It takes a lot to rouse me when I'm in the throes of a football trance. Sure, it would have been chivalrous to lend empathy and gauze when my wife nicked her finger while preparing me a helping of space nachos, but the fourth quarter wasn't going to watch itself. A few weeks before that, apparently the kid learned to walk while I was adjusting my fantasy football lineup. Or maybe he learned to talk? It's hard to remember, transfixed as I was by the nice TV man's description of one contused hulk as "some kinda player."
And yet in the greatest upset since Super Bowl XLII, last Sunday at approximately 5:42 p.m. ET, an advertisement pierced my coma and piqued my interest. This is how it went down: one minute, I was all guhhhhh football football salty treats fizzy beer football guhhh guhhhhhh. Then, without warning, a car was going vroom vroom and an attractive member of the female species was driving it and a dude in the backseat was clutching a briefcase as if it contained his weight in unscuffed Krugerrands. Then the screen blinked with a URL, which I took as a sign that information was yet to be conveyed, and the next thing I knew it was Wednesday morning and I was cold.
Thus was born a reconstructionist mission, in which I attempted to discern what diverted me away from the game. In a lapse that set me back half a day, I conflated "briefcase" with "suitcase." Vaguely recalling that a mid-market car brand was involved, I took to the Google and entered "Mazda suitcase," "Nissan suitcase," "Buick suitcase," etc. This got me nowhere. None of the aforementioned automakers are in the suitcase business. I really should write things down.
Deadline looming, I gave "briefcase" a try, and bingo: "Nissan Briefcase." What I saw on Sunday was a trailer for the longer-length web clip. But unlike most ad teasers (see: Bud Light and the self-impressed #UpForWhatever teaser campaign, which has made me rabidly pre-hate its Super Bowl splash), this one points the way to something that's fully realized, perfectly paced and expertly assembled. Almost.
To its great benefit, "Nissan Briefcase" lacks any semblance of a concept. Pretty gal picks up dorky guy in a Nissan Rogue. Motorcycle sidles up to said Nissan Rogue at a stoplight and deposits a metal briefcase with the driver. Hell breaks loose, in the form of a car chase that's on cinematic par with anything in the "Fast and Furious" franchise. Cars feint and purr and joust with one another almost balletically. Helicopters fly low through tunnels. It's thrilling and it's packed with tiny moments that heighten the tension, like the passenger struggling to put on his glasses or mud spackling the windshield at the height of the pursuit. It completely alters the perception of the Rogue brand, from sub-SUV curiosity to zoomy sleekmobile.
Until its final five seconds, which undo all the good of the previous 160. At clip's end, the Roguesters find themselves trapped by a battalion of baddies. When the vaguely accented, vaguely menacing leader asks Dorky Guy to hand over the briefcase, the screen prompts us to click over to Openthebriefcase.com, which redirects to a Facebook page and - here we go - the conclusion to our manic little episode.
So Dorky Guy hands over the briefcase and Vague Menacer opens it to reveal… a gun? a bomb? a thermos filled with juicified anthrax? No, it's just a key to a Nissan Rogue. The whole thing, you see, was/is an elaborate lead-in to a contest. "There are three more briefcases. Click one of them below for the chance to win," says Vague Menacer, effecting an Emmy-worthy shift into the persona of Sly Huckster.
The sudden change in tone and abandonment of the central mystery nukes the mood, the brand uplift and any chance any viewer will walk away from the clip satisfied. Nissan might as well have tacked on some ragtime piano and CGI rainbows to the outro. The resolution (or lack thereof) is that singularly mystifying.
What pisses me off - and let me tell you, nothing gooses my gander more than a brand video clip that doesn't deliver on its promise - is how the final twist renders everything before it pointless. Nissan sets the scene skillfully, fosters a sense of menace and mystery, stages the chase with precision and imagination… and then shoves it all aside for a contest?
A contest. Really. So much dumb. So much.
Five-word reviews, pre-Super Bowl edition