Gone in 60 Seconds: Director’s Cut (2000)

Finally, one of the most exciting and best-edited pieces of cinema of the decade is available for endless repeat viewing, in a special-edition package. Yes, the trailer for Gone in 60 Seconds is on DVD. The movie is included here too, in “unrated director’s cut” form, and it’s pretty entertaining. But the trailer is a masterpiece; heedlessly kinetic, it gets your blood racing. The idea of a trailer trumping the movie it promotes is not new. But the trailer for Gone is a particularly unpretentious distillation of the film’s key elements: a gang of expert car thieves, led by the “retired” Randall ‘Memphis’ Raines (Nicolas Cage), need to steal a lot of cars in a little bit of time. Elaborately choreographed, mayhem-heavy car chases ensue. Much of the trailer’s footage is culled from one long sequence towards the end of the movie, and of course the almost 90 minutes of buildup to that chase isn’t as energetic as the first 30 seconds of the trailer. How could it be?

Still, the movie itself has the slick energy typical of a Jerry Bruckheimer production. Gone in 60 Seconds caps the unofficial trilogy of Cage/Bruckheimer collaborations that started with The Rock (1996) and continued with Con Air (1997). Like the best Bruckheimer action movies, this one is ridiculously well cast. There is no logical reason to mine the rich talents of character actors like Robert Duvall, Delroy Lindo, Timothy Olyphant, and Chi McBride to play cops and robbers, except perhaps to inspire gratitude in discerning audiences, in which case I guess it worked, because I was happy to see all of them.

Cage is a master of the showing-up technique, appearing in action trash and elevating it. You could accuse him of wasting his talent, but Cage seems to understand the Bruckheimer aesthetic, and how to act in it. He knows that conviction is better than self-seriousness, and that acting really weird is better than making limp action-hero wisecracks. Cage is less idiosyncratic here than in, say, Con Air, but he does have the hilarious moment in which he ritually psyches himself up to “Low Rider” before embarking upon his steal-athon.

That steal-athon is extended on this DVD. The director’s cut runs about 10 minutes longer than the original. As far as I can tell, most of the new footage has been added to the first half of the film, which belabors the already-protracted setup. But some of the extra character notes, while ultimately extraneous in a movie like this, add some temporary charm. It’s particularly heartening to see Cage and token old-timer Robert Duvall engage in some playful catch-up: maybe there was a reason to include Duvall, after all.

Despite the friendly movie stars, Gone isn’t a B-list classic like Con Air; it doesn’t retain that film’s winning combination of wit and witlessness. Besides the extra footage, the DVD package is unremarkable; there are the usual behind-the-scenes features heavy on clips from the movie we’ve just watched — during one, Bruckheimer actually says that Cage’s character is “living on the edge.” The most detailed feature is a three-part anatomy of the climactic car chase. The form of this behind-the-scenes glimpse is standard; we see the director and stunt coordinators setting up shots, and discussing some willful implausibilities (police helicopters don’t usually hover a few menacing feet above car thieves). But it does make you appreciate the somewhat epic quality of mounting this set piece, and understand why car chases in the rest of the picture are surprisingly scant.

This unabashed focus on the film’s final half-hour illustrates the filmmakers’ awareness of the movie’s strengths: Cage, in a souped-up classic car, going very fast (we see the actor’s stunt-driving preparation, which explains why he looks so comfortable behind the wheel). Of course, full honesty would require a featurette on how they made that great trailer, too.

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