I imagine the long-term outlook for stock in villains must be trending downward. In Gone in Sixty Seconds, our villain is a man named Calitri, who didn't actually have to be a villain. See, he is for some reason committed to have 50 stolen cars shipped off somewhere by a certain deadline, and is behind schedule - by 50 cars - at least partly because of our Hero's younger brother Kip.
Psychologically, this is a great start. But what happens? Calitri only appears a couple times to say intimadating things to make our Hero get the 50 cars for him, and then decides to kill said Hero at the end, due to a technicality. His existence at this stage is only to turn a car chase movie into a more personal shootout in a warehouse movie. Oh, and did I mention his weakness is an affinity for wood?
How do you screw this up? The villain is possibly the most interesting character in the movie in the first act, and then he is utterly forgotten about except for the standard good guy/bad guy routine at the end! The problem is it really is a car thief movie. Your villain can't be there obstructing your immediate objective because it's his objective too. Instead, they push the obstruction off to the cops, led by the ultimately sympathetic Delroy Lindo, as Detective Castlebeck.
For purposes of keeping the images of our car-stealing-crew as completely bad-ass as possible, Castlebeck and his forgettable partner are always just a step behind. They're just there to keep the pressure up, not be an actual factor.
Even more useless is a rival set of car thieves who show up now and then for purposes of intimidation when the other "threats" are taking five.
Okay, so if the baddies in this flick are so bad, what about the Hero? That role is played by the journeyman earnest, but tough Nicolas Cage. His name this time is Memphis Raines - somebody must have said "people named after places always sound cool". Cage isn't much different than he is in most movies, which isn't so much to the detriment of the movie, just that there's one more thing predictable about what we see and hear.
Memphis has gone legit and is only returning to crime to save his little brother, who wasn't supposed to follow in his footsteps, but did. He assembles a ragtag team of mostly experienced "boosters" to help out.
A young, supposedly knowledgable character actually uses the word "mainframe"... Could the Los Angeles DMV still be on such antiquated equipment that such a label still applies? Maybe, maybe, but somehow the line comes off as mumbo jumbo a scriptwriter thought sounded good enough to pass.
The moment-to-moment pacing of the film is well constructed, the buildup of tension carefully executed. The problem is that the film is so well constructed, it feels calculated. There's almost always a couple different layers of threat going on. It's just trying too hard - even a lot of the funny stuff is used to carry the plot along. The part of about dog excrement would have been just fine if they hadn't gone so far as to have it save characters from actual injury or death.
Jerry Bruckheimer has a fairly high profile for a producer, and all his films have a certain developed regard for pacing and the craft of filmmaking. But as yet I cannot come up with a single film of his I genuinely liked. His films are calculated to make money, appealing broadly, but suffer from a lack of artistic value or any feeling that what happened ever really mattered.
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