(director: Dominic Sena; screenwriter: Scott Rosenberg; cinematographer: Paul Cameron; editors: Tom Muldoon/Chris Lebenzon; cast: Nicolas Cage (Memphis Raines), Giovanni Ribisi (Kip Raines), Angelina Jolie (Sara Wayland), TJ Cross (Mirror Man), William Lee Scott (Toby), Scott Caan (Tumbler), James Duval (Freb), Will Patton (Atley Jackson), Delroy Lindo (Detective Roland Castlebeck), Robert Duvall (Otto Halliwell), Christopher Eccleston (Raymond Calitri), Chi McBride (Donny Astricky), Timothy Olyphant (Detective Drycoff), Grace Zabriskie (Helen Raines), Master P (Johnny B.); Runtime: 119; Touchstone Pictures; 2000)

“I should have been so lucky to have been gone from the theater in 60 seconds…”

Review by Dennis Schwartz

It’s hard to get lower in moral decrepitude than this Nicolas Cage version of a car booster film. This was not only a bad film but a particularly annoying one. This is a Jerry Bruckheimer production, which has come to stand for mediocrity in artistic value. But it should do well in the box office, which will probably mirror how this film does; though, it is a little poorer artistically speaking than his other mediocre films — as if that will supposedly matter to its target audience.

To make up for not coming prepared with a script that made sense, a stellar cast was hired but then was asked to do nothing. Instead some gorgeous vintage cars were put on display and each was given a girl’s name. Everything about the story was kept hyper as mindless violence won out over gratuitous sex, to become the major selling point. Though, the real star of the film is the 1967 Shelby GT Mustang, shown in the climactic car chase scene with Cage outracing the police in his stolen Mustang by speeding through the downtown streets and freeway in Los Angeles.

The action begins right from the opening credits. A Porsche is stolen out of a car showroom in Southern California and the police follow the speeding car right to its point of destination, a garage where there are a number of other high-end cars stolen waiting to be shipped to its new illegitimate owner in a matter of days. Nicolas Cage stars as Randall “Memphis” Raines, once the best “booster” in the world but now retired. What brings him back into the car theft business, is that his arrogant younger brother Kip (Giovanni Ribisi) fouls up the delivery dates for the stolen cars. The cops impound all the cars they find at the garage he led them to, after the chase. The malicious crime boss Raymond Calitri (Christopher Eccleston) tells Memphis, in order to save Kip’s ass from being expunged from the human race he must steal the specific list of 50 high-scaled rare cars Ray promised his client he was to deliver to him in four days. It is incredulous that Memphis falls for such an offer from such an untrustworthy mobster, especially since there were so many other options to take that were less risky and not the least of the options would be getting a lawyer and copping a plea bargain deal for his brother with the district attorney.

But Cage accepts this ludicrous challenge to save his brother by stealing these cars and returns home to Long Beach to tell his long-suffering mother, that he has to renege on his promise to her to never go back to stealing cars because this is the only way he can save Kip. He then goes to his old pal Robert Duvall, who runs a vintage body shop. Duvall was once part of Cage’s car ring, and he helps Cage put together the crew he needs to pull off the heist.

Cage also must avoid a detective (Delroy Lindo) who knows he has something to do with those cars stolen through his informants and puts him under surveillance. The thrill of the film now becomes in watching the crew selected, which includes Angelina Jolie, Chi McBride, James Duval, and Scott Caan, none of whom are in the least bit interesting or funny. Jolie seems to disappear for most of the film, only to reappear much later and mumble a few inconsequential lines. The enlisted crew give their reason for not joining Cage’s caper, saying they are clean now or some jump head-first into this project; but, whatever, they all eventually join in this stupid venture. No one seems to be concerned that they are doing something that is criminal.

There’s also a car thief rival of Cage’s played by Master P, I think he’s a rapper when he’s not in high-class films like this one. He gets into a feud with Cage, believing that Cage got the contract from Ray that was meant for him.

There’s basically no story or dialogue, the action is all packaged like commercials are with gloss and trick shots, colored filters, fast-paced editing, and all the other tricks of the trade the directors for Jerry Bruckheimer use to sell the action sequences. Everything about this film seemed ridiculous. Its storyline logic could be taken apart at any point of the film. But the ending, after the car chase, was what finally got my craw. The moral bankruptcy it presented, that Lindo would just let Cage and his crew off the hook for all the thefts was too much to comprehend. It was so weak to hear Lindo say to Cage, “Well, you saved my life, and I guess it was a brotherly thing you did for your brother, so I’m going to let you go, now get out of here before I change my mind.” If I had my wish, Lindo should go to jail for failing to do his job. The director should go to work in Duvall’s body shop and never direct another film. And, this senseless macho film should die a slow death at the box office, so films like this would become extinct. I should be so lucky… !

REVIEWED ON 6/17/2000 GRADE: D   https://dennisschwartzreviews.com/