Monday, January 17, 2011

"Gone in Sixty Seconds" -- a contextual analysis of the 2000 version

OK folks -- as some of you know, I ma working on a short book on the hisoty of auto theft. Here is a section on the film "Gone in Sixty Seconds" (2000):

Gone in Sixty Seconds -- There is more to it than you might think!

The 2000 remake of "Gone in Sixty Seconds" contained plenty of juvenile humor, but was set in a context of time where a number of contemporary truths concerning auto theft surfaced. Perhaps the most significant theme in the film is one that contrasts the practical wisdom of the organized professional to the impulsiveness of the young amateur. At the beginning of the film, a gang of young thieves led by Kip Raines (played by Giovanni Ribisi) steal a Porsche 911 by throwing a brick through a dealer showroom window, opening the key box, and crashing through showroom glass. Somewhat miraculously, not a scratch appears on the stolen car. A foolish flirtation puts the trio in the sights of the law, and they are followed back to the hideout where they elude capture, but also lose the cars they have stolen. Afterwards, these young men are described by one seasoned professional as "little boys in nursery school." And while the inexperienced young men play a part in the redemptive boost that follows, lapses in judgment will ultimately reduce them to having their "decision-making processes taken away from them." Kip's failure leads to the recruitment of his retired expert car thief brother, Memphis Raines (Nicholas Cage), who, along with former collaborators including Otto (James Duval) are forced by extortion to steal 50 high end vehicles in four days, with South America as the ultimate destination. These retired pros are now doing things like teaching kids karting, restoring cars rather than chopping them, and teaching Asian women to drive. Perhaps their routine lives are a reflection of more difficult times for the thief during the last two decades of the 20th century, the consequence of new deterrent technologies and enforcement procedures.
In the process of boosting these cars, and saving his brother, the viewer learns of a host of high and low tech techniques used by organized professional car thieves, varying from slim Jims and slide-hammers to computers and electronic frequency detectors. One recent technology introduced by manufacturers deters even the best of these thieves -- laser cut keys featured on new Mercedes. Laser keys by the way, do not employ a laser in cutting, but rather a high speed titanium bit. It consequently takes the clever ruse of stealing the cars from a police impound to get around this seemingly insurmountable technological barrier. Yet a decade later, defeating a laser cut key is as simple a watching a Youtube video and owning a blank, clay, calipers, a key cutting apparatus and a Dremel tool![1]
All ends well by the film's conclusion, as Memphis finally making peace with his so-called "unicorn," a gold 1967 Shelby Mustang GT 500. Cage, who attended several driving schools and did his own driving stunts in the film, is featured in one of the most memorable of all chase sense towards the conclusion of the film. And his former lover, girl friend, and female auto thief Sara "Sway" Wayland (Angeline Jolie) adds a feminine touch to what is generally recognized as a masculine criminal activity. Indeed, it is curious to note that the targeted cars are given women's names -- supposedly as code words for the thieves who communicate via radio. Among the fifty "ladies" are the following: 1962 Aston Martin (Barbara); 1964 Bentley Continental (Alma); 1953 Corvette (Pamela); 1969 Dodge Daytona (Vanessa); 1957 Ford Thunderbird (Susan); 1957 M-B SL/Gullwing (Dorothy); 1950 Mercury Custom (Gabriella); 1961 Porsche Speedster (Natalie); and of course the film's star, a 1967 Shelby Mustang GT 500 (Eleanor).
Despite the superficiality in "Gone in Sixty Seconds," there are some deeper insights, especially when it comes to exploring the motives of a professional car thief. As Sway states as she discusses her life working two honest jobs, "I have discovered you have to work twice as hard when its honest." But stealing cars is more than just making easy money. As Memphis explains, "I did it for the cars…begging to be plucked. I'd blast to Palm Springs, instantly feeling better about myself." And in driving, Memphis related to his younger brother who lacks these sensibilities, that "the car is you, you are the car."
In sum, while the 2000 version of "Gone in 60 Seconds" suggests that skilled car thieves' days are numbered, its simplistic story line did little to dig deep into personalities or motives.
[1], accessed 1/17/2011. See also, which describes how one person with a $1200 tool can thwart a BMW laser key system in seconds.

1 comment:

  1. And in driving, Memphis related to his younger brother who lacks these sensibilities, that "the car is you, you are the covers