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Star Wars Episode 9 – The Rise of Skywalker (2019)

Well, what is there to say, at this point?

Disney…you almost completely fucked Star Wars up. And I do stress ALMOST, as I do genuinely very much like Rogue One (2016) and The Mandalorian (2019), and I think they are both easily worthy of the Star Wars name. The same cannot be said about the rest of Disney’s contribution to the franchise. Steering clear of the pointless Solo flick, the Mouse House’s continuation of George Lucas’ ‘Skywalker Saga’ has been a horribly mismanaged mess (looking at YOU, Kathleen Kennedy!). It started off reasonably well (I guess), despite The Force Awakens (2015) being just an overly cautious retelling of the beloved original A New Hope (1977), just with a new coat of 21st Century paint slapped on it. Then came The Last Jedi (2017)…and it can burn in the pit of Hell, hopefully taking jackass writer / director Rian Johnson with it! I loathe that piece of shit! I was legitimately insulted when I walked out of the theatre after sitting through that garbage and I was pretty sure that I was nearing the end of my 40 year long love affair with Star Wars, if this was how it’s new caretakers, Disney, were going to treat it. Plus, certain dumbass elements now had to be accepted into SW lore and could not be erased, no how much us fans wanted them to be.

So, my enthusiasm for The Rise of Skywalker was scraping the bottom of the barrel when it finally arrived here in our town, back before all this horrid Covid-19 bullshit. So much so, that when I had the choice of seeing this or checking out Bad Boys for Life, Will Smith and Martin Lawrence easily won. Since I already had Disney+ (mostly just for The Mandalorian), I figured I’d just wait and see it from the comfort of self-isolation, which I did just the other night.

(shakes head sadly)

It really is JUST AS BAD as The Last Jedi…just for different reasons. Even after sweet-talking JJ Abrams into coming back to the Director’s Chair to try to get the final flick back on track in a way that repairs the good will of the fans after they were raped by The Last Jedi, it was a lost cause. I can’t help but to think of the Sam Mendes situation, where he steps in to helm the kickass Skyfall (2012), but then gets reluctantly persuaded into coming back to take on the hastily and clumsily written Spectre (2015), and his lack of enthusiasm shows in the lacklustre final product. Definitely a similar feel here.

So, the day after I watched it, I parked myself in our sun-room with a tasty beverage and a notepad, and pondered – what are my lasting impressions of the final film in a classic and long-lived franchise that is absolutely ingrained in pop culture?

Yep, full on SPOILERS ahead. Ye be warned!

In no particular order, here’s what sprang to mind…

 

Right off the bat…the fucking Emperor. How creative. Yep, that’s heavy sarcasm you detect on ‘How creative.’ This is just cheap and lazy writing, that really NEEDS to rely on nostalgia to fake its way to relevancy. And there’s no surprise to it…at all. They mention him in the opening lines of the opening scrawl! Hell, the scrawl itself seems amateurish, now that I think about it but yeah…they unleash what MAYBE could’ve been a decent ‘reveal’ or twist immediately. The fucking Emperor Sheev Palpatine, most certainly vanquished at the end of The Return of the Jedi (1983), SOMEHOW (they never do explain how the hell he survived EXPLODING AFTER BEING THROWN INTO THE BOWELS OF THE DOOMED DEATH STAR 2!), he’s back, and he’s broadcasting threatening messages into space! From the bottom of my heart…fuck you, Disney.

Right from early on, editing and pace are choppy and jarring. The majority of the Star Wars flicks have really user-friendly pacing that draws you into the world onscreen right from the beginning and gets you effortlessly caught up in the story. Not here. It’s just a bunch of random, highly convenient shit happening with seemingly no connective tissue from scene to scene. I was actually agitated by it within 10 minutes…and that didn’t bode well.

New Force powers bullshit. Why add, with no real explanation, how it is that Force-using characters can now teleport material items back and forth across the reaches of space and ‘Rey’ can heel grievously wounded folks (and giant sand worms) with her Jesus hands. There are so many other cool Jedi abilities that could’ve been employed, based upon things we’ve already seen in previous flicks. Nope! They just invented plot-serving bullshit and plodded ahead with it, like a drunken oaf.

The ‘Leia’ stuff wasn’t as bad as expected. Acceptable, if abrupt, send-off for the character. Considering that all they apparently had was deleted scenes and outtakes from The Force Awakens to work with, they did a serviceable job at maintaining the illusion of the dearly missed Carrie Fisher and they managed to bid her farewell in a decently touching way. Amazingly, I was cool with all that.

The ‘Chewie dies!’ scene was a cheap move and a wasted opportunity for a genuine surprise later in the flick…not in the next fucking scene! Again, clumsy editing. Or shitty script. Or both. The sentence does pretty much sum up that sentiment. They ‘Marion Ravenwood’ the Wookie with a stupid fake-out death and it’s lame.

Holy shit! That ridiculous, cartoonishly sized armada of planet-killing (again!) Star Destroyers, that’ve just been chilling in the ice, fully manned, till Palpatine wiggles his fingers and unleashes them. Yeah, it’s dumb. It’s ridiculous. And part of my brain shut off at that point…and this within the first ten minutes!

The Kylo / Rey ‘chemistry’ can go fuck itself. It feels SO forced and inorganic. Right there. That.

How much did they dump on your doorstep, Harrison?! Not even a haircut. Hilarious. Considering that Harrison Ford has made no secret about his original desire to have his cherished ‘Han Solo’ character killed off early in the franchise, I find it highly suspicious that he came back for this illogical cameo. Disney probably bought him a 747 for his collection…filled with cash.

Luke’s minimal screen-time is hokey. It tries to fix what The Last Jedi fucked up. I stress ‘tries’. It sucks because the character of ‘Luke’, who has arguably carried most of the classic Star Wars’ most important  narrative, got right screwed by Disney and refreshingly enough, Mark Hamill had been rather vocal about his displeasure with how the character was seriously short-changed in this new trilogy. But here, he turns up as a Force ghost at a supposedly pivotal moment that heavy-handedly labors to undo what Rian Johnson did to the character in 2017.

I get the nostalgic love for Lando Calrissian but that doesn’t justify shoving a pudgy, much older Billy Dee Williams into some ‘Lando’ish garb and having him spout some ‘Star Wars’-like dialogue after just conveniently appearing out of the blue. This is just another example of the desperate nostalgia baiting that Disney is preying will cover up the glaring deficiencies in the so-called script, and it’s really obvious. They’re just throwing everything at us and hoping something sticks in a way us fans respond positively to. Though, I’m sure Williams is happy to get a bit of that Disney money tipped his way, after years out of the spotlight.

Keri Russell. Why? Like a friggin Power Ranger and just as useless. I have no issue with Keri Russell. I think she’s gorgeous and has a modicum of talent as an actress but why she’s in this sorry excuse for a SW movie, I don’t know. Except I suspect I do…she has a history with JJ going back to her days on Felicity (98-02) and Mission Impossible 3 (2006) and probably sweet-talked her way into the role just to say that she was in a Star Wars flick. Which is fine except that her character ‘Zorii’ is useless and looks like a damn Power Ranger!

Hux. Stupid ‘reveal’ and dispatch of a signature ‘mustache twirling villain’. So, First Order ‘General Hux’ (Domhnall Gleeson) is actually a saboteur intent on aiding the Resistance in order to defeat ‘Kylo Ren’, huh? After being a rabid supporter and facilitator of its violent destruction over the course of the two previous flicks? Who’s unceremoniously gunned down by a fellow officer, almost as an after thought? Again, so much wasted potential and more evidence of lazy who-gives-a-shit writing.

The use of Threepio for cheap nostalgia ‘feels’, the whole ‘memory wipe sacrifice, only to be easily undone when no longer relevant’ thing. More piss-poor use of a classic character. ‘C-3PO’ is ‘reset’ so that he can read the Sith runes found on the Goonie-knife that is used to locate something in some place but the big issue is that his long-established personality will be erased in order to do so, which it is. Until R2 just does a thing with a thing and voila…’Threepio’ is back! Again…fuck you, Disney.

Impressive planet explosion, possibly a miniature…but WTF?!! AGAIN?!! Don’t get me wrong, there are some decent visuals scattered throughout and this is one of them. But c’mon! You guys couldn’t come up with ANYTHING else?! You had to just rehash the same shit we’ve already seen 4 goddamn times before this? Wow…more of that lazy writing at work.

I hate the whole Palpatine element as it negates the triumphant satisfaction of The Return of the Jedi. Disrespectful and creatively bankrupt. That pretty much says it all. I remember having seen Jedi when I was a kid and being absolutely elated by Vader’s sacrifice when he saved Luke and ‘killed’ the Emperor doing. The crescendo that those first three movies built to paid off wonderfully and left me feeling happy that finally good had triumphed over evil, and all was right with the universe. Then, decades later…this bullshit.

Aside from maybe the desert skiff chase, no action scenes really stand out, even a mere day later. One of the things that Star Wars is known for are its many inventive and cool action set-pieces (the Trench Run, the Battle of Hoth, the Sarlaac Pit fight, the Speeder Bike chase etc), but this pathetic turd has nothing except for maybe the somewhat generic chase on yet another desert planet, and even it boasts some questionable effects (some of the compositing and light matching stands right out), which is surprising given the bloated budget.

The ‘Stormtrooper Jedi Mind Trick’ scene WAS funny. I LoL’d, I will admit. There’s a bit where ‘Rey’ (Daisy Ridley), ‘Finn’ (John Boyega) and ‘Poe’ (Oscar Isaac) are sneaking through the bowels of a Star Destroyer and they run headlong into a pair of Stormtroopers, whom ‘Rey’ mind-tricks into letting them pass, with some hilarious results. It’s only 4 lines of dialogue, but I’ve watched it 6 times now and laughed every time.

The stupid Goonies rip-off Sith dagger! What an idiotic MacGuffin! And they just happen upon it…underground! Yep, this element I find utterly moronic. The entire ‘mechanism’ of how this thing works is so completely reliant on convenience to work that it boggles my mind that they were brave enough, or dense enough, to include it. Say it with me, kids…LAZY.

The ex-stormtrooper chick had a hilariously bad costume. Like cheesy cosplay. This small detail I actually found distracting. There’s a subplot about a group of former stormtroopers who, like ‘Finn’, fled the First Order (now THAT could’ve been a cool idea, if executed correctly) and we focus on one, named ‘Jannah’ (Naomi Ackie). First off, her entire look sucks. It didn’t feel like any imagination had been put into it. This impression wasn’t helped by the fact that some pieces of the costume legitimately look like Styrofoam, like something carved from gas station coffee cups. Seriously, it looks Grade 4 art class level. There is some cheap work on display in this flick, that can’t be denied.

Horses in space, I shit you not. The ridiculousness continues. A herd of equine aliens gallop across the outer surface of a Star Destroyer in flight, with goofy Resistance fighters astride, lasers ablazin’! Yes…on the fucking exterior. (mouth drops open in stunned awe) I get that it’s Star Wars, easily more Fantasy than SCIENCE Fiction, but c’mon!

Emperor + Rey are ridiculously overpowered, all light show, no real stakes. Actually boring. In typical Big Budget genre fashion, this flick degenerates into an illogical light show, all flash and bang but devoid of any real substance or sense of tension. *Yawns* The same feeling also applies to pretty much every instance involving a lightsaber as well.

It’s just as bad as The Last Jedi, just for different reasons. Already mentioned, but damn! How the hell does Disney manage to stumble so egregiously, twice! Yes, I get that dumbass Rian Johnson painted them into a hole with his “subversive” take on Star Wars with the HIGHLY flawed 8th film, but a little more thought and effort could’ve both reeled back in the soured fans AND given the saga a fitting end, that didn’t feel like a clunky race-to-the-finish totally lacking in character and ‘soul’. The Last Jedi sucked because of how it treated key characters and how it tossed aside the intriguing story threads that JJ Abrams had laid out in The Force Awakens, while The Rise of Skywalker is just badly concocted, both in ‘story’ and execution. It reeks of desperation, and the need to cover up the fact that they never had a coherent story arc spanning the new trilogy, which I find baffling, given the $4 BILLION dollar purchase of Lucasfilm. You’d think they’d want to get it right, from the get-go, but clearly the bean-counters at Disney were salivating for some of that sweet sweet Star Wars money, and fast tracked production without a logical and respectful through-line encapsulating their planned 3-title wrap-up of George Lucas’ first 6 movies, 3 of which being legitimate classics. You’d also think that someone like Kathleen Kennedy, who’d been in Lucas’ orbit going back to the early 80’s, would’ve had more regard for, and grasp on, what Star Wars is, and has become over time.

More misplaced Abrams humor. As with The Force Awakens, there were times when I found JJ’s brand of ‘wit’ feeling out of place and forced. There’s always been a scattering of funny, situational moments in the original trilogy, and even the flawed Prequels, but somehow, this stood out to me. *shrugs*

First Order always just conveniently turns up. This happens several times. The heroes have just barely secured the last End-of-Level prize and the pesky First Order attack ships just happen to arrive on the scene, prompting yet another blah action scene to ensue. Hell, there was a sequence like this that screamed of Deleted material, where ‘Rey’ and Co. are escaping from the ‘not Tatooine, not Jakku’ desert planet when an out-of-the-blue TIE fighter attack is imminent, while characters are caught out in the open, and CUT…they’re safely away. What the hell, Film Editor?! Did you think we wouldn’t notice?!

Nostalgia bait in the worst way. That kinda sums this whole ‘movie’ up.

And thus wraps up my scribbles.

In a nutshell, The Rise of Skywalker is a clumsy, ill-advised finale that manages to continue the overall insult to Star Wars and its legions of multi-generational fans by Disney. While it’s easy to heap a ton of the blame on director JJ Abrams, in no way do I envy the man and what he had to try to accomplish, especially where having to fix the damage caused by The Last Jedi is concerned. It really is a ‘damned if you do, damned it you don’t’ scenario that, right from the beginning, there was going to be no winning from, especially when you consider the feverish, near fanatical dedication to the franchise by the hardcore fans. There are tons of smaller details that I could easily shit upon in this sorry excuse for a movie, but most of those topics have already been covered ad nauseum by other reviewers and I don’t need to delve that deeply into that crap. Suffice to say, Disney’s greed and impatience has been fully revealed in how they chose to awkwardly tackle their contribution to the ‘Skywalker Saga’. Once upon a time, I would’ve vowed to own every last one of the Star Wars films on Blu ray, but now, after what Disney shat in our general directions, I can’t see myself EVER adding copies of either The Last Jedi or The Rise of Skywalker (or Solo, for that matter) to my collection. Truth is, I can’t see myself ever seeking them out to even watch in their entirety’s again, as they’re simply not worthy of my time. I’ve had enough of Star Wars…and I say that having once been The Biggest Star Wars Fan in the World! Hopefully Disney will actually listen to critiques such as this, and opt to tap the brakes on impatiently fast-tracking and assembly-lining any further additions to the SW cinematic universe. They need to take a few years off, go back to the drawing board with writers who understand and give a shit about the elements that made Star Wars successfully resonate through the years the way it has, while also looking ahead to what it could be, and then put together something fresh but respectful that works inside the established ‘universe’ in ways that draws us back in, not through hype but through quality. To succeed, this is the course I strongly feel that Disney will have to embrace.

But, considering what they have managed to deliver up to this point (with a couple aforementioned exceptions)…fuck you, Disney. You’ve let us down, and you’ll need to step it up moving forward to prove your worth as caretakers of the cherished Star Wars legacy, something you have certainly NOT accomplished to date.

 

The Cotton Club Encore (1984 / 2019)

As I said to my lovely fiance’ when it arrived in the mail…I’ve been waiting a helluva long time for THIS one!

Yeah, yeah…I know. The Cotton Club is not a very well-regarded film in history’s eyes, I fully acknowledge that. And with good reason. I consider the 1984 Theatrical Cut to be a clumsy, soulless attempt at a vanity-piece film with some damn fine cinematography, and a lavish production detailing a time period I particularly love. But it was never a film that I could take seriously, given that the characters, in many scenes, simply came off as exactly what they were – actors playing expensive Dress Up, with the hammy dialogue and acting to go along with it, in a poorly paced narrative that flat-out lacked focus. What’s even more odd is that this expensive and notorious mis-fire is a bizarre anomaly on director Francis Ford Coppola’s impressive filmography, particularly since it was preceded by some undeniable classics, being The Godfather (1972), The Conversation (1974), The Godfather Part 2 (1974) and the still-amazing Apocalypse Now (1979), along with two notable S.E. Hinton adaptations in ’83 (The Outsiders and Rumble Fish). He went from THOSE…to THIS. Now, in all fairness, he had reluctantly stepped in for producer Robert Evans, when Evans ran into issues in the pre-production phase while planning to direct the film himself, only to step away from the Director’s Chair late in the game. And, like Apocalypse Now, the behind-the-scene’s shenanigans are the stuff of dark Hollywood legend and it’s a friggin miracle a movie of any kind emerged from that shit-show. It’s just too bad that the version they originally went with…is the version they went with.

In spite of how much of a failure this movie is…I kinda love it, and always have! It’s a bloated, over-indulgent mess…and there in lies a significant chunk of its perverted charm. I knew that part of the Production bullshit involved a final Studio (or more accurately, Shareholder) edit, as opposed to Francis Ford Coppola’s original submitted cut, so I always acknowledged the possibility that a more cohesive and satisfying version probably languished in some refrigerated vault somewhere, most likely never to be seen due to the lack of regard for the flick in the years since it’s release. Apparently, it was a Betamax copy of that original workprint version that Coppola found that pushed him to go back and revisit The Cotton Club, with an eye on righting the wrongs to the tune of $500 000 USD of his own cash for a new high-def restoration. When I first got wind of this, it was because this new ‘Encore’ edition had been screened at the Tulleride Film Festival in Colorado in 2017, and had gotten some very favorable reviews from the tiny scattering of cinephiles who were lucky enough to catch it. But then, I also heard that there were some rights issues (or something to that effect) pertaining to distribution and yaddah yaddah yaddah. So it seemed unlikely that this coveted new version would see the light of day, unlike Coppola’s three different versions of the excellent Apocalypse Now (haven’t seen his Final Cut yet, but love the Redux); a film also known for it’s epic production woes and troubled original release.

That was until two weeks ago, when I unexpectedly stumbled upon The Cotton Club Encore Blu ray on Amazon, completely by happy accident!

For those who don’t know – The Cotton Club takes place in Harlem in the late 1920’s / early 30’s, focusing on the famed establishment and the various characters within its orbit, some cut from Real Life and some entirely fictional. A talented cornet / piano player named ‘Dixie Dwyer’ (Richard Gere) accidentally falls in with psychotic gangster ‘Dutch Schultz’ (James Remar) after he saves ‘The Dutchman’s life during an attempted gangland hit. The two of them then pursue / lust for an ambitious flapper named ‘Vera Cicero’ (Diane Lane), who has plans for one and confused feelings for the other. As this is playing out, we also meet brothers ‘Sandman’ and ‘Clay Williams’ (Gregory and Maurice Hines), two aspiring tap dancers from Dixie’s neighborhood who encounter a rift after they find success performing at the Cotton Club, while ‘Sandman’ pursues a gorgeous and determined song bird named ‘Lila’ (Lonette McKee). There’s also gangland intrigue and oddly brutal violence scattered throughout, matched by some top-notch musical numbers. And in a nutshell…that’s The Cotton Club.

I’m such a nerd…I actually got butterflies in the gut when I tore the packaging off this the other night. I was so excited by the prospect to maybe get to FINALLY see the GOOD movie that the definitely sub-par Theatrical Version had always hinted at. So, after I had given my Better Half my rudimentary explanation for my strange fascination with this flick, I grabbed my notepad and got scribbling as the show got showing.

Here lie those scribbles

Gone are the intercut credits. In the Theatrical Cut, the old-timey Opening Credits (which I love) are intercut with flashes of female dancers mid-routine onstage. Now, the credits just run as one continuous sequence…and the story then begins!

Great new first scene! Dixie + Sandman. The Theatrical Cut immediately followed up the credits with a period-appropriate ‘irising in from black’ on a nonsensical close-up of a bottle of booze smashing on the sidewalk, which I never understood. This led straight into the abrupt intro scene at the Bamville Club (maybe opening the flick at the movie’s namesake might be a good idea, just sayin, Theatrical Cut!). The story takes place smack in the thick of Prohibition, so I never understood why someone would be casually strolling along (as all the various passing feet we see are doing) with what looked like a half-bottle OUT IN THE OPEN, only to drop it and continue on like it was nothing. I know, knit-picking. But still. But back to the scene – I like how it’s now established that A) ‘Dixie’ is just back in town after his latest band broke up (never covered before), B) ‘Sandman’ is into the illegal numbers racket (never knew what he did beyond tap dancing),  and C) they knew each other as more than just a quick greeting while passing on the street (like in the Theatrical cut). They meet outside The Cotton Club while ‘Dixie’ is pestering the black doorman about his discrimination of other ‘colored’s, as per the club’s fucked up Code of Conduct. Black entertainment and service, white patrons only.

Just putting it out there – RACISM IS FUCKING STUPID 

(steps down from soap box)

Already, much welcome connective tissue is already being added to what I already know narratively, right off the bat.

Transfer looks amazing! Mr. Coppola…that was $500 Gs well spent, sir! Even if this ‘Encore’ cut didn’t exist, I’d still want a Blu ray copy of this title, as I REALLY like the visual presentation, regardless of the other obvious flaws. Very lush and detailed, very much deserving of a top-notch restoration, and that’s what it looks like it got. There is some film ‘grain’ in some scenes, but that has to be expected. Other shots are impressively detailed and clean, despite being sourced from merely an Answer print on film and not the original negative elements, which ALWAYS garners the best visual results. We even noticed an interesting scar by one of Diane Lane’s beautiful eyes that I’d never seen before!

Thank Gawd! The gunshots! Ok, now this is one of those scene details that ALWAYS irked me, going back to the very first time I saw this flick, way the hell back when. There’s an early scene where ‘Dixie’, while sitting at ‘The Dutchman’s table with ‘Vera’, tackles ‘Schultz’ as a pair of ‘Flynn’s thugs, disguised as uniformed cops, try to take him out with a stick of dynamite tossed under their table. In the fray, gunfire is exchanged as the would-be assassins make their escape. And the sounds of the gunfire were PATHETIC! It seriously sounded like the Foley or Sound artists just took the day off and left the Production Sound instead. The handguns in this scene all have a sad, flat *Pop*ping sound, with no menace or bite. It’s only 3 gunshots…but so unimpressive, given the larger-than-life presentation, and the finesse that Coppola had shown previously with the Sound Designs for The Godfather films and, especially, Apocalypse Now. At least they turned the volume up and gave the gunfire some effective bark. I smiled at this (Yea, I’m weird).

Yep. Still some iffy acting. I guess nothing was going to erase what’s simply there, and what’s there is some very questionable performances from people who we’ve all seen do MUCH better, both before and after this was originally released. Aw well…

Great new Diane Lane ‘intro’, elevator. We do first meet ‘Vera’ in the company of her other flapper friends at the Bamville Club at the beginning, where she nearly gets killed, this is true. But in this new cut, we get a cute moment of ‘Vera’ alone in an elevator on her way up to ‘The Dutchman’s party, clearly excited as she counts the floors, probably symbolizing her ambition as she heads for the ‘top’. There was something girlishly giddy about it, which was a good reminder that ‘Vera’ (like Lane herself, if I remember correctly) was still just 18 years old.

Woah! New gore! Unexpected. One of the more infamous scenes from The Cotton Club features ‘Dutch Schultz’ (James Remar), despite having been forced into a truce with a rival Irish gangster ‘Joe Flynn’ (John P. Ryan) only moments earlier by Cotton Club owners / gangsters ‘Owney Madden’ (Bob Hoskins) and ‘Frenchy Demange’ (Fred Gwynne), loses his temper and brutally murders the man mid-party with a carving knife to the throat, right in front of ‘Dixie’ and ‘Vera’. Well, holy shit…I thought the Theatrical version was pretty harsh, but damn…we get at least two new shots – one flash of the blade stabbing straight into the throat under a shocked ‘Flynn’s face and then another of the blade in close-up, now protruding out the back of his neck as the grievously wounded gangster slams down onto a table top, splitting it in two. Blood…everywhere. No question…a brutal scene now even more brutal.

Still a damn fine tap number by Gregory and Maurice. Gregory and Maurice Hines were actually very accomplished and talented tap dancers in Real Life and they get the chance to show off several times throughout the film…and it’s great to behold! But their first number is a slick piece of foot work and I’ve always loved it.

Fuck! Remar is an ugly bastard! Hicks? Seriously?! Ok, not trying to be a petty asshole here but c’mon, they do a fine job making his take on real-life mobster Schultz repellent, with puffy wet lips and weird facial ticks. But to think that James Remar, one year after The Cotton Club’s release, would be on set in the UK playing ‘Corporal Dwayne Hicks’ in The Coolest Movie Ever Made, Aliens…for several days, as he was quickly fired for either drug abuse or a work permit issue, and was mercifully replaced immediately with the much more striking Michael Biehn (The Terminator), who made that character fucking awesome and legendary. Just don’t bring up Alien 3.

SO much new material, extensions that flesh out the story. This flick is a cinephile’s wet dream, as there seems to be a whole ton of little elements added back in, often just as scene extensions that give more detail or characterization, on top of all the new full scenes cut back in.

Wow! So much good stuff chopped in Theatrical. Gregory tap serenade. Again, as you can see, I keep encountering cool new shit as the 139 minute run-time unspools. There’s a new scene extension where ‘Sandman’ goes to meet ‘Lila’ at her church group and winds up performing a charming tap serenade to try to impress her. It works.

Still love the Hoofers Club tap off! Back in 1984, breakdancing was huge. I should know, I was 7 at the time and was breakdancing my little ass off (wasn’t too bad either, actually). Point is, stylish competitive dancing was very much in the social consciousness at the time of this flick’s release, so I’m sure someone must have applied some of that concept to what is one of my favorite scenes in the whole damn movie and that is the out-of-the-blue tap dance competition that breaks out when ‘Sandman’ takes ‘Lila’ to the old school, Men Only club of old black performers. I smile every time I see it.

Too bad about some of that acting. Wooden and stilted. Yep, there it is again. There’s no escaping that The Cotton Club simply boasts some hokey and unconvincing performances. But as I alluded to earlier…for me, that’s also somehow become part of its charm.

Eyeballs on eyelids. Now I could be wrong…but I certainly don’t remember this strange little scene in the Theatrical cut. It opens with ‘Vera’ at a mirror applying make up as ‘Dixie’ looks on, but her eyes look weird and fucked up. Then she opens them! Yes…she had goddamn eyeballs painted on her eyelids! Such a random little scene.

‘Stormy Weather’. Great new scene. One of the sequences I kept coming across mention of when researching this version was an impassioned musical number by Lonette McKee called ‘Stormy Weather’…and it’s amazing! Coppola was smart in that he showed admirable restraint and for the majority of the number, simply held the shot on McKee as she belted out ‘Stormy Weather’ like a champ. Legitimately impressive!

Cool seeing ‘The Dutchman’s operation. Previously, we only got vague talk of ‘Schultz’s involvement in organized crime in New York, but here, we actually see him and his minions working the ‘numbers’ game, the mob-controlled lottery on the streets, just like the man did back in the day.

Can’t stop smiling! ‘Clay’ and ‘Sandman’ reunite. I found this happening a few times, but I would actually catch myself grinning like an idiot as this new version of The Cotton Club played out. The scene in question, where the estranged siblings finally bury the hatchet with a lively duo tap number, is one such time where I caught the grin plastered across my silly mug.

Cool Cab Calloway scene. New. Or…is it? They have a very convincing Cab Calloway (legendary jazz band leader) impression, right down to the crazed conducting moves and floppy hair.

Some great new dance numbers! I feel like I’m starting to repeat myself now but there is just so much solid new material that I’ve never seen. My fiancé and I were saying that the performers must’ve been PISSED when they finally saw the cut released in theatres, back in the day. So much hard work, left strewn about the Cutting Room floor. At least now, some 36 years later, those performances and productions can now be seen and enjoyed as originally intended, only in glorious high definition (so very worth it).

Still love the melodrama of ‘Schultz’s assassination. This is one area that is mostly historically accurate, at least where the mechanics of the murders are concerned. But I always liked how Coppola intercut ‘Sandman’s solo tap number with the lead up and subsequent shooting deaths of ‘The Dutchman’ and his goons at the Chop House by ‘Lucky Luciano’s (Joe Dellasandro) Murder Inc. hitmen, working in conjunction with ‘Schultz’s former employers ‘Owney Madden’ (Bob Hoskins) and ‘Frenchy Demange’ (Fred Gwynne).

Hell yeah! That’s what I was hoping for! Far better!! Right there. I think that sentence caps off the ‘scribbles’ portion of this write-up nicely.

To sum this whole review up, I first have to simply say that I’m VERY satisfied with this newly restored version of a previously and deservedly maligned film that allegedly had so much working against it, both during Production and following Release. Francis Ford Coppola was robbed of the chance to get the best product out there by the greed and short-sightedness, not to mention blatant racism, (a Reaction comment left following an early screening notoriously mentioned ‘Too many black people’ as a Negative, resulting in tons of great material being chopped out, the ignorant pricks!) of the dumb-ass Shareholders who envisioned nothing more than a Box Office win, with Coppola’s name attached to it as a draw based on his previous successes. It’s terrific (at least for me) that he took it upon himself all these years later, rolling up his sleeves to get back to the original vision he had cultivated back in ’84 for all who might be interested to see, with a really nice restoration and remastering, not to mention whatever editing was needed to get his original cut back on track. And it really is the best version, FAR outdoing the weak-sauce of the clumsy and confused Theatrical cut. Is it now a perfect film? Hell no, unfortunately. There are undeniably some elements that just don’t work, mostly pertaining to certain performances and character relationships. But this new ‘Encore’ cut puts it’s boot on the head of the Theatrical version and smashes it into the ground, in my opinion, especially where the Narrative is concerned. I found it to be simply a far more satisfying experience, on par with what I had always hoped for. With all that said and done, I’m not sure who I should be recommending this new version to…though I am most certainly recommending it! It’s my gut feeling that this release fits into a very small niche of film lover’s tastes and that only true Movie Nerds like myself will fully appreciate The Cotton Club Encore for what it is. And what it is, is a lavishly produced period piece boasting some gorgeous cinematography, some solid dance numbers (some of the restored sequences are genuinely amazing, IMO), some deliciously over-the-top gangster intrigue and violence, and a helluva Main cast, supported by the likes of Nicolas Cage (one of his first flicks, handy that ‘Coppola’ is Cage’s real last name, if you get my drift), Laurence Fishburne (returning to Coppola’s fold after his debut in Apocalypse Now four years earlier), Tom Waits (who would be directed by Coppola again 8 years later in Bram Stoker’s Dracula), Julian Beck (the creepy bastard from Poltergeist 2, just as fucking creepy here as the ghoulish henchman ‘Sol’), Jennifer Grey (appearing in this the same year as the classic Red Dawn) and Diane Venora (who Gere would reteam with in ’97 for The Jackal). If you’re a fan of Coppola’s work, or gangster films in general, and have ever considered checking this title out, even out of morbid curiosity, forget that there even is a Theatrical version and seek out this gorgeous new cut. It’s easily the better, more satisfying film experience and I feel that it deserves to be seen and embraced, even just to appreciate Francis Ford Coppola’s efforts to guide a seemingly doomed project to some semblance of success, both in 1984 and 2017. The Cotton Club will NEVER be considered a Box Office hit…but hopefully future generations will find this vastly improved version and accept it as the TRUE cut of the film. It deserves that much.

“Gentlemen, in the next room is the best food, drink and pussy available at any price in New York. I suggest you take a sample of these things and try to remember that this is why we work so hard. To live the way kings and princes live in this world.”

– ‘Owney Madden’ (Bob Hoskins)

 

The Invisible Man (2020)

Up until recently, I’ve always thought of writer / director Leigh Whannell with regards to his connection to famed director James Wan (Aquaman), as the two of them emerged out of Australia was a writing / directing duo with the (at the time) ground-breaking Saw (2004). From that point on, the two of them became something of a horror flick power-house, pumping out solid genre entries like Death Sentence (2007), Dead Silence (2007), and the Insidious franchise (2010 – 2018), well done flicks that also earn the bucks. James Wan’s directing career skyrocketed immediately following the first Saw film, but Whannell didn’t go in that direction…till his surprisingly cool debut film Upgrade (2018), a fun-yet-violent as hell sci-fi revenge story, featuring some fantastic gore scenes and innovative camera work. I went into that one expecting…well…very little, to be honest. Not EVERYONE has the chops to direct feature films well…but Leigh Whannell does, as he again very aptly proves with his second Big Screen feature, this time lending his ‘voice’ to a modern retelling of the HG Wells science fiction classic The Invisible Man, originally written in 1897. So, armed with a $7 million budget, Whannell waded on in…and killed it!

First off – this new adaptation introduces us to ‘Cecelia Kass’ (Elisabeth Moss), the deeply unhappy wife of a highly successful tech millionaire named ‘Adrian Griffin (Oliver Jackson-Cohen) as she carries out a daring early morning escape from his abusive clutches. Once in hiding with the cop boyfriend of her sister’s, ‘James’ (Aldis Hodge), word reaches her that ‘Griffin’ took his own life soon after her escape. It’s soon revealed that ‘Griffin’ left ‘Cecelia’ $5 million, to be paid out over a 4 year period if she can avoid trouble with the law, or if there’s no signs of questionable mental stability. Soon after this, small unsettling things began happening in her life…leading her to a vicious showdown with revenge at the edge of the technological envelope!

What can I say? Leigh Whannell knows how to craft an effective film…especially in the sci-fi / horror genres, as he has now capably done twice in a row. I really liked how this tired story was handled and, most importantly, updated, to give us a modern take that isn’t TOTALLY outside the realm of reality. That’s one aspect that very much stood out for me…the subtlety of the execution under the direction of a deft hand behind the camera. Many times, Whannell made some very sly choices on select compositions and edits to unsettle us, the audience, while not actually showing us anything overtly unsettling. The disturbing element came from the SUGGESTION of a nefarious presence, which was highly effective.

Most of that suggestion, it must be said, comes from how Elisabeth Moss (The Handmaid’s Tale) carries and sells almost the entire 2 hour 4 minute run-time. This is her show. Yes, she’s backed up by some solid supporting actors / characters, several of which I’m unfamiliar with but now hope to see more of in the future. I found that everyone in ‘Cecelia’s life had some depth and charisma to them, which went a long way toward getting me invested in their plight, when the shit really goes down. And goes down, it does! Just like he did with Upgrade (seriously, check that one out if you haven’t), when it comes to the blood-letting, Whannell doesn’t disappoint. Now this flick isn’t some slasher type gore-fest, like what Paul Verhoeven (Robocop) did with his decently entertaining and similarly themed Hollow Man (2000), but when violence ensues…it ensues good! But that’s not the main selling feature, at least not for me. What I appreciated was the slow-burn approach, with the tension ramping up effectively as the story played out and the stakes becoming more and more dire for everyone involved. Bolstering this was the ‘real-world’ approach the script took with the invisibility aspect. In almost all other examples of ‘Man Becomes Invisible’ stories, it’s due to something chemical or biological, something that affects the ‘Griffin’ character physically (and yes, mentally too). Not so much the case here. I really liked the attempt to ground the ‘pseudo-science’ in something nearly plausible, which fell into place with the ‘real world’ vibe of the whole movie. I also liked that the narrative felt fairly well contained, taking place largely in only a few key locations. I’m sure the lower budget contributed to this, but I felt that it worked and made the awful stakes more intimate and creepy.

I don’t have all that much to say, on the Negatives front…though I have to throw in that I do agree with the common criticism that this flick has cultivated since it’s release and it has to do with a key scene. Let’s just say that for a film that features camera technology as one of it’s main plot points, a GIANT plot-hole / lapse-in-logic forms, when applying common sense to where this particular scene plays out. One security camera with a halfway decent shot would blow the whole ‘she’s clearly insane and as a result, dangerous’ motif out of the water. But they just gloss over it and keep on going. There’s also a distinct lack of regard for one key character by a couple others when that one bites the dust in a brutal way. It didn’t quite sit with the family dynamic that had been hinted at. I’d be curious to see if there may have been some Deleted Scenes that would ‘flesh’ some of that out. The same could also apply to some of the First Act, which does play a little choppier than it probably needed to, pacing-wise…but that’s not a huge Deal Breaker complaint.

All in all, I got exactly what I hoped for when I went to check out Leigh Whannell’s The Invisible Man today. It was a self-contained thriller with a solid cast that delivered, some inspired and creepy cinematography, a sweet ‘invisibility’ MacGuffin and a slow-burn pace that ramped up to a vicious and suspenseful crescendo right when it needed to, with a couple cool twists along the way. While the cinematography is above average, you don’t NEED to seek this one out on The Big Screen. However…once it hits disk or streaming…I can EASILY recommend you check it out, especially if you like high-quality suspenseful thrillers that keep you guessing, featuring a compelling protagonist you can easily root for, in a setting that feels tangible and ‘lived in’.

A Dream on Repeat

By LR Forgues

*Found in old ‘ideas’ notebook. Date written – unknown.

 

Through that strange fog of sleep, a picture emerges…slowly. It becomes apparent that I am no longer…here. I am in a…different place; a place that I find intensely familiar, yet I know that I’ve never been.  I see the same thing every time this nocturnal vision pays me a visit…5 nights and counting.

I almost welcome it now.

What I see is this…

…a wide expanse of wet grass dropping away, a gentle slope, before climbing again to gradually meet with an enormous white and green house, its styling telling of the Victorian Era. A dark hardened path cuts past me across the moist lawn toward the mansion, leading away around the house’s side and out of sight. I am not on the path, merely off to the side. An impossibly large maple tree stands to the left of the house, its vast drooping branches forming a shadowy canopy from my vantage point.

An elegant tea party, in a classic sense, is laid out beneath the dangling curtain of vegetation, all elegantly done in white. From my vantage point on the lawn, I can make out three figures, two woman and one man, all distinct in their attire, all somehow familiar. The man, tall and thin, sitting at the tea table with one of the women, is clad in a fancy top hat and dress jacket, complete with coat tails. The other woman, like the one sitting opposite the man, is dressed in a white dress, capped off with a small woman’s top-hat, set at a jaunty angle and matching the dress in color. A narrow, frilly parasol leans easily against her delicate shoulder. What I can see…looks beautiful, prompting an added thud in my heartbeat, a hitch in my breath.  From the distance away that I am, the figures appear faceless and shadowed, but the body language of the standing woman is obvious.

She’s waiting for something…or someone.

At this point, I notice the dense jungle that forms the backdrop to this picture. It is all encompassing, choked with vines that dangle and creepers that creep underfoot. The plaintive calls of jungle animals, in all their varieties, echo quietly through the tree trunks. Grey clouds of mist drift lazily over and through the foliage, dimming everything. Water drops fall everywhere, glittering like diamonds. There’s something…ominous, about these surroundings.

Beyond that…all is quiet. A hush seems to settle over the scene.

I feel the need to approach. As I step forward, the muddy grass beneath my feet squishes and slurps. I can now smell the wet soil, the mud, mingled with the warm pungent odor of the jungle in my nostrils as my steps stir it up. I feel as though I am…home, the familiarity filling my heart and mind.

The three people at the table seem to acknowledge my approach. The standing woman turns greet me warmly, with affection and desire.

She is still faceless. A blur in my mind’s eye. The other two watch, faces like smeared water colors, welcoming joy in their mannerisms, also reaching for hugs and handshakes.

I am not frightened by this. I know that…one day…the blur will clear, revealing…

The whole image, starting in the corners, begins to fade…just as I reach the table, and her opening arms…

I awake.

 

The End

The Cross Over

*Originally written 2002 for intended submission to BMW for consideration for their short film / commercial series ‘The Hire’, starring Clive Owen. Last surviving hard-copy recently found in storage and transcribed here.

**Edited for content and pacing

Smash cut from Black…

…to a wide-screen telephoto shot of the sun, centered in the frame huge and shimmering. This vast orange globe then smoothly fades into a crimson circle, instantly recognizable as the Japanese national symbol. We pull away to see this insignia emblazoned across the tail of a private jet, a Honda HA-20, in flight.

We hear radio VO:

Pilot: “LAX ATC, Honda Nippon 0-4 on final approach. How copy?”

LAX ATC: “Copy 0-4, we have you on the scope. Your attitude and bearing look good and you’re cleared for final descent to Runway 24R/6L.”

Pilot: ‘Runway 24R/6L copy. Is ground transport for the principal ready?”

Cut

Sitting on the vast, empty tarmac, bathed in the golden red glow of late afternoon in California, is a beautiful, silvery-blue BMW. A handsomely rugged chap sits motionless in the driver seat, waiting. His eyes are hidden behind a pair of stylish, mirrored shades.

We hear the ATC’s reply…

“Roger that, 0-4. The Driver’s there.”

We hear a beeping ring tone. The Driver (Clive Owen) smoothly pulls a cell phone from inside his jacket and answers…

“Yes. I’m here.”

He listens, before responding…

“She’ll be on the ground momentarily.”

As he says this, we gently track past the elegant front end of the BMW. We slow to a stop. The luxury private jet can be seen approaching in the distance, seeming to hang against the deep blue sky. In the foreground, the Driver turns in his seat to watch the landing.

Cut

Tight on The Driver looking past us at the approaching jet, which we can see in the highly glossed lenses of his sunglasses. He continues listening to the voice on the other end, before again responding…

“Yes sir. Straight to the venue…no stops.”

He turns back.

Cut

The Driver glances over at something on the passenger side seat. The voice says something more, and he nods, saying…

“Yes sir. I’ve been fully briefed and I’ve got my eye out for him.”

Cut

Tight on the object of his attention. It’s a file folder, adorned with both Japanese and English law enforcement scrawl. From within, The Driver pulls out a glossy surveillance-type photo of a sinister-looking Asian man: all shades, ponytail, earrings and expensive attire, exiting a Mercedes while smoking a thin, dark cigar. Attached with a paperclip is a torn, Japanese tabloid article featuring a grainy photo of the same man, tuxedo’d at a large party, his arm slung protectively around a stunningly beautiful young Japanese woman. Something in her expression suggests she doesn’t want to be there. We can see a unique microphone, artfully emblazoned with the word “LILY’, clasped in her hand. As we slowly zoom in on the photo, we hear the high-pitched whine of the Honda’s turbine as it approaches.

Cut

We track smoothly along the side of the BMW, showing off its lines. As we reach him, the Driver looks up from the file as the jet flashes past in the background, landing.

Cut

Long, telephoto shot of the jet, from behind, touching down in a puff of smoke from the tires, seen through shimmering waves of heat.

Cut

Tight on the Driver. He watches through the windshield as the jet taxis toward him. We can see the plane reflected in his shades again, growing in the lenses.

Cut

Wide-shot. In the background we see the jet approaching the BMW, positioned in the foreground. Gassy pulses of heat obscure details. The jet brakes and the pitch of the turbines drop.

Cut

Wide-shot. We see the whole scene laid out below us. The Honda sits facing the poised BMW on the dark surface of the tarmac. Everything is still, save the sound of the spooling-down jet engine and the warm California breeze. The heat is evident. After a pause, we see the Honda’s hatch begin to cycle open.

Cut

Tight on the hatchway smoothly descending, slowing to its OPEN position and locking in place. From the darkness of the cabin, a man’s head emerges. He’s a powerfully built Caucasian sporting strangely intellectual-looking, wire-rimmed glasses. From the protective cover of the jet he scans the surrounding area around the tarmac with the practiced eye of a professional bodyguard. His gaze falls on the BMW.

Cut

Tight on the bodyguard. He locks eyes with the Driver and gives a deliberate nod of professional appreciation.

Cut

Tight on the Driver, watching over the BMW’s steering wheel. He returns the nod and reaches forward to start the car.

Cut

Tight on the BMW engraved START button as he pushes it. The car revs to life, sounding sexy.

Cut

Slow track around the BMW, admiring the sleekness as it purrs powerfully. The jet dominates the background and in the open hatch, we see the bodyguard turn to address someone unseen.

Cut

Two fatigue-clad Asian men, corporate contractors in unmarked military gear, suddenly rush past the poised bodyguard, HK MP-5 sub-machine guns held at ready as they clamber down the ladder with practiced urgency. They hastily take up watchful positions between the Honda and the BMW.

The Driver watches coolly.

Cut

The bodyguard then gracefully steps aside, respectfully bowing his head. SHE emerges. All falls into slow motion. SHE is a stunningly beautiful young Japanese woman, clad in a figure flattering black power suit. She steps out into the light of late-afternoon California, a wide handbag of dark material held comfortably at her side. It’s the girl from the tabloid cut-out in the Driver’s file! Wind catches her thick mane of long black hair and it seems to dance on the breeze as she descends.

The Driver watches, his awe just peeking out from below his cool exterior.

Cut

Tight on the cut-out in the file, specifically focused on the young woman with the microphone. It’s her, without a doubt. After a beat, the file closes over it.

The Driver’s VO begins…

“So…this is it. The big crossover. This lil ‘force to be reckoned with’ is Lily, THE Japanese princess-of-pop, making her transition to a much broader audience, all of North America, actually…an audience these days craving something a little more…exotic, than just another sex’d up ex-Mouseketeer.”

She could very well be the personification of grace, a breathtaking Asian beauty matched with elegant sophistication.

She’s just sexy as hell!

Cut

We see her expensive heels click down onto the hot tarmac and she sashays with confidence toward the waiting car.

Cut

The Driver, still transfixed by the approaching vision. His VO continues…

“This bold arrangement is the result of an unusually shrewd and independent decision, entirely of her devising. She made the contacts, broached the idea, financed the move. Her desire to branch out, call the shots and to expand her audience…was not greeted with much in the way of enthusiasm…from her…ahem…homeland representation.”

Cut

Tracking shot from behind the idling BMW. As the car glides out of frame, we see this woman in full, moving with feline precision toward us. One of the sentries gives a curt nod as she passes, before sidling along beside, weapon at ready.

Cut

Tight on the other sentry, his helmeted head bobbing as he dropped his eyes respectfully in her passage.

Cut

The Driver’s VO continues…

“How hot a commodity this young superstar was in Japan, not to mention the rest of Asia, was unrealized in the West until whispers began to surface…whispers of possible…managerial…action, of a retaliatory nature perhaps, following her Stateside in order to stop her massive debut performance in the City of Angels.”

“The Yakuza also just happen to have friends in the Los Angeles area.”

Cut

Tight, slow motion on the woman’s flawless face, the smokey matte-black shades revealing nothing as she approaches the car.

Cut

The accompanying sentry slips ahead, reaching for the car door.

VO continues…

“Her explosion onto the scene, if you will.”

Cut

Tight on one of the Honda’s engines, idling with a whine. Over the din, a shrill hiss abruptly cuts through, ending with…

…a large, round hole suddenly punching into the thin metal, the engine housing shuddering violently. Something akin to a thunderclap ripples across the tarmac. The engine’s idle falters, cutting out with muted thuds and the ferocious squeal of metal aggressively grinding on metal, at high speed.

Cut

Slow-motion. The woman whirls around, shock and fear contorting her features.

Cut

The sentry yanks the BMW’s door open, gesturing frantically to her as the other leaps up, rushing to cover her to the car.

Cut

The bodyguard yells from the jet…

“Get her outta here!”

With that, he pulls a nickel-plated Desert Eagle from a webbed holster beneath his arm, racking the slide, ducking low in the doorway and pulling back into the shadows of the cabin.

Cut

Slow motion. Tight on the woman’s sunglasses as they clatter onto the tarmac, knocked free as the sentry rushed her forward.

Cut

A large chunk of the wing blows away next in a spray of aluminium and fibre-glass shards. Another crashing shot sounds in the distance. Aviation fuel splashes from the ruptured wing, pooling in the jet’s shadow.

Cut

The Driver yanks his own shades away, yelling…

“Let’s go!”

Cut

The woman is thrust into the passenger seat, her handbag leading the way. As she struggles to hunch down, one of the sentries reaches back, pulling a short-barreled Glock from a hidden holster. He presses the pistol into her hand and, addressing the Driver, says…

“Just in case.”

Turning to her, he mutters something in hushed Japanese, giving a quick bow before ducking back, slamming the car door.

Cut

One sentry bounds away from the BMW, weapon up as he scans the area for the source of the attack. The other takes up a firing position beside the car, poised protectively before the door.

Cut

Wide-shot. We see the damaged jet isolated on the landing apron, the BMW glinting in the sun before it as the sentry spins, scanning the area on high alert. After a moment, we pull back, over the shoulder of a prone sniper manning an enormous Barrett .50 calibre sniper rifle on a bipod. It seems that we’re on top of a structure nearby. Smoke snakes from the barrel.

Cut

Cross-haired POV. The view shifts from sentry to sentry, target undecided.

Cut

The Driver quickly looks the woman over with practiced efficiency, a look of concern clouding his stubbly features as he asks…

“Are you injured?!”

She looks up at him, her dark eyes wide. She glances around hurriedly and, in perfect English, says…

“Not yet.”

The Driver gets her meaning, nodding coolly.

Cut

Sniper POV. The sentry beside the car sees him, pointing and yelling, raising his MP-5.

The cross-hair lines up…

Cut

She springs up in her seat, going for the belt. As she grabs it, the shape of the sentry out the window is yanked aside, crashing heavily to the asphalt beside the car, sub-machine gun clattering away.

Cut

Tight on the woman looking in horror through blood-spattered glass inches from her beautiful face. Her hand flies to her mouth and we hear the crackling gunshot echo past.

Cut

Sniper POV. The cross-hair sweeps from the downed sentry’s splayed body to…the polished hood of the BMW!

Cut

Tight. The Driver’s hand swiftly throws the shifter into Reverse, a heartbeat before he hits the accelerator. The car leaps backward with a squeal of burning rubber, causing the woman to yelp in surprise.

Cut

A sudden geyser of chewed tarmac explodes, spraying the escaping car with oily pebbles. They screech to a halt several yards away. Both occupants stare through the windshield at the new crater in the runway with visible disbelief.

Cut

The sniper curses, realigning the rifles long barrel. The scope’s cross-hairs center on the Driver but before he can squeeze the trigger…a bullet suddenly pops past, followed quickly by another.

Cut

The bodyguard, crouched in the jet’s open hatchway, carefully fires round after round at the sniper’s position on a low hangar roof in the distance.

Cut

The lone sentry rushes to his fallen comrade’s side, dropping to one knee, opening fire with his sub-machine gun, joining the bodyguard’s counterattack. Shell casings spray across the tarmac.

Cut

We see aviation fuel splashing from the punctured wing, the pool in the plane’s shadow still expanding.

Cut

From the shadows of a building behind them, two black Humvees race into the sunlight with a throaty roar, speeding toward the scene.

Cut

Tight. The BMW’s rear-view mirror. In the reflection, we see the two trucks rapidly approaching. We hear the Driver exclaim…

“Shit!”

Cut

The woman spins in her seat, her eyes widening as she sees the quickly approaching vehicles. Grabbing his arm, she implores…

“Oh my God…drive!”

The Driver, his cool demeanor returning, calmly responds with a subtle…

“Yes, Ma am.”

…slamming the car into gear and hitting the accelerator. The BMW instantly leaps forward, pushing them both back into their seats.

Cut

The sniper curses again, in Japanese, and pushes himself up from his prone position, hoisting the heavy gun to his shoulder for another shot. He doesn’t get the chance.

Cut

The bodyguard and the sentry both see the figure rise, weapon in hand, and they open fire simultaneously.

Cut

Several bullets slam into the sniper’s torso, jerking him back and throwing a crimson mist into the late afternoon air. As he collapses, the Barrett fires one last time with a crashing report.

Cut

Tight on the jet’s already smoking, damaged engine as the errant .50 calibre round tears into it with a shriek, sparks and hot metal bursting away.

Cut

The Driver makes a snap decision and aims directly for the jet, accelerating.

Cut

Tight on the woman’s face, shock registering as she realizes what he’s doing.

Cut

The Honda looms large in the windshield, fast approaching.

Cut

A smoking chunk of the crippled engine drops free, trailing pieces and sparks as it falls. It impacts the tarmac below with a crash…splashing aviation fuel in all directions. It suddenly ignites with a roar.

Cut

Wide-shot from the jet’s opposite side. We see the BMW, it’s shiny roof barely clearing the underside of the fuselage as it races beneath, aiming for the runway beyond. A split second behind, a deep wash of violent red flame billows suddenly beneath the stricken plane.

Cut

Tight on the Rising Sun logo on the tail as a thick cloud of black smoke suddenly devours it.

Cut

Through the flames, we see the two Humvees racing in.

The rest of the fuel fumes in the wing tanks choose that moment to detonate. The cylindrical body of the Honda abruptly blows apart, twisted debris spraying in all directions. An angry red fireball curls skyward with a loud *BOOM!*. The forward landing gear buckles under the sudden pressure and snaps, dropping the immolated fuselage to the ground a split second behind the BMW with a grinding crash.

Cut

From inside one of the pursuing trucks, we see the BMW’s back end as it races away. As the driver expertly steers to pursue, we see the car abruptly obstructed by the collapsing body of the destroyed jet as it hits the tarmac. The Hummer, unable to stop in time, vanishes into the fiery wreckage with a crash.

Cut

We see the stricken aircraft’s opposite side again. The Hummer, now engulfed in flames, explodes through in a violent shower of debris, flipping over onto its side with a squeal of metal and sliding to a stop across the tarmac.

Cut

We are looking down the long length of the runway. The BMW suddenly sweeps into frame, tires squealing as it races away.

Cut

From around the raging funeral pyre the jet has become, the other Humvee speeds into view, locked on the escaping car.

Cut

We see the driver, a muscular Asian adorned with a plethora of Yakuza tattoos, his attention fixed on the fleeing BMW as he steers the large truck after it. We quickly pan over to the passenger side where another man sits…the man from the file! He pulls a small cell phone out, punching in a number.

Cut

Interior BMW. An insistent beep can suddenly be heard. The Driver and the woman simultaneously reach for their phones. It’s hers, and she pulls it from the shadows of the handbag at her feet.

The dialogue is subtitled from Japanese…

“You can’t get away, Lily. Why try? I made you…you do belong to me!”

“You’re wrong, Kenji! I belong to my audience! I’m making my own way! It’s all legal. You have no hold, as my lawyers have clearly explained.”

“If I can’t have you…then no one will, bitch!”

Cut

The Driver watches out of the corner of his eye as Lily shrieks in anger and frustration. She snaps the phone closed, wiping at a tear. Then…she notices the Glock in her lap. With surprising precision and skill, she grabs the gun and racks the slide. She glances over, meeting his studious eye. They exchange a quick nod.

Cut

Tight on his finger nudging the window OPEN button.

Cut

Undoing her seat-belt, Lily leans out, the wind buffeting her long mane of dark hair as the two vehicles speed down the open runway. She raises the pistol, using the side of the car to steady her aim.

Cut

Tight on Kenji, through the windshield, as he slowly lowers his phone, straining to focus on the car ahead.

Cut

Kenji’s POV. We see the BMW tearing along up ahead…and the figure leaning out the side window. It’s Lily! And she’s glaring over the barrel of a gun!

Cut

Kenji shouts a quick warning, ducking down behind the dash.

Cut

Lily fires.

Cut

We see the 9mm round punch a hole in the Hummer’s windshield, right where Kenji’s head had been a half second earlier!

Cut

Tight on the bullet hole. We can hear the shrill whistle of wind screaming through the punctured glass. We then rack focus as Kenji rises back up, his eyes fixed on the damage in amazement. He’s dumbfounded. Seconds later, he grabs a nearby walkie talkie, yelling an order in Japanese.

Cut

Wide shot. We see the two vehicles charging down the wide black-top with a roar of sound and fury.

Cut

Lily slides back into her seat, Glock clenched in perfectly manicured fingers, as a coolness now over-takes her, some of her original poise returning along with her sense of control.

Cut

Kenji lets go with something akin to a growl, before barking something Japanese toward the backseat. A henchman hurriedly hands a short-barreled Steyer Aug assault rifle forward. Kenji takes the deadly weapon, puzzling over it for a moment before raising it to his shoulder, cocking the loading bolt with a sharp *click-clack*. He leans out the window and fires.

Cut

Tight on the BMW’s trunk as the 5.56 calibre round tears a hole in the shiny metal with a loud *clang!*

Cut

Interior BMW. The Driver and Lily flinch in unison. With no hesitation, Lily whirls around again to straight-arm the pistol, rapidly firing round after round in quick succession.

Cut

The Hummer weaves erratically back and forth as the driver struggles to throw off Lily’s barrage of gunfire. But many of her shots connect in an orchestra of punctures and ricochets.

Cut

Tight on Kenji as he jerks back in, shrinking down. A bullet punches into his seat-rest with a thud.

Cut

The end of the runway looms ahead, speeding toward us. And beyond it…the shape of an approaching airliner, lined up to land and getting close.

Cut

Lily fires one last time, and the slide locks open. The gun’s empty! She ducks back inside.

Cut

The Driver looks over at her, impressed. She catches his eye and sheepishly glances down at the empty handgun. With a nonchalant shrug, she says…

“I was in a movie once.”

As if that properly explained everything.

Cut

The Driver cocks his head and, with a curt nod, and replies…

“OK.”

…as if it was all suddenly clear to him,

Another bullet strikes the car with a *crack!*.  The Driver turns his attention back to their escape and shifts the car into another gear, the RPMs climbing steadily.

Cut

Low along the ground trailing the BMW at high speed, the asphalt a blur below us. The powerful engine roars and it quickly pulls away. As the bulk of the car diminishes in frame, we see the approaching airliner looming, landing gear down, moments from touchdown.

Cut

Kenji struggles to line up a good shot, but his attention is pulled away from the rifle’s scope. He sees the growing shape of the 747 beyond, the thunder of its engines growing steadily. His eyes widen. Turning, he yells something to the driver. The Humvee accelerates.

Cut

BMW front bumper POV. The long chain-link fence marking the perimeter of the airport quickly grows in our vision, stretching from edge to edge. Above this, the approaching jet is huge, the late afternoon sun gleaming off the aluminium skin.

Cut

Tight on the Driver as he scans the upcoming obstacle and makes a quick mental calculation. He deftly spins the wheel.

Cut

The BMW responds like a striking cobra, flying onto a service route off to the side.

The roar of jet engines is deafening.

Cut

Kenji braces for impact as the 747 looms before them with nothing to stop it. The driver yanks the wheel over, sending the Hummer careening off the runway after the BMW with only seconds to spare.

Cut

We see the BMW racing away from the runway as the Humvee makes a sluggish turn behind…just as the airliner roars in, touching down, disaster narrowly averted.

Cut

The Driver glares ahead, searching for any upcoming obstacles. Something catches his eye. Sitting just beyond the gate at the end of the service way is a sleek black Jaguar, tinted windows and dark mag tires.

Cut

Tight on the Jag’s passenger-side window. In the reflection we see the BMW racing up the service way toward this ominous new car. The window then whirs down and the nickel-plated wide-mouthed barrel of a 12-gauge shotgun emerges.

Cut

We see the Driver and Lily as they both see the gun at the same moment, eyes going wide.

Cut

Tight on the shotgun as the unseen gunman pumps the slide with a gloved hand and levels the barrel…directly at us!

Cut

The Driver quickly reaches over and grabs Lily, dragging her down and out of sight with a yell of warning. With the ‘principal’ concealed, he then yanks on the emergency brake, giving the wheel a tight spin.

Cut

The BMW brakes into a slide with a screech of burning rubber.

Cut

Tight on the shotgun. It fires with a roar!

Cut

Tight on the Driver as he barely registers the 12 gauge slug passing nearby with a *pop!* as the car rapidly slides toward the Jaguar.

Cut

We see the Humvee speeding up behind the sliding BMW.

Cut

Tight on the Hummer’s driver, glaring through the windshield before us at his target. The glass abruptly punches inward and a flower-pattern of blood explodes across, obscuring the ruin his head suddenly becomes.

Cut

Kenji jerks back in surprise and looks over in time to see the body slump over, very dead, thanks to the large messy hole that recently opened in his forehead.

Cut

The sliding BMW smashes sideways through the gate, bursting the padlock. It comes inches from impacting the Jaguar before the wheels spin up again, digging into the road top as it narrowly slips past.

Cut

Kenji looks stricken, not knowing what to do. As a last-ditch effort, he grabs for his seat-belt in a panic.

Cut

The exposed shotgun is yanked back into the Jaguar as the out-of-control Hummer speeds onward, looming quickly.

Cut

Kenji’s POV. The sleek, black side of the Jaguar grows fast as we tear toward it. Impact is inevitable!

Cut

Head-on shot of the motionless Jag. We see the BMW escaping in the distance behind a moment before the bulk of the Humvee roars into frame, T-boning the car at full speed. There’s a violent explosion of twisted metal and shattered glass as the two mangled vehicles crash across the road, slamming hard into the ditch on the other side.

Cut

The BMW races into frame, screeching to a sudden halt on the road. A stillness falls over the scene.

Cut

Wide shot. We see the accident scene laid out before us. Nothing moves. The Hummer appears to have almost cut the Jaguar in half. The two vehicles lie heaped on one another, smoke hanging over the pile of metal and glass.

Cut

Tight on a limp arm draped out of the remains of the passenger side of the Humvee. Blood trickles down to drip off the motionless fingers. We slowly rise up the appendage to…Kenji. The guy is a mess. A snowy spiderweb pattern in the remains of the windshield marks where he hit. Blood pools over the dash where his head lies. His eyes flicker open and we can see that one of them is now almost black, filled with leaking blood. He looks around in confusion, hoarsely coughing before noticing the idling BMW stopped down the road. He tries to speak but all that emerges is a wet rasp…and a drool of crimson.

Cut

Tight on the Driver and Lily as they stare past us, out the BMW’s rear window at the aftermath of the crash. Lily watches with veiled horror…but after a moment, her expression softens as relief falls over her.

Cut

Kenji raises his bloody hand, reaching in vain for Lily. He still struggles to speak.

Cut

Lily sees Kenji’s futile gesture and meets his eye. She slowly shakes her head, a final refusal.

Cut

The Driver sits quietly, now watching this silent exchange. He doesn’t know what to make of it.

Cut

Kenji’s bloody hand reaches past us as his features contort into a mask of anger and agony. He strains against the pain and opens his mouth, his growl becoming a scream that is suddenly drowned out by the high squeal of tires on pavement.

Cut

Tight on the BMW’s rear tire as it spins up in a cloud of smoke. The car tears off again, racing off down the road.

In the background…we can hear fast approaching sirens.

Cut

We are looking down on the highway leading into downtown Los Angeles, lit in the reddish gold light of the setting sun. It’s rush hour and traffic is pretty much at a stand-still, very little movement among the hundreds of commuting cars. We slowly drift back, seeing the end of the waiting line of vehicles emerge into frame. Seconds later…the BMW speeds into frame, sliding in on twin tracks of burnt rubber out behind.

Cut

Ground-level. We see the last car in line, it’s brake lights glowing red. The BMW streaks into frame, halting inches from impact.

Cut

Tight on the other car’s bumper as the BMW’s own slides into frame, halting maybe an inch from contact.

Cut

Tight on the Driver as he scans the situation, eyes flickering back and forth calculating their options. It doesn’t look promising.

Cut

We crane up from behind the idling car (we can make out bullet holes in the trunk) to see the frozen river of cars that lay between them and the city skyline.

Cut

Lily also stares out at the formidable obstacle before them, before glancing over and, with a twinge of panic, saying…

“We’re not going to make it!”

The Driver coolly looks over, responding…

“Nonsense ma’am. You’ll be there as scheduled.”

An expression of disbelief flashes over her features as she gestures to the traffic jam…

“How?!”

The Driver doesn’t respond. Instead, he slams the shifter into Reverse and hits the gas. The BMW responds instantly, leaping back and causing an approaching Mercedes to hurriedly duck into another lane, narrowly avoiding a collision. He hits the brake and shifts again. The car jumps forward, aimed for the wide shoulder. It tears forward, the motionless traffic jam blurring beside as they race along at full tilt.

Cut

We see various quick-cutting beauty shots of the BMW as it blasts up the highway in its race against time. We also see flashes of the Driver and Lily reacting to the speed, the car, maybe an obstacle or two, lit in the red of sunset.

Fast approaching is the main source of this traffic jam…

An 18-wheeler has flipped over and lies on its side across the highway, obstructing 6 lanes of traffic. The driver and emergency personnel mill about as a huge Kenworth tow truck prepares to pull the rig, now separated from the collapsed trailer, over with heavy cables and back onto its wheels. Over the hustle and bustle of the scene, we hear an engine fast approaching. Police and bystanders go quiet, glancing around for the source of the rising sound. We then hear straining metal as the tow cables go taut, slowly pulling the rig over with a hellish groan.

Suddenly…the BMW blasts into the accident zone, tearing through with no deceleration!

Cut

Tight on Lily as she sees the large rig looming in their path, preparing to fall heavily onto its wheels. Her eyes widen as she points and yelps in terror.

Cut

Tight on the Driver. He too sees the deadly obstacle in their path and clenches his teeth. This is going to be close! He jams his foot down on the accelerator.

Cut

The BMW surges forward again and streaks through the looming shadow of the falling truck, scattering panicked people in all directions, mere inches below the cables as the large Peterbilt begins to topple, coming down at them with nothing to stop it as gravity takes over.

Cut

We see the BMW burst back out into the sunlight, mere seconds before the background is eclipsed by the bulk of the rig crashing down onto its tires in a burst of dust.

Cut

Bystanders and emergency personnel recover to stare in awe, unsure of how to react as the roar of the car’s engine quickly fades from the scene.

Cut

Wide shot. We see the highway extend below us, almost entirely empty in one direction, thanks to the crashed rig. Downtown LA is now tantalizingly close, dominating the background. The BMW rips into frame, speeding across the open expanse of hot asphalt, homing in on the off-ramp visible in the distance.

Cut

Off ramp. The car, a silvery blur, heads into the downtown core, long shadows from the towering skyscrapers plunging huge swaths into darkness, back-lit by the remnants of an orange and pink sky.

Cut

Telephoto shot. The sun, still huge and shimmering, dips below the horizon (mild time-lapse).

Cut

Tight on the BMW’s sexy front end as the headlights come on with a crisp, clean glow, the city’s neon ambiance reflected across the car’s polished skin.

Cut

Exterior. Night. We are poised before a huge concert venue. The whole area is prepped for the big event. There’s the usual horde of predatory paparazzi clustered around the entrance amidst enthusiastic young fans clutching posters and other ‘Lily’-branded goodies. A mammoth banner hangs above the entrance proclaiming a dual language ‘Welcome!’ to Lily. A long red carpet of expensive, velvety material lies like a huge tongue, rolled elegantly to the street while large spotlights nearby light up the sky with towering beams.

Cut

Interior BMW. Lily, looking more like her former self, stares at the city around her, a moment of awe among the thank-god-I’m-still-alive relief flooding her system…mingled with the energy of her impending performance. Her inevitable conversations with the LAPD and INTERPOL can wait till tomorrow…tonight Lily breaches new shores…thus fulfilling a long-held dream. Kenji is gone…SHE is Lily. No one else. Now and forever.

She points ahead, curious and excited…

“Is that…the venue?”

Cut

Lily’s POV. Through the windshield, we can make out the sweeping pillars of light marking the event.

Cut

The Driver, without looking, nods…

“Yes ma am. We’ll be arriving momentarily.”

Cut

Lily nods, a small smile playing over her lips, and reaches down to the large hand bag at her feet, unzipping it and reaching inside.

Cut

Tight on the handbag as she rummages before withdrawing, something held lightly and with care in her fingers, masked by shadow.

Cut

Lily sits back up, raising the object. It’s her personalized mic…the beautifully sculpted gold of the ‘LILY’ glinting in the passing lights of the city.

Cut

Beauty shot of the car smoothly darting through traffic, light gleaming across the hood.

Cut

The venue. A slick-looking American dude clad in an expensive Italian blazer and slacks, a Lily fan T-shirt showing beneath, paces back and forth before the throng of fans and press. This is Lily’s new management and his name is Rick. He peers down at his Rolex before glancing over his shoulder.

Cut

Rick’s POV. Voices shout Lily’s name and flashbulbs flash, the glare blinding, as the crowd’s enthusiasm rises to a fevered pitch.

Cut

He turns back, a quick decision made. Pulling out a cell phone, he hurriedly punches in a number.

Cut

Interior BMW. An insistent beeping sounds and, again, both reach for their phones. It’s his, this time. He answers…

“Hello, sir.”

Cut

Rick digs in, straight to the point, absently stepping off the curb…

“Where the hell are you?! She’s due onstage in less than 10 minutes! Was there a problem at the airport?”

Cut

The Driver glances over at Lily before coyly responding…

“No, sir. Just your standard irritable LA commuters. A little road rage and such. We are inbound and she’ll be there lickity-split.”

Without another word, he hangs up.

Cut

Rick stares down at his phone, an awe-struck expression widening his features. Clearly not many people hang up on this guy. Suddenly…bright lights flash over him and he glances up in surprise.

Cut

The BMW streaks in, seemingly zero’d in on Rick who was unwise enough to wander out into the street in all of his nervous pacing.

Cut

Bumper-mounted shot. The pavement blurs beneath us as we barrel toward Rick, who’s frozen like a deer in headlights, arms outstretched, still clutching his cell phone.

Cut

The Driver calmly presses down on the brake.

Cut

The BMW very rapidly looses speed at it flies at the paralyzed manager, stopping mere inches from his pricey Italian slacks. He blinks…stunned. It takes him 3 full seconds to focus on the car and when he does…he sees Lily and The Driver staring back at him. Exhaling heavily, he mutters…

“Oh…my…god.”

…and leaps into action. He jams his phone into a pocket and rushes around to Lily’s side of the car.

Cut

The Driver looks over at Lily, saying…

“Well, here you are, ma am.”

Lily locks her door before looking over to meet his studious gaze, much to the chagrin of Rick, who tries to open the door seconds later. She looks around before answering…

“Yes…here I am. My big night. My crossover.”

Rick begins rapping his knuckles on the window, his pleading muted. Lily opens her mouth to speak again, but pauses…a quick flurry of nerves over taking her.

Cut

Tight on the Driver says, with care and confidence…

“You’re going to be just fine. Like you said…it’s your big night. You were great today…and you’ll knock em dead tonight.”

Cut

Lily looks down with a touch of sheepishness edging in. It doesn’t last long. She rises back up, newly confident again…

“Thanks. I intend to.”

She unlocks the door, and Rick wrenches it open, struggling to compose himself. Addressing both of them, he implores…

“Please?! Tonight?!!”

Lily looks back as Rick carefully takes her arm, saying…

“Thanks for saving my life.”

Leaning over, she lays a quick kiss on the Driver’s stubbly cheek.

Cut

He turns away, stoically glaring through the windshield, the flash of the cameras strobing across his rugged features as he answers…

“It’s my job, ma am.”

She nods knowingly, saying…

“You do it well.”

Rick intrudes, his exasperation showing.

“You two are killing me here. Lily, can we please get you inside, honey?!”

The passenger-side door is slammed shut.

With a last glance, Lily allows herself to be led away by the chattering Rick as the fans go batshit crazy. Just as she’s about to be swallowed by the crowd, she breaks away, slipping quickly back to the car.

Cut

The press follows her movements, cameras strobing wildly as they watch and record.

What fresh drama is this?!

Cut

We see several quick-cut freeze frames of the shots they would’ve captured.

Cut

We see the passenger-side window, the lights of the venue clearly reflected. We see Lily rushing back to the car, her form growing across the glass. With a gentle whir, the window slides down, revealing the Driver looking up at her expectantly. She leans in…

“What’s your name?”

Before he can answer, Rick strikes again, gently but firmly taking her by the arm to lead her away.

All falls to slow motion.

Cut

Driver’s POV. Slow motion. We see Lily looking back at him, something emotional in her gaze as she is herded toward the venue. The crowd moves in after her, fans cheering, reporters reporting.

Cut

Lily’s POV. Slow motion. We are pulled away from the BMW and we can see the Driver watching us from the cozy confines of the silvery-blue luxury car. The crowd moves in to block out her view and she is swallowed by the mob of adoring fans.

Cut

Driver’s POV. As the crowd rapidly thins, pushing inside, two statuesque bodyguards take up positions at the end of the red carpet. Then…there’s the flurry of heavy fabric in motion. He glances up, looking through the car’s sunroof as three more banners, of enormous size, drop in announcement of Lily’s arrival from the roof. One is the good ole Stars n Stripes…the other the Rising Sun. Both flank a massive photo of Lily herself, poised seductively in black and white, her name blazing in vibrant yellow.

Cut

Slow zoom on the Driver. He looks thoughtful as he gazes up at the two flags rippling gently in the warm California breeze. From a distance, we hear an excited voice on a god-like PA system announcing Lily’s arrival onstage. The applause is deafening.

Cut

Slow zoom on the Rising Sun emblem till the lower half of our frame is occupied by the upper half of the red circle rippling in the gentle wind. The sounds of concert pandemonium fade gently away as the image morphs to that of a massive sun on the horizon, in wide telephoto glory, as it rises over a flat desert plain distorted by heat waves, underscored by the plaintive sigh of the wind.

Then…another sounds quickly rises.

The BMW roars into frame, triumphantly speeding away…soon lost in the wavering pulses of heat dancing before us. We hang on the fading noise of the engine as it races into the distance before…

Cut to Black

THE END

 

 

Grim Draw

An early Screen Story by LR Forgues

*Transcribed from lone hard-copy found in storage and edited for pacing and content.

Setting – a prosperous mining town somewhere in the American Midwest, circa the 1870s. People are everywhere but on this particular day, many folks have convened onto the dusty Main Street, preparing to witness one of two notorious gunfighters shoot the other to death in a quick draw contest, over some slight only half remembered. Their names are ‘Wild Card’ Morton and Dwight ‘Jack Rabbit’ Robinson…and they are pissed.

-Cut from Black-

Slow motion close-up of a wooden match being struck off the all-metal handle of a long-barreled Colt .44 revolver. It’s steel gleams in the mid-afternoon sunlight. Once alight, we follow it up to a thin cigarillo clenched in the tobacco-stained teeth of a tall, scruffy and sallow faced cowboy wearing a wide brimmed and sweat-stained hat. He takes a slow, deliberate drag off the cigarillo, holding the smoke in and savoring it for a moment, before exhaling. He then lowers his hand, flicking the spent match away.

This is ‘Jack Rabbit’.

-Cut-

Tight on the match as it spins away in slow motion, trailing a wisp of smoke as we follow it down.

-Cut-

Tight on the squinting eyes of someone else, ‘Wild Card’, as he follows the match to where it hisses out of existence in a nearby puddle. He looks back up, scowling.

-Cut-

Wide shot of the busy street, with both gunfighters poised in the middle. Tension is high and the crowd seems to sense it, as they are noticeably backing away, fearing the bloody fight will begin soon.

-Cut-

Mid-shot. ‘Wild Card’ glares past us, a gloved hand hovering at his side, ready for action. He ‘s shorter than ‘Jack Rabbit’, but more powerfully built. Thick neck and barrel chest. He spits into the dirt, unimpressed.

-Cut-

Tight on ‘Jack Rabbit’ as he takes another pull from his smoke, calmly inhaling again. Speaking as he exhales…

“OK, son-of-a-bitch…this is what it all boils down to.”

He pauses, nonchalantly pulling an errant piece of tobacco from his lips before continuing…

“You gun down amigos of mine, while hunting me down, like so much wild game…then a .44 finds ya.”

He gently pats the grip of his gun for effect…

“You think you found me? Not the case, brother…I’ve had you hooked since back East.”

-Cut-

Mid-shot. ‘Wild Card’ brushes aside his duster, revealing a pair of walnut-handled revolvers.

-Cut-

Ambient crowd shots, cut quickly, as they react with excitement and alarm.

-Cut-

‘Wild Card’. He growls…

“A .44, huh? Just one?! To tell you the truth…all I see before me is nothin but another two-bit pisss-tolier…that’s moments from dying in the road like a diseased mutt!”

-Cut-

‘Jack Rabbit’ pulls the cigarillo from his lips, his cool demeanor slipping.

“You calling me a dog, asshole?!”

His volume increases.

“You ain’t nothin but bark, you wetback-loving bastard! You gunnin…or are you going to keep shooting your mouth off?!!”

-Cut-

‘Wild Card’ spits again, fury in his eyes.

“Talking? Is that all I’m doin?! When I skin these pistols, you’ll realize my ‘talking’ is the last sound you ever hear…next to your insides snapping your outsides!”

He continues yelling, rage unleashed.

-Cut-

‘Jack Rabbit’ jabs an accusing finger, his rising voice taking on a menacing tone over ‘Wild Card’s angry jeers…

“I’m going to enjoy dancing a jig on your goddamn body in front of these fine folks!”

He gestures to the crowd, which has noticeably put distance between them and the raging gunfighters.

-Cut-

‘Wild Card’, practically foaming at the mouth, finishes up his yelling with…

“…and I’ll see you in Hell, you son-of-a-bitch!”

His hands flash down in a blur of movement, yanking both pistols from their holsters.

-Cut-

At the same moment, ‘Jack Rabbit’s own pistol clears its leather holster, sunlight glinting off metal as he brings it up, the muzzle looming large in our view.

*burst of pure white*

The same main street, only it has undergone a severe change. It is still dusty, but it is now deserted. The buildings are falling apart, full of cobwebs and dust. Tumble weeds and dust devils swirl among the vacant structures. Rats scamper quietly through the streets and vultures soar overhead, their eerie cries echoing. Wind whistles mournfully through the remaining shards that sit frozen in wooden window frames like broken teeth. The sky is dark and ominous…thunder sounds in the distance.

-Cut-

Mid-shot. ‘Wild Card’. Both hands whip up, clenching at grips and triggers that are no longer there.

-Cut-

Mid-shot. ‘Jack Rabbit’. In a classic gun-fighter pose, his finger also squeezes dry, cool air. His gun is gone. And so are his duds. Gone is his duster and prized hat. Gone is his vest and leather boots. He’s barefoot and clad in a cheap dark suit that hangs awkwardly, a long slice in the threadbare fabric opening the back. He looks down in shock, not comprehending.

-Cut-

‘Wild Card’ is similarly attired now, only in a loose suit of muddy brown material, a similar slice up the back.

The gunfighters are clad in funerary clothes, their former garments nowhere to be seen.

‘Wild Card’ stumbles back, stunned, his empty hands still extended. He exclaims…

“What the hell?!”

-Cut-

‘Jack Rabbit’. Not sure what to do, but seeing his sworn enemy raise his hands threateningly, hisses…

“Shit!”

He suddenly ducks out of frame.

-Cut-

Ground level. We see ‘Jack Rabbit’ come down hard, his knee raising dust as he hits, trying to duck bullets that aren’t coming.

-Cut-

‘Wild Card’ stops backing away, having realized that they are both now unarmed and defenseless. He begins to look around, his ferocious expression giving way to one of bewilderment….and a bit of fear.

-Cut-

‘Jack Rabbit’ also glares about, a disbelieving smirk twisting his features as he scans the area. After a moment, he wrinkles his nose, quietly muttering…

“Jesus…what the hell is that stench?”

-Cut-

‘Wild Card’. He hears his enemy saying something low and looks over questioningly…

“What?”

-Cut-

‘Jack Rabbit’. He meets the other gunfighter’s eyes, responding…

“I said…what smells so goddamn rank around here?!”

The only answer is the mournful wail of the wind, but then…there’s something else. Something low. Ominous. It sounds like…laughter. Seemingly from all around them, in and among the buildings and streets. The source is unseen, seemingly everywhere…and nowhere. Then…it settles, emanating softly from the shadows of the shuttered and decrepit saloon across the street.

Both men stare at the building as the low chuckle fades away, giving rise to loud, thudding footsteps from within, approaching. Each step is punctuated by the sharp *ka-ching* of sharpened spurs.

-Cut-

Wide shot. The saloon. Dark clouds drift past in the distance as we slowly zoom in on the dusty facade. The footsteps get louder.

-Cut-

‘Wild Card’. He stares past us, eyes wide, licking his lips nervously. We slowly zoom in.

-Cut-

‘Jack Rabbit. He also looks beyond us, confusion washing over him. We slowly zoom in.

-Cut-

The saloon’s entrance, darkness beyond the swinging double doors. Our zoom slows to a stop.

A figure appears suddenly from the shadows and the swinging doors burst open, abruptly forced from within. We pull back as this tall, imposing figure strides out into the murky daylight, marching toward us. We can see that he’s clad in a long, black duster and a wide, black cowboy hat, the brim angled down to obscure his features.

-Cut-

Wide. Ground level. We see the two gunfighters poised defensively in the street. In the foreground, the stranger’s black boot comes down, barbed silver spur *ka-ching*ing in the dust.

-Cut-

‘Wild Card’. He stumbles back a step, saying…

“Oh my god!”

-Cut-

‘Jack Rabbit’ glares for a moment, before exclaiming…

“Holy shit!”

-Cut-

We see the stranger’s boots. After a beat, we slowly rise up along his tall, narrow body to his face. His skin is a dead greyish-brown, and it’s fixed tight to his skull, as there is no muscle structure beneath to interfere. His eyes are two gleaming coins that glint in the shadows below the wide brim of his hat. Below those, his sharp teeth are a deep, ugly yellow, with several blackened specimens spread throughout. No lips hide the dental travesty. His narrow skull slowly scans from one man to the next. With a spastic chattering motion, he speaks…

“That pungent aroma you inhale is…”

He wafts air at his cadaverous visage, inhaling like that of a great vintage, before continuing…

“…Death.”

The voice that emerges from behind the viciously gnashing teeth is that of a hoarse and strained young man, morphing into that of a prim young girl.

-Cut-

‘Wild Card’ throws up an accusing finger, pointing past us as he yells…

“Where the hell are we?! And who the fuck are YOU?!”

-Cut-

We see the dead figure nod toward ‘Wild Card’, the voice going from the girl….to that of an elderly man, Native accent…

“Who I am is completely unimportant. Where you are is another matter…let’s just say that this is this the place where the spiritual essence of a living thing is judged…and sent for. In this case, here on this lovely day, my job is to decide which of you…meat puppets…exits this realm….and which lives to fight another day.”

-Cut-

‘Wild Card’ lowers the jabbing hand, concern creeping into his eyes. He looks over at ‘Jack Rabbit’.

-Cut-

Tight. ‘Jack Rabbit’. He also looks apprehensive now. The wind rises, blowing his tussled hair about.

-Cut-

The stranger speaks again, the voice going from Native to deep Texan…

“I must say though, boys…you two have managed to keep this working stiff busy, in these here parts. I’ve been sending your kills across for a good while now…you’re both not too shabby at what you do, it must be said. Here’s the funny thing…including Mexicans, you two losers are sitting equal at the polls…exact same number of pine boxes and shallow graves to each of your silly names.”

-Cut-

‘Wild Card’ starts with a jerk, and looks over.

-Cut-

‘Jack Rabbit’ feels the look and meets it, giving an ‘aw shucks, how about THAT?’ expression in response.

-Cut-

Tight, uncomfortably close to the stranger’s corpse-like face as the teeth gnash again, the voice changing from male Texas to female England…

“Surprised, aintcha?! Well, hey…I don’t blame ya. It’s actually quite a nifty coincidence. Sure, quite a few gunners have outdone you fellas in score but the odds of two armed gringos with the same count drawing down on each other is wonderfully tasty.”

-Cut-

We see the two gunfighters frozen in place, staring at the creature that addresses them.

-Cut-

Back to the stranger. The jaw chatters again and the voice of a young English girl fades into that of an elderly man…

“Frankly, I like both of you sumbitches, you’ve got that killer instinct that keeps me on my toes.”

-Cut-

‘Wild Card’ sums up some courage and takes a menacing step toward the stranger, growling…

“Listen…you ugly shit. I don’t know what this is or where we are…but you’re intruding in business that needn’t concern you. I’m here to open that bastard right up for what he did. (gestures to ‘Jack Rabbit’) Now…you should follow your tootsies and slide out of town…before I decide to add you to my score…with my bare hands, if need be!”

-Cut-

His hands curl into tight fists.

-Cut-

Tight on the stranger. He hesitates, taking in what ‘Wild Card’ has said. After a moment, he raises his head to the dim sun above, light glinting off his coin eyes. The sharpened teeth chatter again, only this time, a low evil laugh sounds from under the wide hat brim. For a moment, the sound seems to swirl around the two men, seemingly not coming from its source before returning to the stranger as it fades out. He looks back down at the defiant gunfighter. He speaks again, elderly man to young boy shifting in his voice…

“You amusingly stupid little mortal…you oughta be smart enough to know that you can’t kill Death.”

-Cut-

‘Jack Rabbit’ also steps forward, a scowl clouding his features as he speaks, his cool and menacing tone returning…

“I don’t care what you call yourself, I can kill anything with a beating heart, pistol or no pistol.”

-Cut-

He too, clenches his fist.

-Cut-

Tight. The stranger. The mouth chatters…

“Mortal, I must say today has become very unusual. Never has a soul threatened its guide. Should it make you feel better, I will give you both your weapons…if for no other reason than my own amusement, as I believe my choice has been made.”

-Cut-

Tight on the stranger’s duster as he pulls it open, reaching into the darkened depths to draw out two holsters, which he tosses toward the two men.

-Cut-

We see ‘Wild Cards’ holstered gun land at his bare feet in a puff of dust.

-Cut-

We see ‘Jack Rabbit’ catch his.

-Cut-

The stranger extends his wide arms, presenting a prominent target. The jaw chatters again…

“OK fellas, here’s your shot. Make it count. You two parasites are about to assail the very agent that made you famous men. Now you must remember that, no matter what happens to poor me…it’s already been decided what happens here today.”

-Cut-

Tight on ‘Wild Cards’ holster as he picks it up from the dust.

-Cut-

‘Jack Rabbit’ glances over at ‘Wild Card’, his eyes taking on a familiar squint as he nods.

-Cut-

Wide-shot. The three figures are poised, but all is still. The tension is palpable. Wind whistles through the scene and a tumbleweed rolls among the trio.

-Cut-

Tight on the stranger. He cocks his head, asking…

“Well? I don’t have all day, boys.”

-Cut-

Slow-motion. ‘Wild Card’ yanks his gun from the holster, raising it, the muzzle looming large in our view.

-Cut-

Slow-motion. ‘Jack Rabbit’ follows suit, bounding to the side and skinning his own firearm, bringing it up as he dashes away, the darkened barrel leveling at us.

-Cut-

Full-shot. The stranger. He quickly but calmly brushes the duster open again, this time drawing out two sawed-off shotguns forged of pure silver, the barrels glinting in the light.

-Cut-

Tight on the barrels of his weapons as they rise. We can clearly make out the design of a scythe beautifully engraved along the length.

-Cut-

Both shotguns are leveled, aiming past us. The stranger squeezes both triggers in the same moment and with a crash like a thunderclap, he fires.

*Our view is abruptly blanked out by another blinding flash of pure white*

-Cut-

We are back in the same town, only the crowd of spectators has returned, along with the bright sunshine and other signs of life. No time has passed.

-Cut-

Profile shot of ‘Wild Card’. Slow motion. Blood explodes from a ragged hole blown through his heart.

-Cut-

Profile shot of ‘Jack Rabbit’. Slow motion. His neck is abruptly torn away by a bullet and his head falls forward before he collapses, crimson spilling down the front of his shirt.

-Cut-

Wide-shot. The street. We see both gunfighters as they stumble and fall, bursts of blue gun smoke hanging before both of them, snaking from the barrels of each of their pistols as they fall.

-Cut-

‘Wild Card’ crashes into the dust with a thud, blood blooming across his chest, his gun spinning away.

-Cut-

‘Jack Rabbit’ collapses to his knees with a gurgling sigh, his eyes wide with disbelief as blood drools from his open mouth. His gun also falls from his fingers, landing before him in the road as he reaches up to clutch at the damage. Seconds later…he keels over, thudding face down, dead.

-Cut-

The crowd reacts with shock, with women covering children’s eyes and men nodding knowingly, puffing on pipes and knocking back last drinks. The echo of the gunfire crackles into the distance. The group of spectators begins to melt away, going back to their lives, the spectacle of the fatal shoot-out over, the dead bodies now someone else’s problem.

-Cut-

We look down on the two gunfighters crumpled in the dust (overhead shot), puddles of blood spreading under the hot sun as the shadows of flying vultures pass to and fro over them. We slowly draw up and away. As we move, as though far in the distance, we hear the low evil chuckle of the stranger.

-Fade to Black-

 

The End

 *This was originally written and submitted as a high school Film Class script-writing project in Courtenay, BC circa 1995

Soul Ride

 

An early Screen Story by LR Forgues

(Originally written July, 1996. Transcribed from found hard-copy version and edited for content and pacing)

Scene 1 – Dealing Murder

Smash cut to a wide aerial shot drifting in from over the calm ocean water, toward a large sea-side town at dusk.

-Cut-

Exterior. Dusk. We see a modestly sized parking lot laid out below us. Slowly pulling away from the ocean we can make out in the distance, we slowly pan around 180 degrees to see the mall that the lot belongs to. A few remaining stores go dark, signalling Closing Time. A stiff wind rises suddenly, scattering crispy leaves and litter across our field of vision.

-Cut-

Tight on the illuminated sign that dominates the mall’s façade: Pine Grove Mall. After a moment, the sign goes dark.

-Cut-

We see the Golden Arches of the local McDonalds. They follow the mall’s example and also darken abruptly.

-Cut-

Various quick shots.

We see other businesses follow suit, going dark and locking up for the night.

-Cut-

We see a mountain range in the distance, details lost in the deepening shadows as the last rays of sunlight fade away. We crane down, our view of the dark mountains eclipsed suddenly by the storefront sign of the small, local pharmacy. Like the other stores nearby, it too clicks off. We continue drifting down to ground level, where we smoothly track along.

-Cut-

Tight on a street light mounted beside the pharmacy, marking the edge of a dingy alleyway. The solar sensor activates in the thickening gloom, the bulb below it flickering on with a stuttering buzz.

-Cut-

Back to our tracking shot as we glide over the sidewalk to the alleyway’s entrance, which flickers in the yellow-tinged light from above. The cold fall wind whistles past as the light gains strength, glowing evenly on the dancing pieces of litter scattered about. A scruffy pair of red Doc Martin boots slide into view, one of which is tapping nervously at the asphalt in an indistinct rhythm. We slowly drift up the body of the boot’s owner. We can see that he is wearing an artfully torn pair of black jeans and a worn, light-colored T-shirt emblazoned with a cartoonish marijuana leaf beneath a too-large leather vest. His thin arms, chilled in the cooling night air, are emblazoned with a medley of tattoos, mostly Lovecraftian monsters and nude women. Narrow fingers fiddle with a small, ornate medallion that dangles outside of his shirt, resting against a sallow chest. We slow to a stop.

This is WYATT.

His rodent-like face is thin and his long, stringy hair is tied back with a leather thong. He looks like the heroin junkie that he is. An unlit cigarette is clenched in his teeth and he hums something resembling a speed-metal tune as he stares blankly at the side of the pharmacy.

-Cut-

Tight on the medallion as his fingers drop away. In the nicotine-stained light, we can see that it’s a silver and black pentagram, the star of Satan, hosting an eerily intricate likeness of a demon etched from platinum.

-Cut back-

Wyatt stops humming and cocks his head, listening. Rising on the wind, we can make out the deep bass thud of an approaching car’s stereo. As it gets closer, we can make out the track ‘Cave Bitch’ by Ice Cube. Rack focus – Headlights suddenly turn in at the alley’s far end, sweeping across the litter and the dumpsters as it approaches.

-Cut-

Tight on Wyatt (static shot) as he squints against the glare, staring past us, the light growing in intensity as the car nears.

-Cut-

Partway down the alley, the car, a green and gold 1991 Mustang GT Cobra Interceptor, slows to a stop. The driver is shrouded in shadow, hidden in the glare of the headlights.

-Cut-

Wyatt pauses, waiting. When it becomes evident that the Mustang isn’t going to move further, he curses under his breath, pushing away from the brick wall. We move with him as he sulks his way toward the blinding headlights and the throaty rumble of the 5.0.

-Cut-

Interior Mustang. Driver’s POV as Wyatt slinks closer, squinting against the glare. We hear low, muttered words…

“What the fuck?!”

The view pans over, moving with the approaching junkie as he nears the driver-side door. The window glides down with an electric whir, stops with a mild thud. Wyatt leans down, looking in. He pulls the still-unlit smoke from his lips, saying…

“Hey. Wassup, Milo?”

-Cut-

MILO is a ‘gangsta’ in the most 90’s sense of the word…aside from being white. His steroid-amped torso is clad in a pricey leather jacket and a wool Kangol flat-cap adorns his shaved skull. He also sports several chunky rings, a silver tooth and a neck tattoo. Pulling a toothpick from the corner of his mouth, he glares past us at Wyatt, ignoring the quiet greeting…

“Where’s Vince, shithead?!”

-Cut-

Wyatt draws away, taken aback.

“Um…Vincent couldn’t make it…asked me to collect…”

Milo, threat hanging in his tone…

“Is that so?”

-Cut-

Wyatt cautiously leans back in, hands raised defensively, empty palms out.

“Yeah, man…no bullshit.”

-Cut-

Milo probes his silver tooth with his tongue, eyes sweeping the area as he’s pondering this…

“No bullshit, you say?”

Wyatt, a touch of panic in his voice…

“It’s all good, Milo. Vincent’s gout was acting up and…”

Milo cuts in, snickering….

“Wyatt, you are, beyond a doubt, a colossal fuckin retard. Blows my mind.”

Wyatt stammers, unsure of how to respond. Milo continues, leaning over to flick Wyatt’s dangling medallion…

“My guess is that you’ve been tucking too much of this voodoo Satan bullshit up your ass and it’s popping it’s load all over that mushy brain of yours.”

-Cut-

Wyatt. A wounded expression clouds his features and he reaches up, stopping the swaying medallion, rubbing it protectively with a finger…

“Nah, man. This here…it don’t make ya stupid…it gets you…in touch with…”

Milo interrupts again, waving a hand dismissively…

“Yeah, yeah…whatever, bitch. Whatever the reason for your dumb-ass, you’re too fucking blind to see what’s actually happening up in here. It ain’t no gout keeping that fucker Vince from surfacing tonight…it’s his pussy ass avoiding paying for the last batch I stupidly fronted you cock-suckers last week!”

-Cut-

Wyatt looks nervous and unsure. Hesitantly, he says…

“I don’t know nothin bout that, man. He just asked me to come hook a fix cuz his gout’s flaring up, keeping him off his feet.”

Milo growls…

“Motherfucker! If you think I’m a gonna swallow that….!”

He trails off, momentarily ponderous…then his coarse features brighten, a welcoming grin spreading across, silver glinting in the glare of the streetlight…

“Shit, man. I’m trippin. Sorry bout that. I’m sure Vince will be paying up directly…don’t kill the messenger, right?”

He pops off a quick ‘finger gun’ at Wyatt before continuing…

“Peep this. If you do me a solid and deliver a message to Vince, I’ll just add this here bag o shwag to the outstanding total, which you fellas can hook me up with….sometime…in the very near future. That work for you?”

Wyatt, his expression showing suspicion…

“Um…ok, I guess. What do you need me to tell him?”

Milo shakes his head….

“Nah, just hold up a minute. It’d be better if I wrote it down.”

As he reaches for the glove-box, Wyatt leans in again, holding the cigarette between two fingers, relieved that he won’t have to remember some message word for word…

“Thanks. You got a light, Milo?”

Milo’s left hand flashes into sight from behind the door, grabbing Wyatt’s pendant and yanking. The leather holds, pulling the junkies head down, sharply smashing it off the roof. Wyatt’s nose breaks with a *snap*, and he yelps.

Milo, with a cruel glint in his eye, coldly says…

“A light? Sure thing, buddy!”

His other hand slips out of the shadows, something glinting in the dull street light as it presses to Wyatt’s shirt.

“Here’s your light, you dumb shit!”

-Cut-

Mid shot, from behind Wyatt. Muffled gunshot. We see Wyatt’s back jerk, a burst of crimson punching through, spraying across the brick wall behind, the bullet ricocheting off with a whine.

-Cut-

Ground level. A messy collection of green and black garbage bags piled against the graffiti-laden wall. Wyatt crashes down into frame, scattering garbage and sinking into the pile with a low moan. The hollow ‘tink’ of the spent shell stops, leaving the wind and the patient rumble of the 5.0.

-Cut-

Mid shot. Milo leans out of the window, a nickel-plated .32 Beretta hanging lazily in one hand, a wisp of smoke trickling from the barrel. In his other hand, he holds Wyatt’s torn medallion, swinging it back and forth, grinning stupidly…

“Now that….that was a fuckin rush.”

-Cut-

We see Wyatt crumpled among the trash, unlit cigarette still clamped in his fingers. For a moment, he’s still. With a wet cough, the junkie then stirs, painfully pushing up and back, his Doc Martin’s scratching at the wet pavement.

-Cut-

Milo’s snicker cuts off and a look nearing bewilderment crosses his cruel features. He hadn’t expected Wyatt to survive that.

-Cut-

Tight on the pavement beneath Wyatt. We see the unlit smoke drop into frame, following by a drool of blood from above. We then gently rise to Wyatt’s bowed head, which bobs each time he unleashes a ragged cough. From beneath the long, stringy hair, a low muttering begins.

-Cut-

Milo leans in, trying to pick out words as he smirks…

“Speak up, chief! Not quite reading ya over here!”

-Cut-

Wyatt struggles to raise his head, skin pale and eye-lids fluttering, both hands pressed to the growing blotch of red spreading across his shirt. As he begins to speak around laboured breaths, his eyes open strangely wide and clear, rimmed with tears of pain. Crimson spit hangs in thick strings from his chin as the dark words emerge…

“Please this servant, O Master, if you may, my Lord of the Pit. Grant my plea audience and reap this fool to torment unimaginable…for I am yours.”

Wyatt continues, drifting into an ancient language and an odd stilted cadence, the gurgling in his throat increasing as the dark words spill out. The unknown language ends and Wyatt fixes his dying eyes on Milo, growling….

“You’ll burn, slave!”

With that, he abruptly swings a hand up and across, spraying blood at the dealer that shot him.

-Cut-

Milo yanks back with a disgusted…

“Fuck!”

…as the spatter of red catches him across the face, and side of the car.

-Cut-

Tight on Milo as he turns back, blood marking him grotesquely like war paint, a psychopathic glint in his eye. He snarls…

“Lullaby, bitch!”

The Beretta flashes back up, firing with a *BANG!*.

-Cut-

Tight on Wyatt’s agonized, yet furious face, lit in the muzzle flash. There’s a wet thud and Wyatt violently jerks out of frame.

-Cut-

Tight on the Mustang’s shiny Dayton mags as the engine revs with a howl. The medallion drops into frame, clinking on the pavement as the tires spin, spilling smoke into the alleyway as the car tears away.

-Cut-

Wide overhead shot of the alley as the ‘Stang roars out of frame, slowly descending toward Wyatt’s bloodied, motionless body, sprawled in the trash.

-Cut-

We slowly track along, at ground level, the wide, largely empty parking lot, strewn with blowing leaves and trash spread out before us. The Mustang sweeps into frame, tires screeching in a tight, reckless turn and races away. The rumble of the 5.0 fades quickly and the shrill whistle of the rising wind takes over.

-Cut-

We’re still descending on Wyatt, bathed in the yellow-stained light from the street. As we slow to a stop over him, we see him staring vacantly past us, at the racing clouds overhead. Tilting down, we see his bloodied hand outstretched toward the demonic medallion lying nearby.

-Cut–

Tight on Wyatt’s slack, pale features, blood staining his parted lips. After a beat, we see his eyes dilate as death overtakes him.

-Cut-

Low thunder rumbles ominously in the distance as we slowly push in on the discarded pendant, the demonic face of it seeming to stare accusingly.

-Fade to Black-

End Scene 1

Scene 2 – Dead Reckoning

-Cut from Black-

Forest. Night time. The large fir trees sway in the breeze with a deep, mournful sigh, in the crisp blue-tinged light of the moon. Suddenly, the lower branches are lit by an intensifying glow and we tilt down as the Mustang races past us, along a stretch of deserted forest road, scattering crisp leaves in it’s wake.

Music Cue: ‘Lava’ by Ministry (fades in with the passing of the car)

-Cut-

Tight on the Mustang’s driver’s side rear tire as it speeds over the dark asphalt. After a beat, we track along, gliding toward the driver’s window as the roar of the wind and engine engulf us. As we move, we can make out the spatter of Wyatt’s blood on the car’s skin, creeping across the paint in the wind. We slow to a stop in time to see Milo behind the wheel demonstrate his fury, lashing forward with a closed fist.

-Cut-

Tight on the dash-mounted custom fuel gauge as Milo’s fist slams into it, shattering the glass with a loud crack.

“Goddamn it!”

-Cut-

We are fixed to the car’s hood, holding Milo, lit in the green glow of the dash indicators, in a mid-shot. He yanks his balled fist back, a scowl twisting his features, teeth clenched as he shakes his hand around in the air, as if this will erase the pain. After a moment of futile shaking, he reaches up and wipes at his cheek. Noting the stickiness, he pulls his hand away, glaring at it in the dim lighting. Seeing smeared blood, disgusted he mutters…

“Jesus…Christ!”

He yanks the cap from his bald skull, wiping at his face, staining the expensive wool with Wyatt’s blood. While doing so, he growls…

“Vince…you better enjoy our night…cuz it’s fixing to be your last, bitch!”

With that said, he tosses the soiled Kangol into the back seat.

-Cut-

Tight on the road (bumper-mounted shot) as it blurs past beneath us, the headlights showing the way.

-Cut-

Forest. The road, lit in the moonlight, snakes its way into the distance through the trees. With a throaty roar, the Mustang races past us, hell-bent toward Milo’s destination.

-Cut-

Tight on Milo’s glaring eyes, lit green in the light of the dashboard. After a beat…he glances at something off-screen.

-Cut-

Tight on the Beretta on the passenger seat, the moonlight gleaming off the short barrel. Milo’s hand slithers into frame, grabbing the pistol.

-Cut-

Back to the mid-shot as Milo raises the gun and, while still steering, ejects the magazine to quickly check the load. Slapping it back in, he grips the slide and pulls it partway back, glancing into the ejection port.

-Cut-

Tight on the partially exposed ejection port. We can see a live round nestled in the chamber. The slide closes over the bullet with a faint click.

-Cut-

We see the handgun being placed within easy reach beside the emergency brake.

-Cut-

Tight on Milo. Through his angered grimace, we see him lick his silver tooth again, muttering…

“One useless muthafucka down…one to go. Coming for you, Vinnie. Time for a reckoning, asshole!”

-Cut-

Tight on Milo’s shoe as he hammers the accelerator.

-Cut-

Tight on the car’s tachometer, the needle jumping as the engine roars.

-Cut-

Forest. Wide-shot. The road stretches out ahead of us, disappearing around a bend up ahead. Headlights abruptly sweep around the corner and the Mustang speeds toward us at a dangerous clip. We hold on the car as it approaches. We can hear the engine slow as it nears, the blinding headlights losing speed until they come to a halt before us. We dolly forward, gliding toward Milo over the steering wheel as his expression changes from homicidal rage to irritated bewilderment.

-Cut-

Tight on the Mustang’s glowing brake lights. Slowly and smoothly, we crane up from behind the car. Thick smoke hangs over the road, erasing everything up ahead, seemingly unaffected by the breeze that sways the trees branches nearby. The rumble of the car’s engine underscores the scene.

-Cut-

Milo glares past us, his bewilderment changing back to anger…

“Now what the hell is this shit?!”

He gets no answer and, after a moment of contemplation, presses back down on the gas peddle.

-Cut-

We see the Mustang push forward at a cautious pace, abruptly swallowed by the thick curtain of smoke.

-Cut-

Milo’s PoV. The car’s headlights cut twin, solid-seeming beams into the murk as it creeps along.

-Cut-

Ground level. We see a scatter of shattered glass and twisted pieces of green and gold metal strewn across the asphalt as smoke washes past. We hear the rumble of the car as it enters frame, the tires crunching suddenly across the debris. As the car continues past, we pan left to glimpse what could be a battered Ford emblem in the foreground, it’s mangled shape standing out.

-Cut-

Tight on Milo’s eyes as they dart back and forth, searching through the smoke. From the right…a dull glow emerges.

-Cut-

Milo’s PoV. Through the windshield, we pan right as a fiery mass reveals itself through the haze.

-Cut-

Tight on a cracked car headlight, the shape familiar despite being upside down, the bulb flickering weakly. After a beat…we crane up, the underside of a smashed car stretching out before us, the rear half a fierce inferno that reaches toward the dark night sky. We pan right as Milo’s Mustang rumbles into sight, sliding out of the smoke. He stops.

-Cut-

We see the car’s passenger-side window, bright flames reflecting in the glass, obscuring the interior. After a pause, the window slides down, revealing Milo as he scans the wreckage. Leaning forward and squinting against the sting of the smoke, he smirks….

“Holy shit!”

-Cut-

Milo’s PoV. We scan the burning, smashed remains of the car, stopping at the open driver-side door, where a dark shape lies crumpled, half in and half out. After a beat, the back seat of the crashed car ignites, the fire light swelling to illuminate the shape. It’s a body, bloody and burned…barely recognizable as a male clad in the shredded remains of a leather jacket, arms outstretched lifelessly among glittering shards of glass, something reflective clenched in a fist.

-Cut-

Tight on Milo as he licks his silver tooth, grimacing…

“Shitty for you, pal.”

-Cut-

Tight on the maimed visage of the obvious corpse. Despite the mangled, blackened ruin, the remaining features appear tranquil, at rest in a pool of blood that appears black in the fiery glow. We slowly zoom in. A pause hangs heavily…only the crackle of the flames its soundtrack.

The eyes, milky and glazed, suddenly snap open!

We smash zoom away, spinning, racing at Milo as shock ripples across his face…

“The fuck!?!”

-Cut-

Mid shot. The driver-side seat of the wreck now catches fire, engulfing the corpse’s lower extremities. The body abruptly sits up, mechanically bending at the waist as if with purpose.

-Cut-

The mangled and scorched head, in close up, rises into frame, glaring past us, the firelight reflecting in the eerie white eyes. Heat distorts the features further.

-Cut-

Tight on thick licks of flame spewing from the side of the car. A dark shape, a handgun, its metal hide scorched black, passes through, rising. It looks like a Beretta, the dark barrel looming large in our view.

We hear skin sizzling.

-Cut-

Tight on Milo’s eyes widening in shock.

-Cut-

Tight on the horrific face of the crash victim as it’s pale orbs, in perfect unison, mirror Milo’s panicked eye movement…before breaking into a malicious sneer, dark fluid drooling around smashed and bloody teeth to puddle on the dark asphalt.

-Cut-

Tight on the handgun held in the victim’s vice-like grip, flames consuming the arm behind. A mangled-but-determined finger cocks back the hammer with a sharp click.

-Cut-

Tight on the Mustang’s shifter as Milo slams it into gear.

-Cut-

Tight on the car’s rear tire spinning up with a screech, propelling the vehicle out of frame…leaving the fiery ruin as the victim’s upper torso abruptly goes up in flames, it’s aim never faltering as Milo escapes.

-Cut-

Profile mid-shot from passenger seat. Milo, a stricken expression twisting his feature as he leans into the steering wheel, exclaims…

“No way, man!! Not a fuckin chance! This Twilight Zone shit don’t really happen! I’ve gotta be trippin balls here! What the fuck was THAT?!!”

He glances up at the rear-view mirror.

-Cut-

Forest road. Night. The Mustang screeches into frame, sliding to a quick stop straddling the center line. All falls still. We only hear the sway of trees in the wind, and the rumble of the 5.0.

-Cut-

Tight on the rear-view mirror. The reflection shows a dark, empty forest road at night, the shadows of the trees swaying over the asphalt in the moonlight. There is no hint of burning wreckage. Like it never existed.

-Cut-

Milo leans in, his stricken expression morphing to that of astonishment as he studies the reflection.

“Wha…?”

He spins in his seat, awkwardly craning back to see the view behind the idling car for himself. Reflection confirmed. The road is still dark and empty. He slowly turns back, wide eyes darting around. Without another word, he shakes his head in disbelief, over and over again.

-Cut-

The Mustang’s engine roars and it lurches into motion, racing away, the echo reverberating through the trees.

-Cut-

Tight on the car’s speedometer, the needle sweeping up smoothly as the vehicle accelerates.

-Cut-

Tight on Milo, over the steering wheel. This has been a bad night for him…and it clearly shows, as his expression and body language scream fear and paranoia as he recklessly drives along, hell bent on escape. Navigating a tight corner, he straightens out…and glances up at the mirror again.

-Cut-

Tight on the mirror, same angle as before. There’s a dark shape in the backseat, obscuring the view out the rear window, a view that should lend reassurance and comfort.

The shape is human.

-Cut-

The Mustang speeds into the pool of light cast from a lone street light.

-Cut-

Tight on the man-shape as the car is momentarily bathed in the orange glow, revealing the destroyed face of the car crash victim, eyes still pale and murky, ruined mouth twisted in a skeletal sneer. We see a hint of silver among the ruined teeth. The glow fades out, the streetlight vanishing into the distance behind the car, plunging the monstrosity back into shadow.

-Cut-

Milo yells…

“Motherfucker!”

Spinning to grab his Beretta from where it sits nestled against the E-brake.

-Cut-

Tight on the pistol as Milo snatches it up.

-Cut-

Car crash victim PoV. Milo abruptly twists in his seat, awkwardly leaning around, gun in hand as he thrusts it at us.

-Cut-

Tight on the Beretta’s muzzle as Milo jerks the trigger, the muzzle flash bright as the deafening shot rocks the interior of the car.

-Cut-

Tight on the crash victim as it leaps forward with an angered hiss, ruined arms outstretched menacingly, caught in the strobe.

-Cut-

Tight on the steering wheel as it suddenly spins out of control.

-Cut-

Wide-shot. Forest road. Night. The Mustang races toward us, the headlights bright. We see two quick flashes in the windshield, the muffled gunshots like hollow *pops*, before the speeding car loses control, slewing sideways across the center line. Catching something on the road, it launches, tumbling violently and spraying shattered pieces of itself in all directions. The rear end comes down hard and the gas tank ruptures, exploding into a bright ball of flame. The blast kicks the wreckage aside and it pancakes into the dirt at the road’s edge with an ear-splitting crash and a cloud of sparks, coming to a rest upside down as a wash of dust billows past, the roof barely holding shape.

-Fade to Black-

Smash cut to a tight shot of a headlight, flickering dimly…upside down and looking strangely familiar. We track right, dropping as the driver’s side door abruptly slams open, unleashing Milo’s burned and bloody body to thud on the glass-laden road, Beretta clenched in his fist. He lies there, half in and half out, a tortured wet gurgling sound in his labored breathing, getting worse. Drifting in, we can see that his face is ruined, his features virtually unrecognizable. Gritting his teeth against the agony of his injuries, he groans, incapable of movement. The groan is choked off in his throat and he jerks his head to the side, coughing up dark blood. He freezes, crimson drool hanging. An anguished sneer cuts across the bloody wreckage of Milo’s face and he growls…

“No…fucking…way! It can’t…!”

His strained sentence is cut off by an obscene burble that quickly builds to choking cough. His torso arches violently, blood spattering from the silent scream of a mouth before he falls back, dying. His head lolls to the side, staring vacantly past us as we slowing drift in. His body relaxes and a last breath bubbles free. As his eye fills the screen, we see it dilate in death, widening blackly.

-Fade to…-

Wyatt’s dead eye, framed to match the diameter of Milo’s pupil. We slowly draw up and away, revealing the dead junkies slack features, pale in death.

-Cut-

Tight on Wyatt’s limp outstretched hand. Panning over, we see the black and silver Pentagram, glinting softly in the sickly yellow streetlight. We push in till…it fills our view. Ominous thunder sounds in the distance.

-Cut to Black-

We hear the wind continue for another moment before fading away.

THE END

 

*This was my first non-school related piece of short fiction that I actually completed, simply to see if I could. While it is rough and overly simplistic, it was cool to locate again after all these years and on that merit…I’m still fond of it. I hope you enjoyed it too.

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