The Tao of Nicolas Cage: ‘Gone in 60 Seconds’

By  · Published on April 14th, 2017

Before Dom was flexing his muscles Cage was getting fast and furious in order to protect his family.

This weekend movie theaters are going to be packed with hordes of people eager to check out The Fate of the Furious, the 8th film in the unexpectedly super popular Fast and Furious franchise. And that’s all fine and well. I enjoy the films; they’re dumb, stupid, exciting fun. Nothing wrong with that whatsoever, but we must remember that a year before Dom and his crew ripped off Point Break, the legendary Nicolas Cage was snatching up cars left and right and doing so in under 60 seconds.

Of course I’m going to talk about Gone in 60 Seconds.

Cage stars as the Memphis Raines, a notorious car thief that retired a number of years back in an effort to go straight. And he does. Memphis is working at a little go-kart track for kids, teaching them about cars and how to race. He’s stepped away from the game and he’s doing real well for himself. And hey, Long Beach, the area where he did most of his damage, it benefits as well as car thefts drop by 47% with Memphis out of the picture. The problem occurs with Kip (Giovanni Ribisi), the younger brother of Memphis.

When Memphis left Kip felt abandoned. His whole life he looked up to Memphis and wanted to be a master thief just like him. In fact it’s the only life Kip knows. With Memphis not there to keep him in line, Kip tries to follow his older brother’s footsteps and takes on a nearly impossible job with the vicious and deadly Raymond Calitri (Christopher Eccleston).

Calitri specializes in dealing exotic stolen cars and he’s expecting 50 of them in 4 days. Kip has already proven unable to do the job and is on the verge of being murdered by Calitri. Memphis steps in to save the day and Calitri offers him a deal — he won’t kill Kip as long as Memphis can get the cars. Memphis is torn. He’s cleaned his life up, promised his mom that he would never steal cars again and he wants to keep that promise. But Kip is his little brother and family comes first, so Memphis reluctantly agrees.

As if stealing 50 exotic cars in a handful of days wasn’t already hard enough, Memphis has a number of other issues to worry about. For starters he has to assemble a crew which means convincing his old cronies to get back in the game. Watching every move he makes is Detective Roland Castleback (Delroy Lindo), who views Memphis as his great white whale. And through all of this he has to deal with an annoying low level gangster played by Master P. Oh, and he also manages to rekindle an old romance with Sway (Angelina Jolie).

Yes, Gone in 60 Seconds truly has everything.

Will Memphis and Dom ever square off?

When I’m looking through Cage’s filmography and trying to figure out where I’d rank everything I always settle on placing Gone in 60 Seconds somewhere in the middle. In fact last week I wrote that it was “mid-tier Cage.” After re-watching it last night I’m still going to place it in the middle, but mid-tier Cage is still great.

For reference, top-tier Cage is like chicken fettuccine with broccoli (but not mushrooms!). Chicken fettuccine is awesome. Fettuccine Alfredo, on the other hand, is still awesome but just slightly less awesome. Sometimes you just want fettuccine Alfredo, and that’s ok. Gone in 60 Seconds is fettuccine Alfredo.

While it’s not nearly his best role or performance, Gone in 60 Seconds highlights a lot of what Cage can do as an actor. Its a great example of his ability to carry a big budget, high octane action film while also providing these flashes of what makes him great in something like Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans.

Memphis Raines is a pretty subtle character for Cage. Throughout the movie Cage delivers a laid back and restrained performance. He’s not as in-your-face as we’re used to, but there are some flashes.

There’s a scene early in the film when Cage’s Memphis is trying to convince Jolie’s Sway to join his new crew. At this point Sway is working as a bartender and she’s at work while Memphis makes his pitch. While Sway listens there’s a man at the bar wanting a drink. Sway ignores him as she continues to focus on Memphis but the man keeps persisting. Memphis finally loses his cool and slams his fist on the countertop while giving the man an angry look, but then he quickly pulls it back. Later in the film Cage takes it up just a notch when Memphis and Kip get into your typical shouting match between brothers.

These are just snippets of what Cage can do. You may not even notice them thrown in here and there because throughout the majority of the film Cage is reserved. Memphis is a sarcastically funny and charming man but he’s rarely intense, which is a rarity for Cage. These moments can act as subliminal messages for the non-Cage fans in your life.

Beyond Cage the big selling point in Gone in 60 Seconds is the film’s big car chase that ends with Cage jumping Eleanor, the film’s star ‘67 Shelby Mustang GT 500, across the Vincent Thomas Bridge. Now there are some nasty rumors out there that would have you believe that scene is assisted by the use of computer generated imagery. That is a lie. This car chase is 100% pure Cage.

Ok, fine. Maybe there is a little CGI mixed in. Doesn’t change the fact that this is one of cinemas all-time great car chase sequences. Plus Cage still did a good a chunk of his own stunt driving and that really is true. Cage attended multiple driving schools to learn these sweet stunt driving skills. I bet Vin Diesel has never performed his stunt driving and if he has I don’t care.

In the 17 years since Memphis Raines reigned, we’ve only seen Cage show off his driving chops a handful of times on the big screen, most notably in the wildly entertaining Drive Angry. During that same time period we’ve seen the Toretto clan get together for 8 different adventures. This is outrageous.

I’m not asking for a direct sequel to Gone in 60 Seconds. That ship has sailed. But we know there’s going to be like 75 more Fast and Furious movies. So I’m going to ask once again that Nicolas Cage join the franchise. I wrote about this before and I’ll probably write about it again and again until it happens.

In the perfect world Cage gets to reprise his role of Memphis Raines in the Fast and Furious franchise. It would be easy to come up with a plot that resolves around Raines having a run in with the Toretto family. Just re-hash the Gone in 60 Seconds plot. Kip does something dumb and the only way out is for Memphis to still the cars of everyone in Dom’s crew. The big finale is a car fight between Memphis and Dom. When it’s all said and done Dom respects Memphis because he did what he did to protect his family and as we all know it’s all about family.

The Fast and Furious franchise loves to push the limits and raise the stakes. No actor in the history of acting has pushed the limits and raised the stakes more than Nicolas Cage. This is a match made in heaven and frankly the fact that it hasn’t happened yet is stupid.

Failure to insert Nicolas Cage into the Fast and Furious universe is depriving the world of something truly special while allowing Cage’s driving talents to wither away. Are we going to allow that to happen? I like to think we’re better than that.

After we all head to the theater this weekend to see The Fate of the Furious let’s reconvene on Monday and start demanding Disney and Universal come together to resurrect Gone in 60 Seconds by giving us Fast 9: The Return of Memphis Raines.

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Chris Coffel is a contributor at Film School Rejects. He’s a connoisseur of Christmas horror, a Nic Cage fanatic, and bad at Rocket League. He can be found on Twitter here: @Chris_Coffel. (He/Him)