Recently I noticed a couple of ads, one on television, one in print, touting (if I remember correctly) a film by Guy Ritchie called Star. To see this film, one must go to a Web site called BMWFilms.com. This is part of the site of BMW, the luxury car maker. Here one finds a series of short films by big-name directors, all prominently featuring BMWs. In other words, what I saw were short ads for what are, in effect, longer ads. This is a curious formulation, but it of course left me wondering about the quality of the ads being advertised. It's tough to evaluate them without giving away the endings, so here are links to the films— Ambush, Chosen, The Follow, and Star—if you want to watch them before reading on.
The "movies": The first film is called Ambush and is directed by John Frankenheimer (director of The Manchurian Candidate and, more recently, of Reindeer Games). In it, a driver-for-hire and his passenger, in a Beemer of course, are accosted by mysterious masked gunmen on a lonely road at night. They want the passenger to fork over $2 million in uncut diamonds, which the passenger, who speaks in an accent that suggests he's from Latin America, says he has swallowed. Though the driver didn't want to get involved, he decides to give the bad guys the slip by way of an elaborate car chase that takes up the rest of the five-minute film, affording many opportunities to show off BMW features. Perhaps the most impressive of these is that apparently in a BMW you can easily get a curb-side parking spot on 47th Street in Manhattan.
In Chosen, directed by Ang Lee ( Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon), the same driver meets a mysterious pair of Tibetans, man and boy, in a shipyard. He is to take the boy … somewhere. Along with a small jewel box containing … something. And then: Trouble! More bad guys, another car chase, more impressive cornering, acceleration, and braking. In a post-chase denouement, it becomes necessary for the driver to punch out an imposter Tibetan. After the boy is safe and the mission complete, he opens the box, which contains an Incredible Hulk bandage—which the driver happens to need because a bullet nicked his ear. How did the boy know he would need such a thing? Those mysterious Tibetans. …
The Follow is directed by Wong Kar-Wai ( In the Mood for Love), and as the title indicates, the driver is not being chased this time. He's been hired to follow around a woman who is apparently leaving her husband. It features Mickey Rourke, Adriana Lima (a Brazilian model), and an uncredited Forest Whitaker. It also features far less actual driving than any of the others in the series. In the end, the driver, a moral fellow, decides that the people who have hired him are creeps, so he returns his money and claims that he "lost" his subject, though of course we know that such a thing is impossible when a BMW is involved.
Star is the film I saw advertised. It's directed by Guy Ritchie (Mr. Madonna; director of Snatch) and features an uncredited but hardly surprising turn by Madonna in the main role. She plays a bitchy superstar. The driver is to take her to a venue where she's supposed to perform. She's snotty and mean. He gets fed up and swerves all over town like a madman, the Beemer's high performance flinging her around in the back seat as "Song 2" by Blur plays. In the end she is literally hurled from the car and lies whimpering and soiled before the paparazzi.
Thumbs down already! A fifth "film" is on the way, but I've seen enough. It's hard to know which is more astonishing, the amount of money BMW must have poured into this stunt or how lame the results are. The chases in the first two flicks are endless, and the suspense of the whole chase formula is rather drained by the inclusion of frequent product shots. The Guy Ritchie offering is a 30-second idea strung out to nearly seven minutes. Only The Follow is somewhat interesting, and that's because instead of seeming like a film that's been taken over by an ad, it feels more like an ad in which disconcerting, filmlike things are happening—the obligatory sumptuous car-tools-through-downtown shots look just like the same ones you've seen a million times, so it's interesting when a few stuntlike maneuvers are worked in without any break in the New Age-ish soundtrack or lush cinematography common to car advertising. Anyway, that's hardly enough to save this elaborate stunt from crashing into the junk heap of bloated marketing schemes.