The Italian Job (2003)
Mark Wahlberg, Charlize Theron, Donald Sutherland
|I know i have seen films with *more* product placement than this -- the average Bond film, these days, has more overall -- but i don't think i ever saw a single *bigger* piece of product placement.
I mean, would this film have even been made if BMW hadn't felt a need to promote their new "Mini Cooper"?
That said, i have to admit that this is not the sort of steaming pile of cowchips that the 2000 "remake" of "Gone in 60 Seconds" was -- they have wisely not tried to do an "improved" version of the original, but have actually done what might have been a sequel (one was sort-of planned), if it had begun with Charlie and Co. getting out of the cliffhanger that ended the original film, followed by a double-cross by a gang member.
It has neither the charm nor the Britishness of the original, and it sorely misses Michael Caine and Noel Coward (though i'm just as glad Seth Green's character didn't recycle the Benny Hill computer expert character from the first film...), nor is the chase so inventive or so sustained (though it does have several direct references to the original film's chase) but it's okay if you take it on its own terms as a light action film, useful for killing part of an afternoon if you don't think too hard.
Since the original is also available on DVD -- i believe there's a reasonably-priced two-fer available on Amazon -- one might amuse oneself by seeing if one can manage to sit through both back-to-back, and decide which is the better. My personal choice would be the original, but there are more than a few decent moments in the remake.
The Bottom Line: Not bad, but unnecessary.
 History: The Cooper and Cooper "S" were high-performance variants of a small car produced by British Motors under the Morris and Ausin names; not all Minis were Coopers. The "S" used a larger, more powerful engine, and was banned for emissions reasons in the US in 1966, the car itself (due to the fact that it was impossible to fit with one of the newly-mandated collapsible steering columns) was unable to pass crash-test standards in 1967 and so disappeared from this country.
Production continued in England (and in Italy under license, which leads to a gag in the original film) for many years after that, but was finally discontinued.
The Mini was the first of the "two-box" subcompacts with transverse engine and front-wheel drive, the direct ancestor conceptually of the VW Rabbit, Honda Civic and so on; none of them, however, used anything like its unique "Hydrolastic" suspension, which was completely hydraulic, with no springs or conventional shock absorbers.
It was smaller than those, at somewhere between 1500 and 1800 pounds and using ten-inch wheels.
BMW bought the name, and has recently brought out the car they call a "Mini Cooper", much the same shape, but much bigger and more luxurious -- the BMW "Cooper" weighs almost 3000 pounds and uses wheels as large as fifteen inches.
Those of us who cherish the original Mini in all its variants are not deceived...