Jerry Bruckheimer’s Gone in 60 Seconds in one of the few films I actually own, which means I must really like it. And I do. But like many Hollywood films it’s actually a remake. The original Gone in 60 Seconds was a cult classic independent film with no plot, almost no budget, and a forty minute car chase that is surpassed in spectacle only by Jake and Elwood themselves. The chase is shorter than Vanishing Point, more dramatic than Bullitt, and much more exciting than Smoky and the Bandit, and yet it is surpassed by its remake in several crucial areas.
First and foremost, as the title of this post suggests, Angelina Jolie is no where to be found. Which, when you consider that H.B. “Toby” Halicki‘s film was released a year before she was born, is understandable. But the only sensual curves found in this picture were stamped out of steel. While beautiful women are not a prerequisite for a good car flick. Case in point the aforementioned Bullitt. There’s something about a Mustang that completely compensates for the lack of women. They always sound so fantastic in the movies, and like Richard Hammond says, they’re the only car that actually sounds like they do in the movies. The Mustang is such a center piece of Halicki’s film that she’s actually billed as the star of the show. The 1973 Mach 1 is a sight to behold indeed. Unfortunately it’s a hideous yellow. The Mach 1’s always looked better in blue.
The plot loosely follows that of the remake. A top notch professional car thief is required to boost 48 cars, two less than Cage, for a South American buyer in a limited time frame. Halicki plays Maindrian Pace, a crooked insurance claims investigator who operates a lucrative chop shop. He has a rather clever scheme going, he buys totaled cars, pulls off all of their serial numbers, then puts the numbers on a stolen car of the same type. Easy cash. Pace isn’t completely heartless either, he only steals cars that are insured. That way he sticks a big company who likely signs his checks with the bill instead of some poor sap who saved up all his beer money for a sweet ride. The only scene that was carried over to the Cage edition was the stolen Caddie with the heroin in the trunk and the nosy cop outside. In fact, Pace actually steals Eleanor on several occasions and each time something goes wrong, leaving him without the required Mustang. But all this pointless dialogue and story is just a set up for the big chase scene .
And big is certainly the word. Promotional material actually stated that 97 cars were destroyed in 300 and some separate accidents. As I’ve mentioned before, this figured is dwarfed by The Blues Brothers, but it’s impressive nonetheless. Especially when you consider that every car wrecked was owned by Halicki himself. But despite all the carnage, see what I did there?, it’s not a particularly good movie. In this modern age of special effects and over the top blockbusters a genuine movie with real crashes seems a bit dull. One of the film’s redeeming qualities is also its most hotly debated by hardcore fans of the movie, and that is the soundtrack. I’m not talking about the music, but the stereoscopic goodness that is the sound effects. The cars sound fantastic and the sounds is particularly three dimensional. The trouble is Halicki’s soundtrack was the actually the sounds capture while filming. So, you know, genuine sound effects. When the film was restored prior to the release of the Cage version the soundtrack was completely replaced. They even replaced the original score with some cheesy generic 70’s music. Having not heard the original I think the change is fantastic.
Halicki was apparently a particularly odd duck. For example, much of the filming for the movie was done on Sundays so he didn’t have to purchase the correct licensing needed to close down city streets for filming. In fact, most of the pedestrians in the chase scenes are in fact real people going about their business when all of a sudden this movie comes roaring through. One of the more bizarre moments of the movie was a cameo by racing legend Parnelli Jones. Jones’s racing spec Bronco is on the must have list and Pace has to investigate his own crime when the priceless auto goes missing. Apparently Halicki was just that kind of guy. A guy who had no business making movies and who accomplished this movie by begging favors from everyone he ever knew.
It is a stark contrast to the Cage film. Where Halicki’s original lacks substance, the remake brings a full narrative, polish, and style that really takes the movie to the next level. While Bruckheimer’s movie may not have been real enough for Halicki, it is clearly the full realization of the Junkman’s dream. It is the movie Halicki could only dream about, and sadly he died 10 years before it ever saw the light of day. Really, the two movies can be summed up in the stars. Halicki’s Eleanor is an ugly Mach 1 that is completely and utterly destroyed by the end of the movie while Bruckheimer’s Shelby GT 500 is a pristine dream car with $20,000 worth of damage at the end. That really says it all right there. Of course, Halicki actually did the jump at the end while Cage just green screened it. Halicki compressed 10 vertebrae and reportedly never walked the same afterwards, so I think Cage probably made the right call.