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Star (I) (2001)
A great revenge-fantasy.
9 June 2003
After the introspective FOLLOW, Guy Ritchie's STAR is a complete 180-degree turn away in terms of style, mood and subject. Fortunately, it's a roaring success.

Clive Owen showcases a previously unseen facility for comedic timing. From his mock innocence as the Star berates him to a later moment when he says with tongue firmly planted in cheek, "I've think we've lost them.", Owen is a delight in this charming little revenge fantasy for those who have had to put up with rude, insolent customers in their line of profession.

Ritchie directs the film pretty much as an extension of the style he used in SNATCH and LOCK, STOCK, & 2 SMOKING BARRELS. All his trademarks are here; Freeze frames, voice overs, and gratuitous use of English pop songs. Combined with the fact that yes, as everyone now knows, that's his wife Madonna as the Star who gets her fateful comeuppance, and the film ends up being the most crowd-pleasing of the series. Highly recommended.
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The Follow (2001)
The first classic episode of the BMW series.
5 June 2003
While John Frankenheimer and Ang Lee made films whose primary purpose is to show off the new line of BMW cars, Wong Kar Wai's FOLLOW is the first to actually try to make a genuine piece of art where the cars plays a secondary purpose. A driver (Clive Owen) is hired to keep surveillance on a movie star's wife, and begins to find himself emotionally involved.

OK, the plot is standard film noir material, but it is Wong Kar-Wai's elliptical visual style juxtaposed with melancholy music that creates an unforgettable mood piece that rejuvenates noir cliches. A perfect example is when Clive Owen looks into the wife's face and suddenly realize why she's attempting to leave her husband. It's just a simple understated shot that would be absolutely beautiful until you realize what the camera is focusing on.

This is a short film that a viewer would wish to be a full-length feature to stay in the sad stylish world that it has created. Now how many car commercials can claim that?
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Chosen (2001)
Disappointing Followup
4 June 2003
While John Frankenheimer's AMBUSH was a hardboiled vignette, Ang Lee's THE CHOSEN is an attempt at doing a lighthearted mixture of action and comedy. Unfortunately Ang Lee's comedy falls flat. While he might showcase the BMW's maneuverability to good effect; The actual chase between Clive Owen's enigmatic driver escorting a small Tibetan boy and the mysterious henchmen seeking to harm his charge, is staged in a light jokey tone that eliminated all tension and replaces it with uninspired slapstick.

Indeed, as the film progresses to its punchline of a conclusion, one suspects that Ang Lee was seeing how to make a film that kids would like along with adults in preparation for his then-upcoming HULK movie (as hinted at near the end). While the final result might be something BMW owners can show to their children, adults will find themselves bored and frustrated.
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Ambush (2001)
Good Solid Opener
4 June 2003
John Frankenheimer was hired for this probably due the impressive car chases he filmed for RONIN rather than the last film he did the mediocre REINDEER GAMES. Fortunately he's in top form for this short film. In a mere 6 minutes we get an lean, mean vignette about how Clive Owen, as an unnamed driver-for-hire, does his best to escape from a van full of masked gunmen out to kidnap and kill the driver's passenger: a diamond smuggler who swallowed his precious cargo. While later films in the BMW series would get more ambitious in scope, it's AMBUSH that lays the groundwork for the later films to work from.

The film's style and approach to action is hard-edged, the actual car chase is exciting, and Clive Owen gives a sense of man who gets out of dangerous situations by a mixture of complete professionalism and ruthless self-interest. Only in later films do we begin to see a more human side to his character.
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