Gone in 60 Seconds (2000)
Let's just announce spoilers right now. Partly because the movie is over 20 years old at the time of this writeup, and partly because it's one of the most predictable movies you'll ever see.
Synopsis: Gone in 60 Seconds is a heist movie where the target isn't a casino, or a bank, or some art museum, but instead their goal is to steal an entire cargo ship's worth of high-end cars in a single weekend. We root for the thieves, pursued by the cops hot on the trail and by harried by a ruthless crime syndicate, as they jimmy locks, spark wires, and gas-pedal their way to victory. The heist crew is a rag-tag bunch of misfits, outlaws, and weirdos, led by the cool and capable "Memphis Raines" (played by Nick Cage), a formerly-retired legendary car thief, who has come back into the game for one last job. Will the cops catch them? Will the syndicate show them mercy? Will the wacky hijinks of the quirky side characters threaten the whole operation?
The star of the show is leading screaming expert Nicholas Cage. Cage is at his best when he's spouting off insane gibberish, or making threats to innocent civilians, punching out nuns in a bear costume and hollering about the bees. A master of freaking out. Here however, he is the alpha male of the car-stealing gang, a calm and collected professional with everything to lose. His character, Memphis, is so nonchalant as to be boring. Cage is reduced to acting. He does have a charming scene when his character is introduced in the film, chewing up the scenery as a go-kart track attendant, but for the rest of the movie he can't escape the shallowness of his character. There's also an excellent little scene of Cage pretending to act like a rich, demanding, faux-British 90s so-Cal yuppie at a luxury car dealership. A short and fun bit, then it's back to being a boring cool guy. Overall, the trademarked Cage rage is muzzled here, and as a result the movie is just another speed bump in Cage's career.
(Of course, that's not to say that the movie was financially underwhelming. It was a huge commercial success, and it pushed Cage even higher in the world of Hollywood. But as an example of Nicholas Cage's legendary large ham acting, it wasn't very remarkable.)
The movie was produced by Jerry Bruckheimer, best known for the TV show CSI, and the film actually finished shooting only a few months before production on the first season of CSI began. There are a lot of similarities between the CSI formula and Gone in 60 Seconds: the structure of the movie is basically a police procedural. The hard-nosed detectives with well-meaning banter, the shaken-down informants, the pivotal forensics report that comes in just in the nick of time. Procedural staples such as high-tech gizmos, blue-light stakeouts, and electronic paper trails get as much screen-time as the cars do. There's even the CSI-specific trope of interrupting a working guy while he's carrying stuff in his hands to shake him down for info. It happens twice. Jerry sure loves his formula.
Gone in 60 Seconds is a genre-defining "car crime" movie, delivering a torch that is carried now by the Fast and the Furious series. You can see the genre being built in live action. There's almost an uncanny element to it, how a movie that is mimicked and influential can become generic-feeling by having its identifying pieces repeated in other, better works. Gone in 60 Seconds was a trailblazer for stupid car movies, but in the current year, it looks like an unimaginative ripoff. If you're familiar with Fast and the Furious, Transporter, or Grand Theft Auto, you've seen the concepts of Gone in 60 Seconds in forms that are superior to the original.
The formula is developed here, and rules for the genre are built: the good guys never use guns. There is gunplay in the movie, of course, as a big budget Hollywood action movie it'd be unthinkable not to present the vaunted firearm. But guns are for the police detectives and the crime syndicate, the two forces that push together on our heroes, forces that the characters and the audience are both trying to escape from. One of the professional car "boosters", a member of the heist team, even gives a speech to a would-be carjacker with a gun. After disarming the low-life thief, he shouts, "You don't know the first thing about stealing a car! You need a role model!" Our heroes use better weapons: lockpicks, bleeping gadgets, nitrous oxide, gas pedals, and blunt force.
The other rule of the dumb car movie: most problems can be solved by driving hard and fast. Whenever a member of the heist team gets into a jam, there's always some vehicular-based solution to the problem. It keeps happening. You could probably make some analysis about how the car is subsuming the sense of self in the American identity, how we see a driver as more real and present as a human being than a pedestrian, or how symbols of class and money are becoming symbols for the entirety of a person. That we are most powerful in our cars, so they are our ideal chosen form, most capable of solving our problems. I wonder what symbolic meaning the act of stealing of car would have, then. Anyway, that kind of thinking probably doesn't really belong to a low-IQ popcorn-munching action movie like Gone in 60 Seconds, but it's fun to think about. When the pressure is on, expect to see pedals being stomped, shifters being shifted, wheels burning out, and general admiration of the motor vechicle edited together with fast cuts and techno music. In the Furious series, this genre rule gets upgraded to "every problem can be solved by driving". But here, they resolve the final conflict through the power of friendship, the power of driving, and also the power of punching.
There is "writing" in this movie, and I hate it. The emotional side of the plot is insultingly dumb and contrived. So are the jokes. A lot of the humor is just characters being scripted into saying bizarre things. For example, when a heist member gets a phone call that the police are onto him and he needs to flee the scene, his response is to loudly announce to all the other passersby on the sidewalk that his wife is going into labor. Hold for laughter. There's another scene where a man screams that a snake is going up his butt, which is very funny. It's irrelevant weirdness stuffed into a joke-shaped piece of editing. If you've seen the Michael Bay Transformers movies, you'll know what quality of humor to expect. The writing's best part is probably the characterization of the heist crew: aside from Memphis, they don't get a lot of individual screen time, so they're boiled down to fun, tropey caricatures. Also not a fan of the love interest (Nick Cage has an on-again-off-again relationship with a stolen car), the redemption arc, or the racial humor. They probably didn't need to be here. Neither did Angelina Jolie's big disgusting platinum blonde white girl dreadlocks.
Speaking of generic, I love the soundtrack of this movie. It dates the movie like a fine wine. Or a great big cheese. Hearing Crystal Method's "Busy Child" used unironically over shots of the thieves fleeing their hideout before the cops come, and Apollo 440's "Stop the Rock" during a hot-wiring montage is a perfect example of the obvious, corny use of techno during the 90s and 00s. Its usage is so perfectly on-the-nose that it's actually refreshing in the current year. The only track that seems out of place is DMX's "Party Up in Here", which feels like it was inserted as a cynical Hollywood attempt at demographic appeal. You really have to be wondering what's going through the producers' heads when they decided that rap music, toilet humor, and African tribal masks all belonged in the same scene at the same time.
I would not recommend this movie! It is poorly written, insulting to your intelligence, and all the entertaining parts of it have been stolen, stripped of their serial numbers, and chop-shopped into better films since 2000. A big waste of time, unless you're a complete addict for The Fast and the Furious or you just need more dumb car movies in your life.
The original "Gone in 60 Seconds" (1974) is available in full on Youtube. It doesn't bear too much resemblance to the 2000 film, except for the core concept of needing to steal a large number of cars in a short amount of time. It's mostly filler and setup before leading to a single long chase scene that comprises nearly the entire second half of the movie. There's some exciting driving that relies more on the stunt-driver's skills and practical effects than on CGI -- they really wrecked the cars that star in this movie. You don't see half-destroyed muscle cars ripping around corners like this anymore. In the 2000s movie, the climactic car chase involves a lot of computer effects, in the 1974 version the jump and the chase are all practical, accompanied by real bystanders who came out to see the spectacle. Damage to the cars isn't a theatrical choice, it's the result of filming. I wonder if modern product placement is to blame, car manufacturers not wanting to see their beloved products appearing torn up on screen. Or maybe it's just directors preferring computer graphics and predictable safety over the danger of 70s-era practical stunts.