"I highly recommend The Hire, even though it is nothing more than 8 glorified commercials by well known and respected directors."
The Hire (2001-2003)
AKA: BMW Films Presents The Hire
Director: John Frankenheimer (The Ambush), Ang Lee (The Chosen), Wong Kar-Wai (The Follow), Guy Ritchie (The Star), Alejandro González Iñárritu (The Powder Keg), John Woo (The Hostage), Joe Carnahan (The Ticker), Tony Scott (Beat the Devil)
Plot: The Hire, a series of short films created by Hollywood's finest talent, features eight brilliantly produced films starring Clive Owen as the driver.
Availability: This title is available at BMWfilms.com. The Hire DVD is free (all you pay is shipping and handling).
EQUINOX21'S REVIEW: The Hire is a series of 8 short movies directed by 8 different, but each highly praised, directors. Intended as promotional pieces for BMW, they seem to have taken on a life of their own, and greatly boosted the recognition of the main actor of every one of the pieces, Clive Owen. The only thing they have in common with each other is the character of The Driver (Clive Owen) and the fact that in every piece he drives some BMW vehicle. The films range from funny to serious, with a different spin on each movie by each director putting their own signature touches on them. What follows are short reviews of each of the 8 pieces; five from the first season and three from the second.
The Ambush: Directed by John Frankenheimer (1st season) This film is very reminiscent of the late John Frankenheimer's 1998 action/adventure/spy thriller masterpiece, Ronin. It's got the gunfire, the super fast car chases, and the quick thinking good guy driver. The Driver is ferrying a passenger who is carrying $2 million in stolen uncut diamonds when they are ambushed by a van full of would be thieves who want the diamonds for themselves. It's up to The Driver to save both his passenger's life and his own by getting away from the thieves who will stop at nothing to get the diamonds. This one was essentially one long car chase scene that would have felt right at home in the movie Ronin, with both having the same style and atmosphere. Unfortunately, the setting of The Ambush was nowhere near as exotic or interesting as that of Ronin (taking place mostly in or around scenic Nice, France), instead taking place on a regular, plain old, boring highway in the US. This was one of the last things that John Frankenheimer directed in his illustrious, 50+ year career before dying in 2002. Score: 8/10
The Chosen: Directed by Ang Lee (1st season) The Chosen was probably my least favorite of the 8 short films. It simply lacked what all the other's had. The Driver must bring a Tibetan boy (played by Ang Lee's own son) from a dockside to a house of Tibetan monks in New York, while three cars full of thugs try to stop him. The car chases weren't as exciting as those in some of the other films, the drama wasn't as engaging and overall it just simply wasn't as exciting. This one felt the MOST like a simple BMW commercial out of all 8 of the films. That's not to say it was bad, because it wasn't. It simply wasn't as good as the rest. Score: 6/10
The Follow: Directed by Wong Kar-Wai (1st season) This was easily my favorite of the films, and not just because I'm such a huge fan of Wong Kar-Wai (though he undoubtedly had a lot to do with why I liked it so much). The Driver is hired by a movie star (Mickey Rourke) through his manager (Forrest Whitaker) to follow the star's wife (Adriana Lima), because he suspects her of infidelity. There is no action in this film, which makes it that much more interesting to me. It focuses on scenes like that of The Driver's surveillance, with almost no sound, only the beautiful Brazilian song "Unicornio" playing and with The Driver's narration over it. The drama is great, as it shows that The Driver is not simply out for money. It's very slow paced, but touching. The DVD would be worth it for this film alone. Score: 10/10
The Star: Directed by Guy Ritchie (1st season) WOO HOO! I've never seen a better use of Blur's "Song 2" in a movie. The Driver is hired to take a diva, superstar bitch (played by Madonna, who also happens to be the director Guy Ritchie's wife) to the venue. I really hate Madonna, so I absolutely loved this film, but you'd have to see it to understand why. The Star doesn't take anything too seriously and is by far the funniest of the 8 shorts. It has all the style you'd expect from something directed by Guy Ritchie. It's got the narration, the great camera work and the terrific comedy. This one is a film of pure fun with absolutely no deeper meaning behind it. Score: 9/10
The Powder Keg: Directed by Alejandro González Iñárritu (1st season) This was by far the grittiest and most serious of the films. The Driver has to get a photographer (Stellan Skarsgård) out of Columbia, after he's wounded while photographing innocent people being gunned down by members of a drug cartel. The picture of this film is very grainy, which helps convey the gritty feel even more. The music at the end really worked well. The Powder Keg is a terrific mix of drama and action. Score: 8/10
The Hostage: Directed by John Woo (2nd season) Like any good John Woo movie, this one features dramatic slow motion when appropriate and some good action for entertainment (in this case in the form of a short car chase/race against time). An employee of a company kidnaps his boss, and demands a $5 million ransom. When things go wrong, The Driver must track down the hostage and rescue her before it is too late. It feels very much like a John Woo film, and it would have been extremely exciting to see this one stretched out into a full length feature. Score: 8/10
The Ticker: Directed by Joe Carnahan (2nd season) What is the life of one man worth? That's the theme of this film. The Driver is called in to get his Passenger (Don Cheadle) with his important package to a drop off zone... at any cost. This one is heavy on the action, as someone is quite intent on keeping the Passenger from reaching his destination. This is the first Joe Carnahan film I've ever seen, and I really like it. The editing helps in telling the story, and the visual style is atypical (washed out colors and slightly too contrast resulting in a really interesting look) but it works very well. Also, look out for F. Murray Abraham, Robert Patrick and Ray Liotta in this one. Score: 9/10
Beat the Devil: Directed by Tony Scott (2nd season) Completely goofy... I LOVE IT! The Driver accompanies The Man himself, James Brown (playing himself), to an apartment in Las Vegas occupied by The Devil (Gary Oldman). There James complains to him that though he traded The Devil his soul for fame and fortune, they never addressed the aging process, and now that he's too old to even do the splits he wants to renegotiate their contract. I can't explain this one any other way than to say it's completely nonsensical, but thoroughly enjoyable. There are some terrific visual effects used that really work well, such as some split screen and subtitles when some crazy things are said. If you like James Brown, you'll love this one. Also, watch for the terrifically funny cameo by Marilyn Manson at the end. Score: 9/10
Overall, the individual films are done very well by their respective directors, with the directors' styles showing through quite dramatically. Clive Owen has proved himself a superb actor, able to pull off the comedic and dramatic requirements of the various films. The guy has real talent! Aside from his role as The Driver in The Hire films, I've seen only a couple of his other projects, but I can't wait to see many more of his films. I highly recommend The Hire, even though it is nothing more than 8 glorified commercials by well known and respected directors.
EQUINOX21'S RATING: 9/10