Costner gets back in audience’s good graces

Kevin Costner either hits big or misses big. Audiences endured a number of Costner flicks in recent years that fall into that latter category, featuring him as a love-obsessed Romeo, a crazed postmaster general and a post-apocalyptic hero with a propensity to drink urine.

Costner returns to the big screen in 3000 Miles to Graceland (Warner Bros.) as a demented Elvis impersonator bent on thievery and murder. At first glance Costner’s latest effort appears to be another eccentric endeavor bound for failure. But the movie puts such cynicism to rest, as Costner delivers a stellar performance and adds a bit of flavor to the largely played-out action-adventure movie genre.

Costner plays Murphy, and ex-con who, along with Michael (Kurt Russell) leads a group of Elvis impersonators in a multi-million dollar heist of the Riviera Casino in Las Vegas. Hanson (Christian Slater), Gus (David Arquette) and Franklin (Bokeem Woobine), round out the posse of Elvis lookalikes. Early in the film the heist goes awry, leaving the group bewildered and loyalties scattered. In the wake of a number of betrayals, Murphy and Michael find themselves at odds, battling for the stolen loot.

Although the premise of 3000 Miles to Graceland seems a bit absurd, Director Demian Lichtenstein presents it in an intriguing manner. The film’s plot is also interesting, with a number of outrageous twists and original spins.

Costner and Russell’s ability to play off one each other adds another asset to the movie. Although the men start as friends, they soon find in each other an arch nemesis and strive to bring each other down. This conflict escalates into an all-out battle for survival.

Dialogue in the film combines elements of humor with the traditional defining lines of an action movie. Unlike other action films, which tend to overuse humor, 3000 Miles to Graceland employs just enough comedy to supplement an action-oriented plot without undermining the film. Although the film is a serious action movie, it does never takes itself too seriously. 3000 Miles to Graceland is filled with witty commentary and ironic occurrences that are at times hilarious.

Costner thankfully departs from his traditional good-guy image to provide an inspired performance. In 3000 Miles to Graceland, Costner plays a twisted antagonist who, though surrounded by other loathsome figures, comes across as the most despicable character in the film.

The strength of 3000 Miles to Graceland is largely a result of a strong supporting cast, which features a number of big-name actors and actresses. “Friends” sitcom star Courtney Cox, who plays Russell’s love interest, reaches out for this role playing a fiercely independent woman in competition for her cut of the bounty.

Although he is only onscreen for the early portion of the film, Slater (The Contender) rekindles an old spirit missing from other recent roles. Arquette (See Spot Run) takes on his first real action film playing a convincing tough-guy while also adding a few good one-liners here and there. Kevin Pollak (The Whole Nine Yards), and Ice-T (Stealth Fighter) round out the cast in small but meaningful roles, each adding their own pinch of spice to the film.

Many action-dramas fall into predictable plots while trying to imitate the success of films such as The Usual Suspects. While 3000 Miles to Graceland buys into some of the action-movie clich?s, it distinguishes itself with a particularly inventive plot. Car chases combined with explosive gunfights will mesmerize even the most jaded action fan.

3000 Miles to Graceland may not win any awards, but it is entertaining and well worth seeing on a slow Friday night. Costner makes his way back into the hearts of audiences after several years of mediocrity, and to think all it took was an Elvis suit.

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