We gave it a C
Virtually nothing in 3000 Miles to Graceland isn’t a cliché. Shot for shot, line for line, the movie, directed by music video and commercial veteran Demian Lichtenstein from a script he cowrote with Richard Recco, is almost scary in the blithe rhythmic zoom of its confidence, yet there’s an eerie vacuum at its core. What’s novel, or at least distinctive, is the Trojan horse finesse with which it has all been packaged. Thanks to the title and the trailer, we go in thinking that we’re going to see a canny B movie throwaway steeped in the funky peacockery of Elvis worship, and what we get instead, from the moment that the robbers ditch their wigs and their glitter king robes (roughly half an hour in), is the sort of mayhem driven, inspired by a script from Quentin’s bottom drawer potboiler in which it’s hard to know whether to consider the ”snazzy” gunplay a respite from the ”cool” quips or vice versa.
Costner, wearing wraparound shades and sideburns that slither down his face like manta rays, showed a good instinct in wanting to play Murphy, a stone cold killer who dispatches innocent bystanders without a blink. But the role, as conceived, is too limited to let the actor tap any inner craziness. Costner’s mellow narcissism shines right through the character’s psycho edge. Russell, as the honorable loner Michael, who ends up facing off against Murphy, his former partner and prison cellmate, is at his most genial and lightweight, but Courteney Cox, as the lusty single mom who badgers him into letting her and her kid join him on the road, drops her urban neurotic armor and gives her scenes a charge. For the first time, she seems a true movie star.
”3000 Miles to Graceland” tries to look at its performers with the antic affection that Jonathan Demme mustered in ”Something Wild, ” but nothing in the movie is sharp enough — not the dialogue, not the double crosses. More scenes than not end up doused in an Armageddon of splattery gunfire. If I invoke Tarantino, it’s not just because of the cheeky violence factor but because we’re watching a new breed of paradox: the studio version of an indie variation on kinetic studio trash.
Essentially, ”3000 Miles to Graceland” is the Jerry Bruckheimer aesthetic merged with the sun spangled kitsch in the desert cachet of movies like ”El Mariachi” and ”True Romance,” yet nothing in the film can match the crash and burn zigzag bravura of the car chase that climaxed Bruckheimer’s otherwise preposterous ”Gone in 60 Seconds. ” This is a high octane ride that starts to leak gas before it even gets going.