Gone in 60 Seconds / Shaft

| July 5, 2000

There are two types of movies that generally scare me:
First we have Old TV shows that are made into movies, because they usually suck: Rocky & Bullwinkle, The Mod Squad, etc. Second are Remakes of past movies: Are they going to be true to the original, are they going to pay homage to the original, couldn’t they just think up something original, and why, oh god, didn’t they just let a sleeping dog lie?
We’ve had two movies this past month that, when I first heard about them, I could feel those same Car 54 Where Are You feelings, once again: Gone In 60 Seconds, and Shaft.
So why didn’t I just use my good sense and avoid them? They each had something special that was going to bring them above the originals: Gone In 60 Seconds had Nicolas Cage and Angelina Jolie and Shaft had Samuel L. Jackson… and the original music!
Gone In 60 Seconds has a very simple plot. No twists, no real surprises. Nicolas Cage plays Randall “Memphis” Raines, a retired car thief who gets sucked back into the business to pay a family debt. It seems that his little brother Kip played by Giovanni Ribisi promised a very bad man Raymond Calitri (played by Christopher Eccleston–Elizabeth) that he could get him 50 cherry cars by a certain deadline. It didn’t happen. So now, in order to save his brother’s life, Cage is coming back to Los Angeles to steal cars.
Why to see this movie:
1. If you like Cage, you will not be disappointed. He is his regular wonderful self.
2. You like Angelina Jolie. She is captivating as Sway Wayland, an anomaly in the car boosting world… she isn’t a guy! Totally deserved last year’s Oscar and is magnetic in every scene here. The trouble is,there isn’t enough of her.
3. You like Giovanni Ribisi (Boiler Room, Saving Private Ryan). An up and comer, who is arriving.
4. You like car chases and fast cars.
The interesting thing about this movie: Unless you own one of the types of vehicles that are being stolen, you start to root for the bad guys to succeed.
Hello? Anybody heard of LoJack? We should be cheering for Detective Roland Castlebeck (played by Delroy Lindo of Soul Of The Game, Cider House Rules), but writer Scott Michael Rosenberg (not the producer Scott Mitchell Rosenberg, Scott Michael is the guy who brought you Armageddon) makes the cops so one-dimensional, they’re easy to deny your favor.
Gone In 60 Seconds is not soulful drama. It is a car chase movie. A loud car chase movie. And a very good one.
Before I went to see Shaft, I watched the first one. Or tried to. Got about 30 minutes in, felt I had the flavor, then click. I hoped the new one wasn’t true to the original. But I knew it wouldn’t be. Samuel L. Jackson is a presence that makes the 2000 version far outshine the 1971 original. Jackson plays John Shaft, a New York City police detective who’s personality becomes larger than the job. Supercop. Like Gone In 60 Seconds, this one is not really about plot, it’s about how Shaft is going to be triumphant.
Unlike Gone In 60 Seconds, in Shaft we get to root for the good guy. And listen to some cool music.
Police detective John Shaft pulls a murder case where the alleged killer is the son of a very rich man who skips town on bail. Forward two years and the kid, Christian Bale playing Walter Wade Jr., arrives by private jet back in the U.S. where Shaft is waiting to take him in. How did he know the guy was coming back at that moment? Beats me. Didn’t care much. OK, so the storyline can be weak. But I’m talking ’bout Shaft! (Can you dig it?)
The cast is shallow: Vanessa Williams should concentrate on raising the next Laker power forward and I’m sorry to say it, but every time I see Dan Hedaya (Nixon, Clueless) in a serious role, I can’t help but laugh. He is just too funny.
The best supporter is Richard Roundtree, the original Shaft, who I’m glad to see didn’t just get a cameo. He did a great job as Uncle John Shaft (OK, you name your kid after your brother. That’s just weird).
Jackson continues to show that he can carry a movie on his broad shoulders, like he did in The Negotiator and as the most memorable character in Pulp Fiction. His glare is as cold as the dad of that girl you brought home at 2:00a.m. on a school night in 11th grade (some memories help us be better writers).
Add to that the ever present Oscar winning music of Isaac Hayes and you’ll have fun spending your $7.00.

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