Good heist films should be easy to pull off; there have been so many good ones and so many bad ones that it seems inconceivable anyone would not know which elements to emulate and which to avoid. And yet, even with an all-star cast and a pile of money with which to operate, music video director Damien Lichtenstein, who makes his feature co-writing/producing/directing debut with the film, has managed to create a movie so bad, so horrendously unwatchable, so catastrophically dreadful in every capacity that even calling it garbage gives it far too much credit.
The story is straightforward and very tired stuff, a thieves-turned-enemies tale of greed in which a gaggle of crooks dress up in Elvis costumes to rob a Las Vegas casino during an Elvis convention. Ex-con Michael (Kurt Russell) is the rather obvious protagonist, a bad guy so nice and so likable that the audience isn't supposed to think twice before rooting for him. On the other end of the stick is Michael's ex-cellmate and the job's mastermind, a psychotic real-life Elvis nut named Murphy (Kevin Costner) who actually believes himself to be the singer's illegitimate son.
Thousands of rounds of automatic weapons fire and piles of dead bodies later, the gang has absconded with roughly $3 million. Not that Murphy has any intention of splitting it with his colleagues, whom he methodically murders before hitting the road. Thanks to the gift of foresight and the practicality of a bullet-proof vest, however, Michael is able to survive and set out after Murphy, going mano-a-mano as such films generally oblige their characters to do.
Despite the slew of major names attached to this film, it's basically a three-person cast: Costner, Russell and Courteney Cox who makes a thankless appearance as the single-mother con woman who steals both Kurt Russell's money and heart. Everyone else either dies shortly after they appear, or barely appears at all. Costner seems to be enjoying the ride the best, chewing the scenery and relishing the chance to play his first truly evil villain. It's almost over-the-top enough to qualify as camp, although it's not nearly campy enough to salvage the movie with unintentional humor. Russell, meanwhile, simply goes through his regular paces, shining only during an end title lip-synched music video in which he gets to resurrect the Elvis impersonation skills he honed so many years ago in the John Carpenter-directed television film.
Any further comment on the movie is pointless. To say that it is terribly-written, amateurishly-directed, sloppily-edited and badly-photographed is to merely scratch the surface of a fiasco so egregious it defies description. This being said, it's hard not to miss the name of controversial financier/producer Elie Samaha in the credits. Should the film tank as it deserves to, it would mean three such disasters for Samaha's Warner Bros. relationship in a roughly one-year period, preceded by the notorious "Battlefield Earth" and "The Art of War." One can only hope that this new low is the third and final strike. Starring Kurt Russell, Kevin Costner, Courteney Cox, Christian Slater, Kevin Pollack, David Arquette and Howie Long. Directed by Demian Lichtenstein. Written by Richard Recco and Demian Lichtenstein. Produced by Elie Samaha, Demian Lichtenstein, Richard Spero, Eric Manes and Andrew Stevens. A Warner Bros. release. Action. Rated R for strong violence, sexuality and language. Running time: 125 min