Five thieves show up in Vegas to rob a casino. The casino is also hosting an Elvis convention so the criminals all dress up like Elvis before trying to pull off their heist. Since one of the criminals is played by Kurt Russell and Russell famously played Elvis in a made-for-TV movie, it’s a meta joke. The worst of the criminals is played by Kevin Costner because, in 2001, Costner’s career was dead in the water and he was trying to reinvent himself as some sort of badass character actor.
As a result of a shootout and series of personal betrayals, Russell and Costner are the only two thieves who survive the heist. Kurt Russell ends up taking all of the money for himself and running off with single mother Courteney Cox. (Yes, Cox’s then-husband, David Arquette, does have a small role in the movie.) Costner pursues them, killing anyone who he comes in contact with until it all leads to one final shoot out.
3000 Miles to Graceland is a stupid, stupid movie that was made at the time when every director was still trying to remake Reservoir Dogs and The Usual Suspects. If you need any proof of how bad this movie is, just consider that it is one of the few Kurt Russell films to never develop a cult following. There are people who would jump into the mouth of a volcano if Kurt Russell told them to and even they won’t watch 3000 Miles to Graceland. Even the worst 90s crime films have at least a few people willing to defend them but 3000 Miles to Graceland has been abandoned on the ash heap of crime film history. Despite having a once-in-a-lifetime supporting cast — Christian Slater, Bookeem Woodbine, Kevin Pollack, Jon Lovitz, Howie Long, Ice-T, and even Paul Anka — 3000 Miles to Graceland has never even received a direct-to-video sequel.
Why is 3000 Miles to Graceland so forgettable? The heist storyline has been done to death and this film doesn’t bring anything new to the genre. The only new wrinkle that 3000 Miles to Graceland brings to its familiar story is that the thieves are all dressed like Elvis and that gets old pretty quick. The other problem is that Kevin Costner is miscast as the psycho villain. Michael Madsen could have handled the role. So could Tom Sizemore or Woody Harrelson or just about other actor out there. But Kevin Costner, who first found fame as a sort of modern-day Gary Cooper, never seems comfortable playing a cold-hearted sociopath. He makes up for this discomfort by trying too hard. Comparing his performance here to his more nuanced turn as another criminal in A Perfect World shows just how miscast he was in 3000 Miles To Graceland.
Fortunately, better things were ahead for almost everyone involved in this movie. Kevin Costner has recently returned to playing the type of roles that made him a star to begin with and Kurt Russell has become an American idol. Fortunately, 3000 Miles to Graceland is remembered, if at all, as just an unfortunate detour in their otherwise distinguished careers.