Many people I’ve ever talked to have never seen the actual film of “Gone in 60 Seconds,” and really have their knowledge of that title extended to the miserable and horrid remake starring great actors being completely misused in what I can describe as a ninety minute eye sore. “Gone in 60 Seconds,” from 1974, is a film I actively sought out for the mere excuse of comparing a terrible movie to what I initially hoped was a great film as previous car films like “Vanishing Point,” and “Dirty Mary, Crazy Larry” have been.
Halicki sets the pace from the second as he explores the story set to montages of Maindrian living his life and working; this is all intent on warning us that something big and exciting is inevitable, and the mounting tension sets the stage for the frantic crime thriller with Maindrian set in a tight spot. Thankfully, Halicki’s film mostly lives up to the hype behind it, and though not as intense as “Vanishing Point,” it puts up a good argument for why it’s still considered a classic car film. Much like the remake, we follow a man named Maindrian Pace who is a professional car thief, and works as an insurance agent by day. He gets into dealings with a mob boss who wants 48 valuable cars stolen within a certain time, or else. Halicki’s film is not an ensemble picture and focuses primarily on Maindrian and his attempts to grab his beloved Mustang, codenamed Eleanor, his white whale.
Though dated in many respects, “Gone in 60 Seconds” has much more of an electrifying energy, and intelligence than the remake does, and approaches the story with a straight face. Part of the appeal of Halicki’s car thriller is not so much the story, as it is watching Pace attempt to keep his deadline and grab a hold of Eleanor to hand into the vicious mob boss he has to please. One of the true caveats of “Gone in 60 Seconds” is often its uneven pacing in terms of storytelling. At times it speeds up with a steady energy of tension, suspense, and surefire car chases, while it also slows to a screeching halt adding a sense of boredom to the proceedings. At no times do we ever really have a reason to root for these characters, beyond wanting to see them risk certain fate at the hands of the police.
We know nothing about them, and when we do it’s barely coherent back story that really doesn’t add any complexities to our characters. Beyond that, there’s the utterly unresolved climax that we’re left with that really managed to get under my skin. Did Maindrian get the car back? What happened to his traitorous crew member? We never find out, thus “Gone in 60 Seconds” feels abrupt, and half cocked. The entire film is mainly just a preamble for one of the best car chases ever depicted on film, and once you’ve seen Maindrian do his stuff, you’ll know the ride was worth it. Much more so than the remake. In spite of its sluggish pace nearing the climax, “Gone in 60 Seconds” is a much better film than its successor, with a better pace, simplistic story, and a rather exciting climax.