BMW Films’ “The Hire” displayed an as-of-yet unmatched understanding of what drivers want in new car advertising.
What do directors John Frankenheimer, Ang Lee, and John Woo; actors Gary Oldman, Mickey Rourke, and Don Cheadle; and musicians Madonna, Marilyn Manson, and James Brown all have in common? They all had significant roles to play in BMW Films’ 8-short series known as The Hire. Airing on BMWFilms.com (which has since fallen out of use) between 2001 and 2002, the eight unique films all shared a few common threads: impressive quality, badass action, Clive Owen as “The Driver,” and—of course—the latest BMWs of the day. For those of you who still enjoy the superlative BMW Films and long for newer installments, there’s good news on the horizon: Ad Age is reporting that BMW Films will return sometime in the near future—even though they’re not yet saying just when that will be.
Below: “Ambush,” directed by the late, great John Frankenheimer.
From Ad Age:
“Trudy Hardy, BMW’s new VP of marketing, said at the 2014 Automotive News World Congress in Detroit, the luxury automaker was planning to bring back BMW Films. But Ms. Hardy and BMW have declined to comment further.”
The original collection of BMW Films’ eight shorts, collectively entitled The Hire, changed the game for how automakers market their vehicles. What’s particularly brilliant about The Hire is how they feature BMW’s vehicles without forcing them upon the viewer. As with any good chase movie, the vehicle is as much a character as the person driving it, and the wide range of BMWs featured—from the M5 and Z3 Roadster to the 740i and 330i Coupe—are as vital to the narrative to the actors.
The Hire doesn’t sell you on the idea of BMW as much as it just makes you want to drive them. And that’s a concept that advertisers continue to fail to grasp even today.
What’s possibly most amazing about The Hire today is how fresh it still feels (even when compared to the automaker’s current commercial fare). The diverse quality and tone of all eight films offer fare that feels cinematic at every turn and manages to be quick, clever, funny, and even poignant (as seen below in Alejandro González Iñárritu’s contribution, “Powder Keg”)
You won’t see shiny BMWs gleaming in showrooms or driving quickly across tidily-trimmed mountain passes here. These cars get dirty, banged up, beaten, and shot full of holes. There’s no talk about powertrain or horsepower, no sales jargon, and no obtuse language.
But there is a fair amount of Gary Oldman—portraying a manic rock star version of the Devil— and his driver (Machete’s Danny Trejo) drag racing The Driver and James Brown down the Vegas Strip for Brown’s soul (because he “can’t do the splits no more” and scares children—James Brown, that is). Oh, and there’s a Marilyn Manson cameo at the end where he scolds his Satanic neighbor for making too much noise and interrupting his Bible reading. Seriously, just watch.
Below: “Meet the Devil,” featuring the typically madcap direction of the late Tony Scott.
If you want to check out BMW Films’ The Hire, it seems you have two choices for the time being: buy a used copy of the DVD on Amazon (we did, and it’s well worth it), or thank YouTuber Tim Brooks for being so kind as to upload all eight shorts on his channel for our enjoyment.
We want to hear what you think: what would you like to see in a new installment of the chronicles of The Driver? How about Clive Owen behind the wheel of a BMW i8 after responding to an ad on Craigslist and being chased by an angry horde of Game of Thrones cosplayers? Clearly, the possibilities are pretty close to endless, and we at The News Wheel will keep you up-to-date as more details on the next round of BMW Films emerge.