'Gone in 60 Seconds' is running on empty

By , Staff writer of The Christian Science Monitor

The on-screen emblem of Jerry Bruckheimer Films, producer of action flicks like "Con Air" and "Armageddon," shows a zooming stretch of highway through the windshield of a speeding car. Living up to its logo, the company has now cranked out "Gone in 60 Seconds," a two-hour version of the same idea.

It's just as catchy for the eye, just as empty for the brain.

Nicolas Cage plays the protagonist, a reformed auto thief forced back into the business by an evil thug who's pledged to kill his brother if he doesn't steal 50 cars within the next three days. Helping out are a couple of old friends: a former crook who runs an auto-repair shop, and a driving instructor who finds crime less hazardous than his current profession. On their trail are two policemen who know as much about cars as they do.

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True to the Bruckheimer tradition, director Dominic Sena and screenwriter Scott Rosenberg have souped up this idea - purloined from a 1974 movie of the same title - with a complete set of trendy Hollywood formulas, including perfunctory nods to women's lib (Angelina Jolie is the gang's female member) and family values (Cage's character is only doing this to rescue his brother and save their mom some grief). The result is cinema at its most mind-numbingly trite, from its car-heisting prologue to its Evel Knievel climax.

All of which may please die-hard fans of the genre, but what's really indefensible is the movie's PG-13 rating. "Some material may be inappropriate" hardly begins to cover its bone-crunching violence, barbaric language, and gratuitous sexuality - not to mention the plot, designed to have us rooting for the crooks over the cops!

Where was the rating committee on this one? Gone in 60 seconds?

*Rated PG-13; contains large doses of violence, vulgarity.

(c) Copyright 2000. The Christian Science Publishing Society

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