Wednesday, April 26, 2017

BMW films: The Escape








Today's film is called The Escape.

The Escape is not to confused with the short film I posted earlier this week that was called just Escape. Note the lack of a "the". This one is one of the latest in the BMW film series called The Hire. Once upon a time, these were kind of a big deal. The film series began in 2001, and they were basically a "commercial event". In the early days of the Internet, the intent was to drive TV viewers to the website in order to see the full film, and since this was before the age of Youtube, once there, they would then have to wait half an hour for their 56k modem to download the god damn things...

Anyway, the basic idea was for well-known filmmakers and actors to make a short film, each one centered on a mysterious, unflappable, and super cool Driver-for-hire (Clive Owen) performing various jobs that just happen to show off the latest BMWs.

The first "season" of films were actually pretty cool. John Frankenheimer directed one. So did Ang Lee, Wong Kar-Wai, and Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu. The Guy Ritchie short with Madonna, as a spoiled mega-star who needs to make her movie premiere fast, was particularly entertaining. The high speed car antics really seemed to suit Ritchie's style. The rest of the short films varied from espionage-tinged noir to cutting edge crime thriller, and they were all a pretty good time, more or less. If you haven't seen any of them, you should look them up.

The second "season" turned out to be pretty disappointing and kind of forgettable, despite having Tony Scott, Joe Carnahan, and John Woo each directing a film. I only saw them once, and can't remember much about them except that they were pretty panned at the time. Some of the synopses sound interesting, but like I said, all I can really remember at this point was being disappointed, so if you want to check them out, go ahead.

As a result of that failure, only a mere four years after unveiling the initial effort, BMW abandoned the idea, claiming it was too expensive. Until now that is, apparently, as over a decade later, the third "season" has begun. This time, Neill Blomkamp, a once promising director whose early success now seems more like a fluke than anything else, is the writer and director, and the film not only features Clive Owen returning as The Driver, but Jon Bernthal, Vera Farmiga, and Dakota Fanning all show up as well. That's a nice cast, so hopefully Blomkamp delivers.

But I'm wary...

Every synopsis I found for The Escape was terrible, the wikipedia article being particularly shitty, so I cobbled one together. Here it is: The disappearance of geneticist Dr. Nora Phillips exposes an illegal cloning operation at a corporation known as Molecular Genetics. As the FBI raids the facility, the Driver is hired by corporate security to deliver the one surviving specimen to an unnamed customer. The specimen turns out to be a human clone, a scared young woman called Five. However, during the escape, the Driver’s conscience takes over, and he must avoid the FBI, as well as the murderous private security thugs, in order to save her.

Sounds awesome! Let's watch...



That was... kind of inert.

Blomkamp can shoot some good action scenes. I won't deny that. However, like most of his films, there are some narrative leaps here that you are just supposed to roll with, I guess, and it doesn't work. Blomkamp focuses too much on establishing certain details, without connecting the bigger narrative tissue, and the whole thing feels weightless. I mean, shit, he doesn't even show us the Driver removing the hook that Holt attached to the car, or how the car avoided FBI pursuit, the main chase scene is just over--boom, time to wrap up. That's a disappointing cheat.

Not that I didn't enjoy the chase sequence, but it was a little too short, honestly. I expected Blomkamp to kind of excel here, but it seemed like he was more interested in the character of Holt, than he was anything to do with the Driver, which is unsurprising, honestly, considering that it's Blomkamp and his military fetish, but shit... I came for some high-speed car antics, man, so let's see it. Show me what you got, as the Cromulons say. Unfortunately, based on his filmography, it looks like Blomkamp does indeed show us what he's got, and it's just not that impressive.

Too bad,
Jon


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