By now, we've come to expect certain things from this pernicious team. We know that despite his native charisma and gift for acting, Cage will back-burner both to fax in a laconic vanity performance in a film designed to boost testosterone levels in all boys 16 and under.
We know that, given Bruckheimer's track record with such overheated mush as "Con Air," "The Rock" and "Armageddon," "Gone in 60 Seconds" will be a frantic, illogical jumble of money shots that culminate in one big fat set piece which adds up to absolutely zero.
We know that they will hire a director who comes from the world of music videos and TV commercials. In this case, it's Dominic Sena, who never met a cut he didn't like and seems to have the attention span of a gnat, the perfect combination for Bruckheimer and Cage's advertisements for themselves.
We know that the story will be little more than a live-action cartoon; in the case of "Gone in 60 Seconds," it's bolstered by the characters' names. For example, Cage plays a car thief named Memphis Raines, who is forced back into the life when his little brother Kip (Giovanni Ribisi) runs afoul of a larcenous woodworker played by Christopher Eccleston, the latest in a long line of very good British actors now finding work as arch-villains.
Memphis' assignment, much like that of any comic-book hero, is to steal 50 vintage cars in 72 hours, a task that calls for a team of lesser heroes. So he brings in people with names like Sway (played by the platinum-dreadlocked Angelina Jolie), and the Sphinx (Vinnie Jones).
Even worse, Memphis and Sway and the gang implicate perfectly respectable actors in their enterprise: Robert Duvall is a crusty old mechanic, as is Delroy Lindo, Chi McBride (who provides the film's only genuine comic relief) and Will Patton.
The rest runs pretty much according to formula: Memphis and his boys boost some sweet-looking rides with off-handed swagger and patter; Sway provides a macha sexual interest, making the most of a stick-shift during a heist with Memphis; things go bad when someone gets shot. But at no time - even when a car is shoved through a concrete wall by a wrecking ball - is anyone seriously hurt.
And the final set piece is indeed big and fat, with Memphis pushing a 1967 Shelby Mustang GT 500 - the white whale of his life, which he refers to alternately as "Eleanor" and "my unicorn" - to 160 mph while eluding a battalion of squad cars and a helicopter. (The most memorable moment of this endless sequence is a nifty little chase driven almost entirely with the Mustang in reverse.)
But there are reasons not just to loathe all this sound, fury, pointless posturing and hyperbolic he-man-ism, but to fear it. Because immediately after seeing "Gone in 60 Seconds," this critic found herself driving down the quiet streets of Baltimore as if she had platinum dreadlocks and a tattoo. Really fast. Muttering profanities. In a white Saturn station wagon.
As loathsome as "Gone in 60 Seconds" is, as un-fun to watch, the really scary thing about it is all of those multiplexers in their SUVs and mini-vans piling their ramped-up kids into the car after the show and bombing down I-95 calling themselves "Memphis." Which means all of us, even if we're lucky enough to avoid Misters Cage and Bruckheimer this summer, should be afraid. Very, very afraid.
'Gone in 60 Seconds'
Starring Nicolas Cage, Giovanni Ribisi, Angelina Jolie, Delroy Lindo
Directed by Dominic Sena
Running time 119 minutes
Released by Touchstone Pictures
Rated PG-13 (violence, sexuality and language)
Sun Score * 1/2