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Saturday, September 20, 2014 |  Madison, WI: 66.0° F  Fair
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Gone in 60 Seconds
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I turned on the TV the other day and caught one of those real-life, high-speed car chases that the Los Angeles Police Department has been kind enough to share with the viewing public. A guy on a motorcycle was being pursued by a helicopter, and he obviously had no intention of being taken alive, reaching speeds in excess of 120 miles per hour before finally slamming into the side of a bus. (Even then, his body reduced to a pile of broken bones, he tried to resist arrest.) Cinematically, this should have been a bore--one long, continuous shot of a motorcycle racing down the highway. But the guy was going so damn fast, weaving in and out of traffic, that my eyes were riveted to the screen. When, I wonder, was the last time a car chase in a movie did that?

Not during Gone in 60 Seconds, producer Jerry Bruckheimer's joy ride through the world of grand theft auto. Awash in auto-eroticism, Gone in 60 Seconds has everything you'd want in a car-chase movie except a good car chase. Director Dominic Sena, who, like most of Bruckheimer's hired hands, comes to us from music videos and TV commercials, may not be the right person to have behind the wheel. Sena's heart beats in the chaotic rhythms of MTV, which aren't exactly conducive to the elegant space-and-time manipulations required for a car chase. In fact, it's beginning to look like the '60s and '70s, when cameras could finally keep up with cars but didn't try to lap them, will go down in movie history as the Golden Age of Hot Wheels.

Bullitt, The French Connection, even "The Dukes of Hazzard"--Gone in 60 Seconds is still in training wheels compared to those sleek roadsters. But on its own terms--terms set by other Bruckheimer films like The Rock, Con Air and Armageddon--it knows how to entertain. You simply take things over the top and then just keep on going. Consider the movie's premise: Nicolas Cage's Memphis has to steal 50 cars in one night to keep his kid brother (Giovanni Ribisi) alive. It sounds like Regis Philbin's next game show, but it's just enough of a goose to keep things hopping. And though Scott Rosenberg's script paints in broad, bold strokes, like a comic book, the movie wears its preposterousness well. It's not a Ford trying to be a Mercedes, it's a Ford trying to ram a Mercedes.

Though the characters aren't fleshed out, I would argue that they're the heart of the movie--i.e., what keeps it pumping. As Memphis' once-and-future girlfriend, Angelina Jolie isn't given much to do other than look in the rear-view mirror and say, "We got company," but she's always a welcome presence. And Robert Duvall proves he was born to play a grease monkey. Still, it's some of the lesser-known actors--Chi McBride, TJ Cross and Timothy Olyphant--who serve as the movie's spark plugs (when their voices aren't drowned out by the soundtrack's industrial sludge). Bruckheimer won't win any Oscars next year, but he's put together a good, solid piece of summer entertainment that, after you've left the theater, will be gone from your brain in 60 seconds.

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