earth after a power failure cut short my first opportunity), I would have walked out on this one. Then I could have spent the rest of the evening doing something more enjoyable - like scrubbing the toilets or grouting the shower.

So, this is what Kevin Costner's career has come to. Once one of the hottest talents in Hollywood, he has now been reduced to dressing up as Elvis and doing his best to exude an aura of menace. It's kind of like Costner trying to imitate Dennis Hopper trying to imitate Elvis. I'm not sure who told Dances With Wolves he could play a villain. It's something he has never tried before, and hopefully won't attempt again. Instead of ranting and raving (which might have injected a little energy into this lethargic production), he internalizes everything (that's a nice way of saying he shows little evidence of a personality). Rather than snarling, he mumbles. Costner's career hasn't been in high gear lately, but this is easily the worst film he has ever made. Next to this, Revenge is a masterpiece of subtlety and tension, Malibu Hot Summer (also known as Sizzle Beach, U.S.A.) is a portrait of dramatic restraint, and The Postman is a grand epic. Maybe the reason Costner is dressed up as Elvis is because he hopes no one will recognize him. In fact, that would explain why just about everyone in this movie is dressed as Elvis.

Some time during post-production, it was rumored that the producers asked both Costner and co-star Kurt Russell to assemble their own cuts of the movie. According to the story, Costner's more action-oriented version was chosen over Russell's character-based one. Of course, this leads to an obvious question: if we got the better cut, what did the other one look like? Actually, the movie shouldn't have been cut, it should have been burned.

3000 Miles To Graceland starts out as an unimaginative caper movie, then turns into an inert road picture. (Note: the road picture is not my favorite genre. Unless the characters are brilliantly defined and consistently engaging, things turns into an exercise in repetitive tedium. This movie is an extreme example of how awful the situation can get.) The basic premise has a bunch of Elvis impersonators, led by tough-guy Murph (Costner) and the much nicer Mike (Kurt Russell), robbing a Vegas casino. There are other Elvises with them (including one played by Christian Slater and another by David Arquette), but they don't last long enough to be worth more than a cursory mention. Plus, there's a tough-guy sidekick named Jack (Long), who doesn't do the Elvis thing. He sticks around a little longer. Eventually, Murph double-crosses Mi

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