When Seth suggested we write about Kevin Costner movies, I thought, “What a great idea!”. I like Kevin Costner. I like a bunch of his movies. One of my dark-secret favorite movies of all time is Revenge. It’s not a great movie, but for some reason it really grabbed me the first time I saw it. A Costner retrospective is a great idea. Then I watched 3000 Miles to Graceland. Now I’m reconsidering my friendship with Seth.
Around the mid 90s through the early 2000s, the influence of John Woo was spreading across American movies. Tarantino’s devotion to the Chinese action director was my gateway into the gun ballets of Woo. Woo himself started making movies in America starting with Hard Target in 1993. Tony Scott did his Woo with the Tarantino-written True Romance (the best Tony Scott film ever), and the pinnacle of Woo inspiration was The Matrix. But for every good movie inspired by the God of Guns, there were scores of terrible, terrible knock offs. I’m looking at you, Boondock Saints. All of this is to say one simple thing, 3000 Miles to Graceland wishes with all of its grubby little heart and soul that it is a John Woo movie. It is not.
I’ve seen this movie before, at least twice. But the only thing I really remembered from it was the Elvis costumes and Ice-T hanging upside down from a rail system while twirling and shooting machine guns. Those two things should be enough to guarantee at least 3 stars in a movie. I was wrong, so very very wrong. The opening credits begin with what looks like two metal CGI scorpions waging a WWE-style battle in the desert intercut with real footage of a red caddy roaring across a two-lane blacktop. One scorpion kills the other, and as the director’s name flashes across the screen (fuck you, Demian Lichtenstein), the scorpion sort of turns real, runs under an animal skeleton and is crushed under the wheel of Kurt Russell’s tire. Everything I just wrote happened in a big budget movie with A-list stars. WHAT AM I WATCHING?!
Russell plays Michael, a recently paroled convict headed to Vegas for a casino theft. He meets Courtney Cox-Arquette at the hotel. She has a kid who might be helping her grift. I don’t know, I don’t care. She seems terrible. Her kid seems terrible. Michael seems terrible. Everyone is the worst. It’s time to meet the team. Surely they’ll be better, cool criminals doing cool shit. Nope. We’re introduced to Costner as Murphy. He has a car load of bros – Christian Slater, Bokeem Woodbine and David Arquette. They are also all terrible. They meet Howie Long’s chopper pilot and gun supplier – he’s doing his best Schwarzenegger impersonation. Everyone dresses up like Elvis because there’s an Elvis convention in town which they’ll use as cover to rob the casino. The robbery itself is one of the most poorly-shot, confusing, shittiest action scenes I’ve ever seen. There’s no sense of space. It’s full of jump cuts and grainy footage and strange shutter stutters, everything is confused and no where close to being as cool as it desperately wants to be. Oh, and Paul Anka shows up as the casino boss? I think? Maybe? He has a mini 14 on the roof and shoots at our “heroes”, then he disappears and is never seen again.
After the heist, there’s a hotel scene where words are exchanged and Christian Slater is shot. They stash the money in the ceiling, drive off to dump the body and Murphy shoots everyone and leaves them in the desert. On his way back to get the money, he hits a coyote in the road, crashes and is knocked out. Meanwhile, Kurt Russell wakes up because he was wearing a bullet proof vest. When he goes to retrieve the money, it’s gone because Courtney Cox and her terrible kid have stolen it. They all go on the run together as a dysfunctional family while being chased by Murphy. Meanwhile, an hour in, we’re introduced to Thomas Hayden Church and Kevin Pollack as U.S. Marshalls. And they drop the info that of the 75 people who claimed to be Elvis’ children, 73 were ruled out by DNA tests. You guys, that means that Murphy and Michael are probably brothers and ELVIS IS THEIR DAD!!!! Seriously, Seth, I thought you were my friend.
For reasons that are either unclear or just so stupid that I’ve let me brain surpress them like an abusive episode, Courtney Cox ends up with the money and Kurt Russell ends up with her kid. There’s some weird family movie bonding, John Lovitz shows up as a money launderer and Costner is hunting for everyone while becoming increasingly violent. However, at this point in the third act there’s a little life in the movie. There is a completely bizarre, old school western shoot out between Murphy and a random Nevada sheriff. The scene is weird and funny. And if the whole movie had managed the tone of this one scene, I’d be writing a very different review. Then there’s a GIANT plot hole that brings Murphy in contact with grifter mom and her grifter kid, and we spend the last part of the movie with Costner doing his A Perfect World roll with the grifter kid. More Howie Long, Ice-T shows up and has a funny scene then does his twirl thing. There’s another shitty shoot out. Terrible Kurt Russell, grifter mom and kid, happily ever after on a boat. Fin.
Do not watch this movie. It will make you question if you ever really liked Kurt Russell. And anything that makes you doubt Big Trouble in Little China or Escape from New York should die in a fire. I’ll get you back, Seth. You won’t know where….or when, but I will have my revenge.
I give this movie one half hip shake.