Dir: Joe Carnahan
Starring: Clive Owen, Don Cheadle, F. Murray Abraham
10 minutes, 2002
For those who are unaware, the BMW Films was a series of nine shorts showcasing the different models of BMW's high performance vehicles. Starring a pre-US movie star Clive Owen as "The Driver," this character is as no nonsense as his name suggests and is planted into a diverse array of situations and interacts with different characters featuring high-profile actors (Such include Gary Oldman, Madonna, and Forest Whitaker.) Each film varies greatly in style, depending on which famed auteur is directing the piece: Be it the moody, music driven style of Wong Kar-Wai, to the no-holds bar approach of blockbuster (and commercial) director Tony Scott, the films do not always prominently place the vehicles and their capabilities at the forefront of the story.
"Ticker," directed by Narc and Smokin' Aces helmer Joe Carnahan, most successfully combines the dramatic and bombastic characteristics of the BMW Films series. It doesn't shamelessly promote BMW, like Scott's car race-centered "Beat the Devil," nor try too hard in attaining dramatic depth, a la Alejandro Gonzalez-Inarritu's "Powder Keg," but instead provides a captivating, fast paced plot that keeps both your mind and emotions engaged, packaged into a car chase worthy of Frankenheimer (who directed the first film in the series.)
Featuring Don Cheadle as a mysterious passenger with a brief case and handcuffs, the film drops us right in the action, where an unnamed South American helicopter fires down onto The Driver's silver beamer convertible. The chase (and thus the film) is excellently crafted, opening with just a brief six-second sample of action before intercutting to a B-story providing an ambiguous explanation of the case. Call it generic, but it works magically, giving the audience a perfect balance of action and storyline all in one fell swoop. It stops action when we want it to keep going, and expertly crafts the B story so that it leads into an epic continuation of the car chase. Without even knowing what is happening, it plants us into the shoes of The Driver, moving he and us from suspicion to sympathy for Cheadle's character.
The short film was a calling card for director Carnahan, who had just come off his hit independent cop drama Narc (this film features a cameo of that film's star, Ray Liotta.) While Narc showcased Carnahan's pension for mysterious supporting characters and third-act twists, it couldn't showcase his ability at directing action like this. "Ticker" showed what is now Carnahan's trademark directing style (for better or worse) of combining hyperbolic melodrama with hyperbolic action, and would help earn him the opportunity to direct Mission Impossible III (which he later dropped from) and Smokin' Aces (which he did complete.) And while his style may have had diffculty sustaining itself over the course of 90 minutes like it does in Aces, it works perfectly in the short film format. It is just enough substance to grab us at the most superficial of emotional levels while be entertaining enough to keep our attention entirely through ten minutes.