Sunday, December 08, 2002

Beat the Devil (IMDB) (BMW Films)
You won't find this nine-minute film in your local theater listings, but you might see it before the next feature you attend, and it's a great reason to get there on time (you can also download it at the BMW Films link above). After last year's successful marketing campaign, carmaker BMW has commissioned another set of "shorts" by top-shelf film directors like John Woo, Ang Lee and the late John Frankenheimer. The point of this largesse is to sell Bimmers, but calling these efforts "commercials" is a minor unjustice. Tony Scott (Top Gun, True Romance, Enemy of the State) directs this one, which features Clive Owen as The Driver, Gary Oldman as The Devil, singer James Brown as himself, the Godfather of Soul, and a shiny brand-new BMW Z4 roadster. The hardest working man in show business wants a new soul, and will drag-race the devil to get one.

Director Scott empties his very large bag of tricks to make this hyper-active onslaught, and while one's head would explode if it were a full-length feature, here the barrage of music, quick cuts, special effects and subtitles (Brown has enunciation trouble) is powerfully effective. There's no letup, right through the last scene, which is best left as a surprise. I've seen it three times, and could easily see it another three, and hope that its success will bring shorts back to the theater, and give us more of our money's worth.