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[whitespace] Kevin Costner Rhinestone Con Man: Kevin Costner leads a group of crooks impersonating Elvis impersonators who rob a Vegas casino.

Bad Gamble

'3,000 Miles to Graceland' offers a weak impersonation of a Vegas heist movie

By Richard von Busack

THE PREVIEWS promise a Vegas kind of movie: 3,000 Miles to Graceland is more like Laughlin. It's a heist picture done from a script that's a sixth generation Xerox of a Tarantino premise. In Las Vegas, a gang disguised as Elvis impersonators robs the Riviera Casino, planning to take the money to a launderer in Idaho. (Do casinos mark their bills?) Eventually, the gang is double-crossed, and the money is fought over for by the good-bad Michael (Kurt Russell) and his former cell mate, the bad-bad Murphy (Kevin Costner). The two are further involved through a single mom named Cybil (the undernourished Courteney Cox, from Friends) whose would-be outlaw kid, Jesse (David Kaye), is named after Jesse James. As always, there's a good deal of bonding between the kid and our heroes. I'd imagine the key audience for a candy-assed R-rated actioner like this would be 18-to-24-year-old males--why would they want a little brother tagging along?

When an ex-MTV director--and God, director Demian Lichtenstein surely is one--quotes a famous movie in a video, it's a tribute. When he constructs an entire movie out of quotes from better films, it's parroting. Watching 3000 Miles to Graceland is like having a little critic in your head saying, "OK, here's the Peckinpah, here's the Russ Meyer scene, here's the Oliver Stone, here's the Apocalypse Now helicopter, here's the John Woo, and here's the obligatory close-up of one of those Martin Scorsese discarded cigarette butts." As the Duchy of Lichtenstein is to the nations of the world, so is Demian Lichtenstein to the world of filmmakers. Except for a tiny dose of the neon, most of the movie takes place in the overcast and wet mountains--it's another gray Canadian movie. (The cheap photography is by a previous offender, David Franco of The Whole Nine Yards. ) And you'd have to be on as many drugs as Elvis was to believe the coincidences in the script, the characterization, the motivation.

It's a long wait until the Soderbergh remake of Ocean's 11 . . . the robbery scene in 3000 Miles to Graceland is not going to go down in movie history; it's about one level above a smash-and-grab burglary and it ends by blasting every cop and guard in sight (including a midget dressed like Elvis--eat lead, midget!). Maybe the meanest thing in this stupidly violent and staggeringly cheap movie are the post-mod jokes about Elvis: the villain's demise on the floor next to the crapper--in honor of the King's ignoble demise--and all the actors trying to keep up some menace in their rhinestone-covered jumpsuits with their Captain Marvel capes. Kevin Costner's career decline isn't going to be slowed by his performance as a psycho in a naugahyde outfit. But even the most dreadful Elvis impersonator has more class than this time-waster.

3,000 Miles to Graceland (R: 120 min.), directed by Demian Lichtenstein, written by Richard Recco and Demian Lichtenstein, photographed by David Franco and starring Kevin Costner, Kurt Russell and Courteney Cox, plays at selected theaters valleywide.

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From the March 1-7, 2001 issue of Metro, Silicon Valley's Weekly Newspaper.

Copyright © 2001 Metro Publishing Inc. Metroactive is affiliated with the Boulevards Network.

For more information about the San Jose/Silicon Valley area, visit sanjose.com.

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