3000 Miles to Graceland (review)

Blue Suede Boos

If there is anything good or — as some people believe — holy about the icon that Elvis Presley has become, then 3000 Miles to Graceland does not deceive in its title: this sadistic, ridiculously brutal movie is far, far removed from any ideal that the King of Rock ‘n’ Roll represents. If Elvis were dead, he’d be rolling in his grave, knowing that this, a new depth in filmmaking atrocity, was perpetuated in his name.

Not content to create a merely mindless piece of action fluff that would have gone straight to video were it not for its name-brand stars, director Demian Lichtenstein instead chose to give unholy birth to an actively antisocial movie, one that sorely tempts even a left-leaning libertarian like myself to call for a good old-fashioned film-burning. So much more than a complete waste of celluloid, 3000 Miles is an affront to the rules of natural and manmade law that keep our society running relatively smoothly.
It’s not just that the story and characters are inconsistent, illogical, and disjointed. Many films suffer from these flaws, and still manage merely to bewilder. But Lichtenstein — who cowrote the film with Richard Recco — confuses the audience with apparent malice aforethought. When Kurt Russell (Soldier, Breakdown), get-up as Elvis and driving a classic Caddy through the desert, pulls into the Last Chance gas station, apparently in the middle of nowhere, as the film opens, we have no idea who he is or where he is headed. When Kevin Costner (Thirteen Days, Message in a Bottle), similarly attired, stops by shortly after, we are left wondering for far too long whether this meeting between (we learn) former prison buddies is sheer coincidence. And when Kurt joins Kevin and his posse — Christian Slater (The Contender, Very Bad Things), David Arquette (Ravenous), and Bokeem Woodbine as the token black guy — and they all drive away, leaving Kurt’s beloved car behind, we are left shaking our heads and saying What the hell…? For Kurt had been making such a fuss over the car just moments before, and here he is leaving it, apparently, to the wolves, or at least at the mercy of young hooligan Jesse (David Kaye).

What makes all this so merciless is that it’s not until much later that Lichtenstein reveals to us that the Last Chance is also a motel, and that the Elvi would be returning to use it as a hideout in the aftermath of a crime. But why withhold such information? There’s no reason whatsoever, except to taunt the hapless moviegoer with the director’s power to withhold information.

It’s not just that the action sequences are absurdly overblown and senseless. Kevin and Kurt’s heist of a casino is as unlikely and ill-conceived a crime as you’ll see on film: Kurt spray paints the security camera in the elevator in which he’s doing something the importance of which we never grasp, but Kevin does not similarly disable the camera in the vault in which he is gathering the money. And the Elvis costumes, supposedly meant to camouflage them, as the casino is hosting an Elvis impersonators’ convention, does no such thing — the automatic weapons make them instantly recognizable to casino security and local cops. No, it’s the action choreography — which instantly reveals that the director’s experience is pretty much limited to music videos — that is so calculatedly awful. Much slow motion and fancy camera tricks are put to work in an effort to remove all context for anything that is happening. No action-film director should ever be allowed to view The Matrix ever again. And for the record, having a character say, “I can’t fucking believe this,” is not a justification for wild, improbable coincidence.

It’s not just that the people populating this story are base, despicable excuses for human beings… it’s that they’re so damn stupid to boot. Ever woman in this film is a fuck bunny with no more than half a brain — one asks Kevin if it “hurt” when he killed her boyfriend, just before she gives the murderer a blow job; another trusts her son to Kurt, of whom she knows nothing other than he’s an ex-con who just pulled off a violent felony that left many innocent bystanders dead, as if their energetic fuck five minutes after they met were the basis for any kind of dependability.

But the absolute worse moment of 3000 Miles to Graceland comes at the very end, as if the film were building to a pinnacle of ignominy. Not only are we meant to cheer on Kevin Costner’s unironic, played-straight psychopathic massacre of countless anonymous law-enforcement officers (on top of the many anonymous cops he killed in cold blood during the casino heist), but we are forced to watch two federal marshals (Thomas Haden Church: George of the Jungle, and Kevin Pollak: The Wedding Planner, The Whole Nine Yards) who have just witnessed the mowing down of their colleagues, commence to idolize this cruel and deliberate killer, as if he were Robin Hood or something. Disgusting.

This is so relentlessly wrongheaded and downright ugly a movie that you want to call The Hague and demand an international tribunal be formed to investigate possible crimes against humanity. At the very least, I wanted a shower to get the slimy feel of it off me.

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