Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Wishing it was Gone in 60 Seconds

In my continuing series of movie remakes, I got Gone in 60 Seconds from Netflix the other day. The original film was made by stunt car driver turned filmmaker H. B. 'Toby' Halicki in 1974, with over the top producer Jerry Bruckheimer making a remake in 2000.

Posters for Both Films

I was immediate struck by the DIY nature of the original. It's razor thin plot played second, or maybe even third fiddle, to the 30+ minute chase scene featuring Eleanor, a 1973 Ford Mustang Mach 1. At first I found it laughable, but as the film developed, I realized the lack of plot - acting and dialog, too - increased my enjoyment. There was no complicated story to bind up the action.

In spite of it's laughable nature, it's simple and pure. Sure there are lots of over dubbed lines to fill in a loose back story and some cheesy, badly acted scenes to build up the tension, but as an amateur filmmaker, you can learn a lot from Halicki. He was quite economic with his use of space, "sets", locations and personnel - it's honestly quite an achievement.

Toby Halicki stealing Eleanor from the International Towers

On the other hand, Jerry Bruckheimer and Disney spared no expense on their version of the film, weaving in mysterious history topped with life-or-death, winner takes all stakes. Four minutes in you're swimming neck deep in tension and suspense. If you buy that, please email Amazon gift certificates to me. I promise to use that to better the peoples suffering in other countries. THANKS!

As with most of his films, even though he's not the director, he's the auteur and the whole thing wreaks of Bruckheimer-ism's. It's a Jerry Bomb of long pan establishing shots, sweeping music drops to signify scene and locale changes, and telegraphed catch endings all wrapped in an ultra polished wrapper of sharp color and high contrast.

Nick Cage delivering Eleanor to the villainous "Carpenter"

I've never been really impressed with that Coppola boy's acting skills and I'd rather not talk about the freaky daughter of Jon Voight, but honestly they played their parts pretty well in this one. The hook up scene was annoying for it's predictability, but otherwise they actually seemed like real characters.

The rest of the cast was equally well rounded. I really dig Vinnie Jones despite his habitual type-casting. While I think Giovanni Ribisi was wasted in the role, I normally like his work, especially in Boiler Room. There was a nice ensemble cast that played better than the mostly one man show of the original.

This car protected by Tiger Security

Beyond the car stealing, the rest of the story has been utterly played out. I think we've seen the basic story before in about a hundred other movies; Commando comes to mind. Of course you're going it do whatever it takes to help save your family - and that's why it falls flat, it's so predictable. It was novel the first time it happen. Didn't Plato write that story? If only he wrote "get to da choppa" too.

I'm really not sure how I feel about them switching Eleanor from a 1973 Mach 1 to a 1967 GT500. I suppose you could argue that the Shelby GT500 is the holy grail of Mustangs, but why grey and black? Why not the classic white with blue rocker stripes? Regardless, I feel that the grey filmed horribly, looking  fake and plastic the whole time.

Still, there were some nice homage moments. It was almost poetic to have Nick Cage pick up Eleanor at the International Tower in The LBC, the same location Eleanor was picked up in 1974. The heroin/engine revving scene was a loose shoot-for-shoot redux and I loved the use of exotic animals as security guards in both films - the tiger in the original wins hands down.

Toby Halicki makes the jump in Eleanor

The jump scene is absolutely horrible in the remake though. The special effects are sketchy at best and it was just beyond plausibility. Someone please call the Mythbusters. Although the cross dissolve effects in the original look dated - they probably did in 1974 too - the jump looked realistic - because it was real.

Halicki actually jumped Eleanor a reported distance of 128 feet, getting 30 feet off the ground. The footage in the film doesn't look quite that far or high, but who cares? The car jumps, crash lands, looses control, recovers, then jets off leaving the police in the dust. It really happened.

CG effects make Eleanor look like she's flying, I mean jumping

In the end, I call the original Gone In 60 Seconds the definitive car chase film starring Eleanor. If you want bunch of action, a little story, a hint of romance and a few Jerry Bombs, then you should just go watch Pirates of the Caribbean.

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