Though we rarely hesitate to revel in the downfall and marginalization of any formerly important person, there’s something so comically sad about Kevin Costner’s fall from grace that it’s difficult for even us to enjoy. Schadenfreude shouldn’t be this tough.
It’s like your heroic older brother, the one your parents just knew was going to set the world on fire, becoming the graveyard sous-chef at Denny’s. Costner’s star has fallen so far in recent years that it’s almost difficult to remember when he could make a ridiculous pile of hooey like Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves and have everybody in the English-speaking world treat it like an important document.
Nowadays, when Costner makes hooey, it’s treated as such. His latest entry in the genre is 3,000 Miles to Graceland, a film that wants to be hip, edgy and unpredictable just as much as Costner does. Instead, it’s bloated, out-of-touch, humorless and very rarely even worth looking up from your popcorn to examine—sorta like Costner.
But Costner, wearing ferret-pelt sideburns and sneering like a redneck supermodel, is hardly the only problem in this film, which can’t make us laugh and can’t make us care about the cardboard-cutout characters. The picture is loud, jumpy, aggressively stupid and vain—and if it weren’t for a couple of decent gunfights and a riffing Elvis impersonation by Kurt Russell, the film’s two-hour-plus running time would be just about as painful as Elvis’ last bowel movement.
First, there’s Mike (Russell), who gets out of prison just in time to have sex with Courteney Cox in Las Vegas before taking part in a casino robbery with Murphy (Costner), a fellow convict who believes himself to be the illegitimate son of Mr. Presley. With the International Elvis Convention in full swing, they round up a small crew, put on jumpsuits (making them Elvi? Elveses? Elves?) and rob the Riviera with guns stashed in their guitar cases.
Put it this way: The film’s best feature is its title, which is the kind of evocative, unconventional labeling we rarely see these days. Russell also is fairly entertaining, though he’s not tapping any new ground here and most of the good lines go to Costner and others.
There’s absolutely nothing wrong with a movie in which everybody shoots everybody else with guns that never need to be reloaded in settings that grow ever more exotic and beautiful until the final climactic shootout. But if you’re going to step into John Woo’s arena—as 3,000 Miles to Graceland briefly does for the two gunfights that bookend the plot—you’ve got to bring something new to the framework that the Hong Kong master built. Director and co-writer Demian Lichtenstein can’t do it, even when he hangs Ice-T upside-down and swings him through the room, two guns blazing. It’s a nice visual, but it’s not part of a sequence that feels new and inspired.
When Lichtenstein isn’t busy robbing Woo, he’s got his hand in the Panaflex of Oliver Stone, whose handheld camera work and penis-envy plotting are in evidence here. The Elvi turn against each other, of course, and the money changes hands as everybody is slowly eliminated during a road-movie section. I can’t remember the last time Costner played an out-and-out villain (maybe it was that terrible Clint Eastwood movie A Perfect World, though I think he had a heart or something there), and he’s got some possibilities as a baddie—though they quickly fade whenever he tries to act.
Costner’s against-type casting is such a blatant move to kick-start his staggering career that his every leer and witty rejoinder comes off as a desperate flail. There’s also way too much generic romance and touchy-feely crap for a movie marinated in this much testosterone, particularly when Cox’s son Jesse (David Kaye) gets involved. By the time we finally stagger to the climactic shootout, we still have cartoon characters trying to convey real emotions, and it’s still not fun or interesting.
3,000 Miles to Graceland has a certain Saturday-night-and-there’s-nothing-else-on charm to it, but no more so than any Elvis movie you might find on TNT. Stick with the original King—unlike Costner, he figured out when it was time to call it a career.
3,000 Miles to Graceland (R) H 1/2 Directed by Demian Lichtenstein. Starring Kurt Russell, Kevin Costner, Courteney Cox.