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3000 Miles to Graceland (R)
Warner Bros.

Do not be deceived. This despicable film has about as much to do with Elvis or Elvis impersonators as Memphis has with maple syrup. That over-popularized little conceit was just a convenient marketing ploy -- a way to make a good trailer that would attract hordes of unsuspecting fans to a blood bath, infused with misogyny, racism and gratuitous violence and barely suitable for any viewer -- least of all one who might happen to be an Elvis fan.

Where to begin? Perhaps with director/music video wizard Demian Lichtenstein, who co-wrote the film with first-timer Richard Recco. The guy certainly knows his way around a camera; and he knows how to make the most of a setting. But 3000 Miles to Graceland would have worked better as a 3-minute short than a full-length feature. Character development is non-existent. The plot is standard cat and mouse. And what passes for action might better be characterized as "dances with guns." Big guns. Enormous guns. High-tech guns with laser sights. Slow-mos of bullet casings flying and close-ups of bent slugs, molded onto the surface of a bulletproof vest.

Then there's the bizarre experience of watching an all-star cast swagger and posture through this vile fake of a film. Kevin Costner is Murphy, a committed sociopath who has befriended Michael (Kurt Russell) while serving his most recent prison sentence. Together they cook up plans to stage a heist at International Elvis Week in Vegas, dressed in costume, alongside three of their smart ass friends (Christian Slater, David Arquette and Bokeem Woodbine). The armed robbery is staged against a backdrop of half naked showgirls dancing to Elvis tunes, and is vaguely entertaining (if only for the costumes and a cute dressing room scene with Russell) until the bullets start flying. By the time the robbers have escaped with $3.2 million, their sequined Elvis capes are blood-stained and pockmarked, and at last 100 dead bodies are left littering the hallways, staircases and elevators of a glittery Vegas hotel.

Murphy quickly does away with everyone but Michael, plotting to take all the loot for himself, but Michael takes off with the money and the rest of the film involves their pursuit of each other across the wide West. Along for the ride is Courteney Cox as cheerful, slutty Cybil, a curiously bright-eyed single mom, and her little boy/criminal-in-training, Jesse (David Kaye). Cox at least brings a little energy to the film, but Lichtenstein makes some huge missteps with her character, rendering it unworthy of any sympathy. This is a mother who humps madly with Michael, a guy she's just met, while her pre-adolescent son sneaks into the bedroom and steals his wallet. This is a mother who makes her own getaway with the money, and leaves her kid behind with a known killer.

Russell, who gave a fine performance as the King in John Carpenter's 1979 television film, This Is Elvis, is moderately appealing here, but the writers give him too little to do. Costner is bad to the core, but we're supposed to like him a little when he liberates a nubile teenaged girl from the drudgery of her filling station existence, blows away the owner, obliterates the place, then enjoys a little courtesy fellatio by the little dear before handing her over to a motorcycle gang. What a guy.

3000 Miles to Graceland wades in ankle-deep humor and wallows in seeping, flowing and spurting blood. It is self-important and given to moments of swaggering indignity. I could have cried when the woman down the aisle from me, who watched the film with her husband and her year-old little boy, said at the end: "That was cute."

Yep. And about as funny as a heart attack.

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