Staff Pick

Gone in 60 Seconds Will Sell You on Cars

by Ashley Morton

Nicolas Cage’s action-movie will convince you cars are your new passion — if only for the two-hour ride.


It starts with the opening credits: A sequence of colorful green, red and yellow names dart across the screen, emphasized by the screeching of tires. The sound merges into the rhythmic beat of “Green Sally Up” alongside slow shots of old photographs, trophies and model cars. It’s designed to amp you up, and it works. By the first scene — where Kip Raines (Giovanni Ribisi) smashes a window with a brick to steal a car — your adrenaline is already pumping. “This isn’t Dukes of Hazzard,” his companion yells at him, and he’s right. Because this isn’t comical, this is serious.

The music in Gone in 60 Seconds goes a long way, as do the visuals. The sepia tones alongside a score from composer Trevor Rabin (Armageddon) sell this world as edgy and emotional. When Kip can’t deliver an order of premium cars to Raymond Calitri (Christopher Eccleston), a Brit with a penchant for woodworking coffins, Kip’s older brother and retired car thief Memphis (Nicolas Cage) gets wrapped up in Calitri’s demands. Memphis is given an ultimatum: Steal 50 cars in one night or see his family murdered. Does it get any more life or death than car theft? But the police have been tipped off to Memphis’ return and are eager to catch the “one who got away.”

By creating an ensemble of characters you want to “ride or die” with, Gone succeeds where newer blockbusters fail. Their names are cool (Memphis, Sway, Sphinx), their looks are fierce, their knowledge is unparalleled — they can identify cars from the sound of revving engines — and even the cops can’t help but admire them. Gone feels like a cousin of the hit 2001 remake of Ocean’s 11: A charming leader gathers an attractive group of criminals together; they’re too cool to root against. The cast is full of familiar faces: Angelina Jolie, Robert Duvall, Scott Caan (also in Ocean’s), Timothy Olyphant and Vinnie Jones; Leftovers lovers will be delighted by Eccleston’s villainous performance (a far cry from his reverential Reverend Matt Jamison).

There’s a terrific juxtaposition of Memphis’ “old generation,” who rely on copying keys and street-smarts, to Kip’s reckless, tech-savvier gang. When the veterans turn on “Low-Rider” to psych themselves for the night’s take, it establishes an element of tradition, professionalism, and, most importantly, artistry. Like a group of actors prepping to go on stage, they gather, waiting for their fearless leader to release them with one phrase: “Let’s ride.”

Maybe you know nothing about cars; never admired their beauty. But after spending time with Memphis Raines and his ragtag crew, you will think you’re an aficionado. Cars seem sexy as hell and not just because Jolie looks badass while working on them. Cage portrays Memphis with a world weariness appropriate for an icon whose retirement led to a 47 percent drop in car-related crime. The actor’s own idiosyncrasies only help his characterization: While others might smirk at talking to a car like it’s a wild horse, coming from Cage, it feels completely genuine.

By the end of the film, Memphis’ obsession with his “unicorn” — an elusive car he calls “Eleanor” — will be your obsession too. There are many high-octane car movies out there, and plenty more heist films, but none have the energy and charisma of Gone in 60 Seconds. Memphis’ crew are the cool kids in high school, and you’ll be hungry to ride shotgun with them.