Home Video Hovel- Gone in 60 Seconds, by Sarah Brinks
Admittedly I am not the ideal audience for Gone in 60 Seconds. I am not interested in cars beyond their ability to get me from one place to the next and I am not a big fan of 1970’s cinema but I am open minded. I had seen the 2000 remake of Gone in 60 Seconds starring the man, the myth, the bankrupt Nicholas Cage. I thought it was a fun movie with a lot of beautiful cars and cool stunts. The original Gone in 60 Seconds also has a lot of beautiful cars and cool stunts but seriously lacks the ‘fun’ element. It also seriously lacks any sort of character development or stakes, so the movie leaves you with lack luster visuals and extended driving scenes.
It is difficult to know what is really happening in the film because all the exposition is delivered in poorly recorded voice over. From what I could figure out: Maindrian Pace (played by director and star H.B. Halicki) and his gang run a chop shop using his job as an insurance agent as a cover. They make a deal with some Argentinians who own a sea plan to steal forty-eight cars for them in one weekend. The plot of the film is pretty basic, but because there are no stakes set up you never really care if they succeed or fail. You also never know anything about any of the characters, so you don’t understand anyone’s motivations. In the remake they set it up that Cage’s brother has a couple days to get these cars because he owes that films’ versions of the Argentinians, or they will kill him. They also give each of the gang members a personality and motivation. In the original you know they are motivated by money but that is really it. One of the gang calls the cops and rats out Pace which leads to the big final car chase. You see that the snitch character and Pace don’t get along throughout the film but it is never explained why.
Gone in 60 Seconds was clearly a passion project of director and star H.B. Halicki who invested a lot of time, energy, and money into it. However, it was an independent film in the 70’s and it looks and feels like it. There are takes that are used that have lines that people clearly said wrong and correct themselves in them. The opening shot of the film is out the front windshield of Pace’s car as he drives and there are five separate pairs of aviator sunglasses just sitting on his dashboard. I guess you never know when you will need your sunglasses with the red lenses or the yellow. If the Rifftrax or Master Pancake guys haven’t had a run at this film, they are missing out! It often has the same feeling as The Room or Birdemic: Shock and Terror. Gone in 60 Seconds is less awkward then either of those films, but it often has the same pacing and production issues.
The film culminates in a 40 minute long (insane) car chase between the cops and Pace in the final car named Eleanor. Eleanor is a 1973 yellow Ford Mustang. The car chase is easily 35 minutes too long. It is impressive that the majority of the cars used were Halicki’s, and that there weren’t really any stunt men used, and that Halicki achieved a thirty foot high jump in Eleanor that ultimately compacted ten of his vertebrae. All that aside, it was so long and so uneventful for most of the chase my attention wandered more then once. The movie’s low stakes make it so you can’t really investment in his success in evading the cops. Plus Pace isn’t very sympathetic, he is just a criminal who screws people and the insurance company over, so you don’t even want to route for him.
One element of Gone in 60 Seconds that was interesting was watching how criminals operated in the 70’s before modern technology. It is a bit like watching the original Oceans Eleven or Rififi. In Gone in 60 Seconds they used walkie-talkies instead of cell phones and a slim-jim and a screwdriver instead of microchip keys. It is amazing how by putting on a wig and fake mustache you could just fool the police and get someone else to take the fall for you in the 70’s. They have no GPS, no satellite tracking, and it takes the police helicopter over twenty minutes to get to the car chase.
Another thing I liked about Gone in 60 Seconds is that the forty minute chase scene does has consequences. You see many shots of the innocent drivers and police officers dealing with the results of getting caught up in the chase. There is a multi-car pile up that felt very real. In one scene one car rear ends another and catches fire, there is a very real sense the urgency to get the people out of the car. You also see people bleeding, on stretchers, and being helped by ambulance workers. It is frustrating in a lot of modern action films when the death toll of innocents must be in the hundreds if not thousands and it is never even acknowledged. Films like the Transformers trilogy, Fast Five, and The Island are examples of films that seem to almost revel in the destruction of property and the loss of by standers’ lives. To Gone in 60 Seconds credit it never exploits the aftermath of the chase scene.
The remastered version on Blu-Ray is still grainy and has sound problems that they clearly couldn’t fix from the original print. I didn’t have fun with this film and much prefer the remake. If nothing else the remake gives you a reason to route for the criminals and has much more entertaining chase/car stealing scenes. If 1970’s car porn is your wheelhouse then the remastered DVD/Blu-Ray set is tailor made for you. For everyone else, tune in to TNT at 11pm and I’m sure you’ll catch the remake some night.