director/writer: Demian Lichtenstein; screenwriter: Richard Recco; cinematographer: David Franco; editor: Michael Duthie; cast: Kevin Costner (Murphy), Kurt Russell (Michael), Courteney Cox (Cybil), Kevin Pollak (Marshall Damitry), Christian Slater (Hanson), Howie Long (Jack), David Arquette (Gus), Bokeem Woodbine (Franklin), Thomas Haden Church (Marshall Quigley), Jon Lovitz (Peterson), David Kaye (Jesse Waingrow), Paul Anka (Head Security Guard); Runtime: 120; Warner Bros.; 2001)

“You can’t make stuff like this up.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

This is a poorly directed and scripted derivative casino heist movie, shamelessly stealing jokes, plot situations and shootout scenarios from many other such films including “Ocean’s 11,” “Honeymoon in Vegas,” “The Limey,” and “Reindeer Games.” All the main characters are unappealing.

A gang meets in a desolate town outside of Las Vegas, planning to rob the Riviera Hotel casino. They are all dressed as Elvis impersonators. They arrive during an International Convention of Elvis lookalikes. Michael (Kurt Russell), just released from prison, is the first there, arriving in his 1959 red Cadillac convertible. A young kid, Jesse (David Kaye), living in a rundown motel, robs his hubcaps. Michael gets his sexy mother, Cybil (Courteney Cox), to return the stolen goods and before the opening credits are completed, they’re in her motel room making the bed-springs creak by bouncing up and down on the bed.

Soon another car of Elvis impersonators arrives with the gang’s psycho leader, ex-con Murphy (Costner), sporting some mean looking white trash, mutton-chop sideburns, and looking like the King did when he was loaded up on drugs. Murphy is a cartoonish character who has not only fallen in love with his image as the King, but believes he is his illegitimate son. The other gang members are Hanson (Christian Slater), Gus (David Arquette) and Franklin (Bokeem Woodbine), all attired in wigs and beaded flamboyant jump-suit Elvis costumes. It’s a sight that is meant to excite the faithful and help them fit into the Vegas scene.

The elaborate casino robbery, featuring slo-mo mayhem, which becomes the heart of the film, was gratuitously violent. The King’s music played throughout, performed by an Elvis impersonator on stage, even while the bloody machine-gun robbery was in progress and dozens of security cops were being shot from all angles.

When the gang escapes a conflict arises over how to split-up the over three million dollars, which is settled by gunplay. The remainder of the film turns into a road movie, with Murphy chasing after the dough Michael and Cybil took from him. The conniving Cybil has fallen for him and wants to live happily ever after like a normal nuclear family. They travel across Nevada and Idaho (where money launderer Jon Lovitz makes a deal he wishes he didn’t). It all comes down to a bloody conclusion in Seattle. There are two Federal marshalls (Thomas Haden Church and Kevin Pollak) in on the chase who also contribute lame jokes. Even the head of casino security (Paul Anka) has a lame joke about what’s the fuss about Elvis, since he’s been dead for ages. The only lame joke that made me laugh was when one gang member asked, “What’s the advantage of dating a homeless woman?” The answer is, “You can drop her off anywhere.”

One of the cynical FBI men wisecracks, after learning about Murphy’s rap sheet, “you can’t make stuff like this up.” Unfortunately the screenwriters Lichtenstein and Recco did.