Thursday, February 28, 2013

The Italian Job and The Mini Cooper

When I was thinking of a film to write about for product placement, I immediately thought to myself, what film has really badass cars? The Italian Job (the remake from 2003…just to clarify) was the first thing to come to my mind. I know, I know, for anyone who has seen bits and pieces, or maybe just seen it once, you’re thinking, Mini Coopers…lame. Lame, they are not! This film made those girly little British cars look like top-notch spy mobiles. The Italian Job is basically a full-length advertisement for the Mini Cooper. It is showing how great the car is, while also paying homage to the original version of the car.

The first time a MINI is seen in the film is (SPOILER ALERT) just after Edward Norton’s character goes rogue, and kills Charlize Theron’s character’s father. We know from the first couple scenes of the film that that man is her character’s father, and that he is a member of Mark Wahlberg’s character’s team. The scene of his death is juxtaposed with Charlize Theron’s character going about her everyday life. We learn that she opens safes for a living, (foreshadowing her following in her father’s footsteps) and she drives an “old school” Mini Cooper!!

There is a backstory to why the MINI is the car used in this version of The Italian Job. I discovered this in an article from The Slate by David Edelstein. The version that I am writing about is the 2003 American remake (Mark Wahlberg, Charlize Theron (IMDB)) of the 1969 British film (Michael Caine, Noel Howard (IMDB)). Edelstein says, “In the original film, the Brits celebrated their orderly advantage over the disorderly Italians” (Edelstein par. 5). He goes on to say that the MINI is the only link from the original to the remake because the setting and the characters have been tweaked. (Below I have included a picture of the Minis from the original and the Minis from the remake.) He says, “the original started a rage for [MINIS], and the remake gave even a non-car guy like [himself] an urge to get one” (Edelstein par. 5). This article is further proving the strength of the advertisement for the Mini Cooper in this film. It demonstrates the reason this particular car was chosen to be the star vehicle of the film.
(Here is the article:



The ethos argument comes from the credibility that the actors give the car. The actors, Charlize Theron and Mark Wahlberg, make a viewer want to drive the car because they drive the car…and frankly, they are both total badasses, so who wouldn’t want to drive the same car as they do! In her book, Everything’s An Argument, Andrea Lunsford says, “ethos creates quick…irresistible connections between audience and arguments” (Lunsford 44). This quote is supporting the viewers’ decision to go and buy the car because they see two of Hollywood’s biggest stars driving the car.At the time, Mark Wahlberg and Charlize Theron had not reached the total stardom that they presently have, but they were very much on the rise. Three years before The Italian Job, they did a crime film called The Yards together, which was pretty popular, bringing individuals to want to go see them in another crime film together. They were established action/crime film actors, which brought them credibility to this film, therefore bringing more credibility to the car. In addition to those two actors, Jason Statham brings very much credibility to the car in this film. His name is synonymous with the newest, cutting edge cars, so seeing him driving a Mini Cooper in this film would make people want to go out and buy the car. Just prior to filming The Italian Job, Statham starred in the first Transporter film, which is another action film that is heavily based on the popularity of the car featured in it. Due to this, he also brought much credibility to the film.
Logically, the argument is in what the film shows the car can do. An individual watches the film, chase scenes and crime fighting aside, and gathers the features and capabilities of the car, coming to the logical conclusion that he or she needs the car in his or her life. There are many examples in the film that show the specifications of the car. The first big example is when they first decide to use MINIs when extracting the gold. The gang is sitting around talking about their escape route. They are discussing the width of the hallways, which leads Charlize Theron’s character to the conclusion that a MINI is a great getaway car because they are small enough to drive inside. This is emphasizing that the car can get fit into small areas very easily, which is what some viewers that live in large cities where it is hard to park cars, or somewhere where street parking is prevalent would want in their vehicle. Another example would be when they fill the trunk of the car with weights, and Charlize Theron drives it around in circles, and over an obstacle course, showing that despite the car’s small frame, it can still hold a ton of weight. In the film, they are testing the weight to see how much gold the car will be able to hold, but to a viewer, he or she could be taking in how the car holds a lot of weight, and still handles well. Lastly, the pure speed of the car is emphasized many times throughout the film. At the beginning, when Charlize Theron drives Wahlberg to meet the rest of the team members, he makes several comments about how fast they arrived at their destination. Additionally, the sound effects emphasize the strength of the engine and the ability of the car to reach higher speeds faster. The “vrooming” sound is very frequent in the film, making viewers even more drawn to the car. Lastly, the car has to be fast to be able to get away from a helicopter. All of these things together make the viewer feel like the car could suit their everyday life in one way or another. 
Here is a clip of the scene I was discussing in this logos argument. Charlize Theron is driving the car around with all the weights in the back, showing the viewer just some of the amazing things that the MINI can do!!

That feeling you get when you watch the film; that feeling of I need to go out and buy a MINI so I can be cool is the pathos argument. The pathos argument is purely in how cool the car would make you feel. In a passage about pathos, Lunsford mentions how the emotions are stronger for a viewer if he or she can identify with what is going on within the argument. While viewers of this film cannot identify with trying to steal gold from a bad man, he or she can imagine racing through the streets of Los Angeles in a Mini Cooper, and visioning himself or herself racing through the streets of his or her own town in the MINI that he or she is going to go out buy after seeing this film. While the viewers do not directly identify, they can certainly identify in an imaginary world, further building their emotional attachment to the car. Although the car doesn’t come into play until the last act of the film, it is truly a star. The MINI is the reason that the good guys are able to get away with the gold, which gives the viewer a heroic feeling about the car. In the final chase scene, the car is bobbing and weaving and sliding in and out of traffic, just giving off the true feeling of badassness (yes, I have used this word quite frequently, but there is no other word to sum it up). Viewers still to this day can’t talk about this film without mentioning how awesome the Mini Coopers were in it, which gives great credit to the pathos argument made in this film.

All of these things together make this film a perfect advertisement for the Mini Cooper. The makers of the car would want to put it in this film to reshape the image of the car. According to the article we read in the Orange County Register, “The Center for the Study of Commercialism wants to require filmmakers to disclose the "stealth advertising" at the start of any film in which it appears” (Smith 1). I think if this were to be required, it would just be redundant in the case The Italian Job because with or without an obvious tag at the beginning of the film, the viewer would know that the Mini Cooper is clearly advertised in this film, and he or she would not be affected by it. Before, the car seemed dainty and girly, but after the film, it seems just like any other sports car. Putting the car in this film made it appeal to a bigger audience, and boosted sales of MINIs. All in all, it was the right move for the film, as well as the right move for the makers of the Mini Cooper.

I would certainly give this film 3 tickets because the filmmakers sure took a girly little car and turned it into something completely different!!


  1. I bought my Daughter her first car today. A 2003 mini cooper. Freaking awesome car.. Now I have to get me one ! All I can say is WOE

  2. Woe? "great sorrow or distress."

    I think you mean whoa: "used as a greeting, to express surprise or interest, or to command attention."