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Film / 3000 Miles to Graceland

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No, cash is king.

3000 Miles to Graceland is a 2001 crime/action film directed and co-written by Demian Lichtenstein, starring Kurt Russell, Kevin Costner, and Courteney Cox.

Michael Zane (Russell) and four other criminals — Thomas J. Murphy (Costner), Hanson (Christian Slater), Gus (David Arquette), and Franklin (Bokeem Woodbine) — execute a heist in which they steal $3.2 million from the Riviera Casino in Las Vegas by dressing up as Elvis Impersonators whilst the casino hosts International Elvis Week, thereby making it difficult to identify them since hundreds of people in the building would be dressed in the same manner. The heist is successful, but when Franklin is killed, a dispute occurs over how his share should be divided among the survivors. It isn't long before it's just Michael and Murphy; with the latter pursuing the former across the western United States as he flees both with the money and with a woman named Cybil Waingrow (Cox), with whom he has fallen in love, and her son Jesse (David Kaye).


Prior to the film's opening, Warner Bros. released a series of animated prequels voiced by stars Costner, Slater, Woodbine and Howie Long. The Road to Graceland prequels marked the first time a major film's cast members contributed their talents to the creation of original Internet content for a film website.

This film provides examples of:

  • Actor Allusion: At one point, Jesse kicks Michael right in the shin. Kurt Russell did so to Elvis Presley himself in the 1963 film It Happened at the World's Fair.
  • All There in the Manual: The Road to Graceland prequels offer the strongest evidence (outside Michael's statements about the Graceland yacht being given to him by "his father" at the end of the film) that he is the heir of Elvis.
  • Anti-Villain: Despite being a thief, Michael is more humane than the others. He doesn't take lives during the casino shootout, opting to knock guards out or back them away with suppressive fire.
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  • Berserk Button: Murphy does not take kindly to anyone disparaging Elvis, especially when Gus suggests that Frank Sinatra would beat him in a fight.
  • Black Dude Dies First: Franklin, the African-American member of Murphy's gang, gets killed just as they are about to make their getaway with the money. Even Roger Ebert couldn't hide his disdain for the movie invoking it in his review.
  • Bling-Bling-BANG!: Murphy's "golden rule" is "Fuck the gold. He who has the nickel plating [on his gun] makes the rules."
  • Bulletproof Vest: How Michael survives Murphy's shots. Twice.
  • Cain and Abel: Michael and Murphy are actually half-brothers, with Elvis as their common father. While both are professional robbers, Murphy is a stone-cold psychopath while Michael is a lot more restrained.
  • Casting Gag: Michael Zane disguises himself as Elvis during his heist at the Riveria Casino. His actor Kurt Russell had not only played Elvis twice prior (in a TV biopic directed by John Carpenter and an uncredited voice cameo in Forrest Gump) but also kicked the King himself as a child actor in Elvis's film It Happened at the World's Fair.
  • The Cavalry: Jack (the helicopter pilot) shows up to rescue the gang as they're besieged on top of the Riviera casino.
  • Chekhov's Gun: The seemingly-irrelevant scene of the two scorpions fighting during the opening credits (one of which is crushed by Michael's car) comes back into play in the final confrontation between Michael and Murphy, when the latter places the surviving scorpion inside a bag seemingly filled with money, and uses it to trick the former.
  • Cluster F-Bomb: Particularly jarring from Kevin Costner.
  • Contrived Coincidence: Shortly after gunning down the crew, Murphy is distracted while driving back to the Last Chance motel and runs into a coyote, crashing his vehicle and being knocked out in the process. This gives Michael (who survived the execution thanks to his Bulletproof Vest) to wake up, get back to the hotel and retrieve the money (along with Cybil and her son) before escaping.
  • Cover Version: Lily Costner and The Vibe Experience's rendition of Carlene Carter's "Every Little Thing" is played when Cybil steals Michael's wallet and takes his car so she can meet Peterson, the money launderer.
  • Creative Closing Credits: The film ends with a "music video", in the form of Kurt Russell (in character as Michael Zane) lipsynching his way through Elvis' "Such a Night" while the rest of the characters mug for the camera and various clips from the film are shown. It then ends with Leave the Camera Running as Russell begins laughing at the end of one of the takes, before cutting into an outtake where Kevin Costner ad-libs the line, "You're going back, Mike. Back... to the future, man!" before the cast and crew break out laughing.
  • Dead Star Walking: Considering their prominence at the time the film was made, the characters played by Christian Slater (Hanson) and David Arquette (Gus) both die by the 40-minute mark of the movie.
  • Elvis Impersonator: The robbers dress up as Elvis impersonators to avoid getting caught. Unfortunately for them, they get noticed by the local police and Franklin is killed.
  • Even Evil Has Standards: Murphy may be a self-absorbed criminal, but he doesn't react well to his friend Jack being shot at during the finale.
  • Good Colors, Evil Colors: All the robbers wear a differently colored Elvis outfit; note, however, that Zane wears a white suit and Murphy a black one. No points for guessing which one has a kernel of good inside him.
  • Guns Akimbo: Both Murphy (wielding dual revolvers) and Hamilton (wielding dual assault rifles) utilize this during the final gunfight in the warehouse.
  • Harmful to Minors: While in the hotel's restroom, Jesse secretly witnesses Murphy fatally shoot Hanson after they discuss how to divide up Franklin's shares.
  • Historical Character's Fictional Relative: Both the hero and the bad guy are implied to be half-brothers fathered by none other than Elvis Presley. The villain, in particular, is obsessed with the King's legacy.
  • Hypocrite: Murphy chews out Hanson for dividing up Franklin's share of the spoil four ways, accusing him of secretly wanting all the money for himself... which is exactly what he was planning to do, as he promptly murders Hanson and Gus and tries to do the same to Michael.
  • Informed Ability: Ice-T's character Hamilton shows up at the climax of the movie, introduced as some sort of badass mercenary/assassin. During the final shootout, he jumps in by spinning down from the ceiling upside down with dual P90's. This looks cool and manages to kill a few of the attacking federal agents, but it ends up getting him killed for his trouble. Beyond his initial meeting, this is just about all he does in the movie.
  • Instant Seduction: In the opening scene, Michael meets Cybil, and after a few minutes of talking and a cup of coffee, they resort to having raunchy sex in her bedroom. Lampshaded by Cybil just beforehand, where she tells Michael it will take more than "a cup of coffee and a plate of chow" to bed her.
  • Ironic Echo: When Murphy talks about the golden rule, Hanson asks "What's that, sweetheart?" before he says "Fuck the gold." Seconds later, Murphy guns down Hanson while saying "Sweetheart."
  • Laser-Guided Karma: Immediately after trying to kill his compatriots, Murphy hits a stray wolf on the road and careens off-road, knocking him out. This gives time for Michael to get back to the money and take it.
  • Last Disrespects: Rather than bury Franklin's body after he's fatally shot during the escape from the casino, the crew pushes his body off the helicopter mid-flight.
  • Last Stand: Murphy does this against a fleet of cops, and goes down guns blazing, at the end of the final gunfight in the warehouse.
  • Male Gaze: There's a shot focusing on Cybil's rear when she gets up on a step ladder to collect Michael's wallet from the crawlspace in her ceiling. In the music video played over the credits of the film, the first things we see of Cybil's character is her baring her underwear to a mirror (which is subsequently caught in the camera view) and pushing her bra up as she gets ready to go out.
  • Monumental Damage: Murphy takes the opportunity to shoot at and destroy the rooftop sign at the Riviera casino as the gang flees on the helicopter.
  • Mythology Gag: The manner in which Murphy dies at the end of the final gunfight (laying against the wall in the bathroom of the warehouse) evokes the same manner in which the real Elvis was found after he died.
  • No Honor Among Thieves: What basically sets the film's story in motion. It says something about how cutthroat they are when the main villain isn't the most dishonorable among the group (Hanson tries to take part of Franklin's share), although he shoots Gus (fatally) and Michael (non-fatally), anyway.
  • Pre-Mortem One-Liner: Murphy gives one to Hanson just before killing him.
    Murphy: Sweetheart.
  • Primal Scene: Jesse goes into the bedroom as his mom is noisily having sex with Michael, going on to his business without concern, indicating it isn't the first time he's seen this.
  • Really Gets Around: Megan, who is implied to have been passed around by men before she met Murphy, and later leaves him to ride with the leader of a biker gang.
    Murphy: Do you smoke?
    Megan: No... but I do everything else.
  • Rule of Cool: The film certainly tries to go for this, with hyperactive cutting and an attempt at Rated M for Manly.
  • Scary Scorpions: The film opens with a CGI-animated pair of metallic-looking scorpions with large teeth battling each other to the death. Another one of these shows up later to sting Murphy.
  • Serious Business: Murphy's infatuation with Elvis runs so deep that his partners believe Murphy actually thinks he's Elvis.
  • Smoking Is Cool: The two Federal Marshals trying to catch the casino robbers always light cigarettes after they walk out of a building. Except the sidekick Marshal is always having to fuss with his lighter before it lights. Finally, towards the end of the movie, the main cop (Quigley) lights his cigarette for him:
    Federal Marshal Quigley: Either quit smoking or get a new lighter.
  • The Sociopath: Murphy, in spades. Aside from his Hair-Trigger Temper and Team Killer attitude, he executes a shopkeeper who put up the mildest resistance to him, shot a money launderer and his secretary in cold blood, and has no problem gunning down plenty of security guards in the Riviera (as opposed to Michael, who shoots merely to stall or incapacitate the pursuing authorities).
  • Sole Survivor: By the end of the film, Michael is the only robber to escape the casino heist alive.
  • Soundtrack Dissonance: The casino shootout that results from security trying to stop the robbers' exit is set to and intercut with an Elvis impersonator performance.
  • Taking the Bullet: In the warehouse shootout, Jack takes Quigley's sniper shots that were meant for Murphy, but at the cost of his life.
  • Team Killer: Murphy executes his crew (save for Michael, who was wearing a bulletproof vest) in a bid to seize the money for himself.
  • Those Two Guys: The two FBI agents pursuing the robbers, played by Thomas Haden Church and Kevin Pollak, are competent investigators who spend most of their time bantering. If you watched just their scenes of the film, you'd swear it was a pilot for a buddy cop show starring them.
  • Unusually Uninteresting Sight: The Elvis impersonator and his troupe playing on the main stage at the Riviera Casino seem to be completely oblivious to the sounds of gunfire and screaming right outside the hall where they're playing, and continue to sing as cops are shot on the casino floor by Murphy and the gang.
  • Villain Protagonist: The main characters are not heroes; they are robbers.
  • Villainous Friendship: Murphy and the helicopter pilot, Jack, have a surprisingly sincere one. Murphy is pretty defensive of his importance to the crew early on, while Jack remains loyal to Murphy throughout the whole movie and ends up taking a bullet for him. Moreover, Murphy clearly regrets seeing his friend going down.
  • Would Hurt a Child: Towards the end of the film, Murphy has no qualms about taking Jesse hostage.