3000 Miles to Graceland
review by Joe Barlow, 2 March 2001

Elvis is dead, and it would be damned kind of us to leave him that way -- especially when the vehicle for his return to the public eye is an uninspired façade of a narrative like this.  Demian Lichtenstein’s 3000 Miles to Graceland is the latest cinematic offering to rape our collective past, cheerfully exploiting American nostalgia and pillaging the icons of an earlier, less jaded generation.  There’s nothing wrong with satirizing our heritage when it’s done well -- just take a look at the brilliant Pleasantville, for instance -- but this film feels less like homage than a cheap attempt to make whores from our cultural icons for a quick buck.  May that be all this film earns at the box office.

The story centers around a group of hard-nosed thieves who rob a casino while dressed as a gaggle of Elvis impersonators.  All the film’s main characters are lifted wholesale from the Hollywood Book of Requisite Action-Movie Stereotypes, including the gang’s two ringleaders (Kurt Russell and Kevin Costner), whose inability to agree on the best way to divvy up the loot results in one stale argument scene after another; a shallow single mother (played with no stretch whatsoever by Courtney Cox, whose performance here equals the dramatic range she displayed in Bruce Springsteen’s “Dancing in the Dark” music video); and an army of ever-expendable secondary characters, who exist here only to bring some name recognition to the project  (Ice T?  In an Elvis movie?  Well, thank yuh.  Thank yuh very much.).

The film’s trailer would have you believe that the majority of the tale revolves around the planning and execution of the robbery, but don’t be fooled -- the meat of the story centers more on the aftermath of the heist than the crime itself, which is over and done with in the opening five minutes.  Unfortunately, the first warning signs of the movie’s dearth of quality are apparent before this bullet ballet is over.  Lichtenstein, attempting to disguise the film’s disastrously uneven editing, takes every opportunity to flaunt his music video roots at us -- the two gunfights which bookend the movie are constructed with quick jump cuts and needlessly “flashy” camera shots that would be far more at home on MTV than in a film aspiring to tell a coherent story.  The poor filmmaker, helming his second feature film with 3000 Miles, doesn’t yet seem to have a grasp on good narrative storytelling technique, choosing instead to obfuscate the plot behind stylistic editing and underwhelming camera moves that add nothing but length to the final film.

But as tedious as the opening bloodbath is, things only get worse after our merry band of nitwits hits the highway.  As you might expect, 3000 Miles to Graceland is, in fact, a road movie about a trip to… Canada?  Yes, you read that correctly.  Canada.  But despite the fact that Graceland plays no part in the film itself, its spirit does sort of hover over the movie -- a sad, disheveled icon that once had meaning, but now rots away like so many peanut butter and ‘nana sandwiches left out in the rain.  (Rather like Presley himself, in the hands of this movie.  It’s sad that Elvis, arguably the first true Sugar Daddy of rock and roll -- and I’m talking lots of sugar, swee’pea -- has been forced to “pseudo-star” posthumously in this banal tale of crime, guns, and Elvis impersonators, which serves less as a cohesive narrative than a barometer of pain.  This is not the first film to ever feature Elvis impersonators as an integral part of the plot, but it’s unquestionably the worst).

The cast is populated by a group of Hollywood A-list actors, all of whom should have known better.  Kurt Russell and Kevin Costner get the king’s share (no pun intended) of screen time, and therefore deserve the complete career derailments that are likely to occur after John P. Consumer gets an eyeful of this garbage.  This is particularly disappointing -- and surprising -- since Russell drew critical accolades for his performance of Elvis in John Carpenter’s 1979 TV miniseries; as such, it’s lamentable that he comes across so ham-fisted this time around -- not so much incompetent as begging for attention.

And sadly, Kevin Costner proves that the dramatic rebound I thought I’d glimpsed in the recent Thirteen Days is nothing more than a passing fluke.  In 3000 Miles, Costner’s performance as Dances with Whoppers (his character is actually named Murphy, but admit it, you like my idea better) comes across not so much as an effective villain but a reluctant actor; I’ve heard of phoning in a role before, but Costner here doesn’t even seem to have the coins needed to place the call.  With starring roles in such recent cinematic disasters as Waterworld and The Postman under his belt, Kevin Costner proves one thing in 3000 Miles From Graceland: he has the worst agent in the known universe.

So, is there anything positive I can say about this film?  (Joe thinks very, very hard.)  Well, I guess the cars were kinda cool.  And I suppose that there are moments in 3000 Miles From Graceland that manage to capture the gritty excitement of being out on the road, with the dust flying up around your car while the approved soundtrack of rebellion -- rock and roll -- explodes from your speakers.  But with this material’s painfully inept handling, it might have been better if the film had choked on that dust instead of cruising into theaters.

Directed by:
Demian Lichtenstein

Kurt Russell
Kevin Costner
David Arquette
Ice T
Courtney Cox

Written by:
Richard Recco 
Demian Lichtenstein

R - Restricted
Under 17 requires
parent or adult








www.nitrateonline.com  Copyright © 1996-2005 by Nitrate Productions, Inc. All Rights Reserved.