Elvis Lives!

The King is dead. Long live the King.

Two CGI-animated scorpions wrestling in battle, frozen with timely stills open this flick to the tune of head-spinning music. Then there are those scenes of cars and streetlights whizzing by, always peppered with the same dynamic sounds. An assorted bunch of thugs plan a casino heist, headed by Murphy (Kevin Costner), with Michael (Kurt Russell), David Arquette, Christian Slater and Ice-T in toe. It’s the Elvis Week in Vegas, and the men, dressed to kill in sideburns and sequined jumpsuits, walk in as Elvis impersonators replete with guitar cases and shades. It helps that the leader is a big Elvis enthusiast; it helps even more that there are no guitars in the cases...just guitar-sized machine guns that get the men two million dollars and around seventeen minutes of carnage and gunfire.

And that was the good part. It was fast (although a bit unbelievable), spliced with shots of dancing girls and singing Elvises, and it was furious. That’s where director Demian Lichtenstein has deviated from the mundane. He is no Soderbergh, but his punk-edged style has given this otherwise directionless film some saving grace.

The plot continues as a sorry succession of events - Costner offs his partners to pile in the dough, Russell escapes (protected by a bullet-proof jacket), and makes for Cybil’s. Cybil, played by Courtney Cox, is a single mother with a young son, Jesse, blessed with hands that pocket-pinch. Then there’s the loot, stolen once from its maiden hidey-hole by Cybil and son, found by Russell, stolen twice by Cybil alone, found by Costner, stolen thrice by...well, you get the idea.

You begin to think this is a slick flick, when the absurdity of the script hit you in the jaw. Cox and Russell falling in love, Russell signing a legal agreement that makes Jesse (the thieving underling) his partner in crime, discoveries by the Vegas police that Costner (who wears Elvis sideburns), shares the same DNA as the King himself. Stop already!

The cast is strictly OK. They work well within their character domains, making no awe-inspiring deliveries. The script, cowritten by Lichtenstein and Richard Recco, deserves a negative grade. The only upsides to this sorry tale are the witticisms and innuendo. Cox looks a fossil, even more than the other veterans on set, and Slater, Arquette and Ice-T disappear sooner than you can say "hound dog".

This article was first published on 10 Nov 2001.