Double Feature

Minute Men 

June 2, 2020  


Comparing the 1974 and 2000 iterations of Gone in 60 Seconds

silver screen. Famously, the last 40 minutes of the movie are taken up by a locale-hopping pursuit so wide-ranging that, in total, 93 cars used were damaged during the process. The trouble is is that even the climactic car chase — the thing Halicki has by the skin of his teeth attempted to center a movie around — doesn’t excite. (In the movie, Halicki is an insurance salesman who moonlights as a car-theft ringleader; shortly into the film, he and others in his circle are tasked by a South American drug lord to pilfer 48 luxury cars, in the span of just a few days, for $400,000.) There is no dramatic thrust. The characters are barely more than faces and bodies who sometimes communicate with each other.


It’s easy to admire the mettle of Gone in 60 Seconds, but there’s no rhythm or momentum to validate it. The editing by Warner E. Leighton, especially during the finale, is inept. The film engenders dramatic hullabalo for most of its first and second acts, then lots of cars turning corners abruptly and crashing into things nonsensically. That the legendary bookending car chase lasts almost an hour is a patent attempt on Halicki’s part to set a world record or something. The length makes it feel more akin to an endurance test by which we’re exhausted after about five minutes. What is supposed to be an earth-shattering set piece inspires tedium. 


If blood, sweat, and tears shed over a film could automatically make it a good one, Gone in 60 Seconds’d be a masterpiece. (There’s no sniffing at how many injuries and risks abounded; the accidentally ultimate testament to Halicki’s devotion to his madcap ideas is that he died while filming the sequel to Gone in 60 Seconds almost 20 years later.) But the feature is more recorded effort than movie. I thought while watching the film that a documentary about the making of Gone in 60 Seconds would be better than the actual Gone in 60 Seconds. There is one, released in 2002. Maybe I should have watched that.

believe. Eleanor, we soon find out, is not a new and exciting-in-1974 mononymnal screen star à la Cher. Eleanor is a car — specifically a custom honey-mustard yellow Ford Mustang Sportsroof.


A vehicle being christened the star of the movie seems initially just a cheeky tribute. But for Gone in 60 Seconds, which was directed, written, produced by, and stars stunt driver 

H.B. Halicki (it was a passion project for him, and was also his only feature film), it doubles as a warning. Eleanor, essentially the lead of the movie, has more screen time — and

presence — than any of the people who drive (or come near) her.


Pretty transparently, Gone in 60 Seconds 

is meant to be the action-movie equivalent of an art exhibit, where Halicki is showing off how good he is at staging car chases for the


he first person billed in the opening credits of the terrible road thriller Gone in 60 Seconds (1974) is a woman 

named Eleanor. Or so we're made to

From 1974's "Gone in 60 Seconds."

From 1974's Gone in 60 Seconds.


r maybe I should have exclusively (rather than additionally) watched the 2000 remake of the movie, which stars an uncharacteristically mellow Nicolas Cage and an offensively underused and for some

reason dreadlocked Angelina Jolie. The millennium’s Gone in 60 Seconds isn’t good, either, but it’s at least legible and sporadically fun. The predecessor was the movie counterpart to a child’s scribble drawing. Now the main story’s dramatic throughline is more muscled and followable. The Halicki character has a stand-in in Cage, a former car thief (he retired because his mom wanted him to) who is stealing so many cars in so few days partially for the payout, partially because he’s trying to help get his younger brother (Giovanni Ribisi), who has turned to a life of crime, out of a bind.


Again we can’t keep straight all the characters the hero asks to help him with the job, which is aggravated by a long-winded middle taken up by an uninteresting enlistment montage. Again there is a car named Eleanor with a lot of screen presence. But the Gone in 60 Seconds of the 2000s, which is also way too long, might more accurately be labeled a film “loosely based on” its 1974 forebear rather than a direct remake of it. It’s so much better (which still isn’t saying much) that to watch the films back to back, like I did, is like eating some stale cheetos and then following that up with a couple of slices from the priciest block of cheese at Whole Foods placed on top of some flaky crackers that have parsley and garlic sticking out of them. 


The original Gone in 60 Seconds is an artless collection of stunts. The Gone in 60 Seconds redux also collects stunts, but those stunts are well-conceived, thrilling in a kind of Pavlovian way, and it isn’t totally artless. (I like it a lot visually — there’s so much neon in places neon shouldn’t be that sometimes the film looks like a parody Wong Kar-Wai project.) Though I did miss — and there isn’t a lot to miss from the 1974 version — the scrappy commitment to practical effects, which the remake cannot say it has for itself. It could be paired nicely, as a double feature, with the 2003 remake of The Italian Job, another film that improves on the movie that inspired it. No need to double anything — or really do anything — with the progeniting Gone in 60 Seconds, however. If you do, it’s likely it’ll go in one ear and out the other in about 60 seconds. I suppose the same goes for the remake, but at least it's pleasantly forgettable. It's junk food that tastes really good in the moment. 


Gone in 60 Seconds (1974): C-

Gone in 60 Seconds (2000): B-