Video

Noir

 

A quick experiment for a longer script exploring the idea that the main character of a Noir story is aware of his fictional existence and the tropes all around him, and the dangers and opportunities this presents. Co-produced with Joe Kennedy.

Script:

 
                  
 
                                           "NOIR"

                The credit sequence rolls as an old 1940's newsreel, with 
                'NEWS OF THE DAY!'  emblazoned across the screen

                                      ANNOUNCER
                          NEWS OF THE DAY!

                We see shots of soldiers preparing for war, but not just 
                WWII or Korea, but even Vietnam and Desert Storm to the Iraqi 
                War.

                                      ANNOUNCER (CONT'D)
                          A nation at war!  All across America 
                          young boys are signing up at 
                          registration centers to transform 
                          themselves into fighting men.  Why, 
                          even women are joining the war effort!  
                          Don't get yourself hurt too badly 
                          out there, ladies!  Overseas, the 
                          enemy hides and quakes with fear at 
                          the American machine pounding down 
                          at the front.  Back home, 
                          unappreciative Goddamned hippies 
                          protest the intrinsic necessity... 
                          of war!  U2 concerts are sold out 
                          everywhere.  Uncle Sam says, "Go 
                          back to your carbombing, you Irish 
                          hippies!"

                Shots of war give way to shots of the Hindenburg going down.

                                      ANNOUNCER (CONT'D)
                          And with an uproarious applause this 
                          fiery, crackling zeppelin, a molten 
                          wreckage of twisted metal and human 
                          sinew, goes up in an explosion of 
                          hydrogen atoms!  Hundreds die!  But 
                          what a send-up they got!

                We see shots of factories and smokestacks.

                                      ANNOUNCER (CONT'D)
                          Pollution!  The sign of a good 
                          economy! 
 
                This gives way to shots of the city streets of the 1940's, 
                police cars and the days of mob warfare.

                                      ANNOUNCER (CONT'D)
                          The setting is the city.  The problem?  
                          Crime in the streets.  Police prepare 
                          for an all-out war of their own 
                          design.
                                      (MORE)

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                                                                          2.

 
                                      ANNOUNCER (CONT'D)
                          On a cold and gray Chicago morning, 
                          another little baby's born in this 
                          ghetto!  And his mother cries, because 
                          there's one more thing that she 
                          doesn't need, and that's another 
                          hungry mouth to feed, there, in the 
                          ghetto.  He'll grow to be an angry 
                          young man one day!  And the hungry 
                          little boy with the runny nose plays 
                          in the street, while the cold wind 
                          blows, and his hunger burns.  Roaming 
                          the streets at night, he learns how 
                          to steal, and he learns how to fight, 
                          in the ghetto.  Then one night, in 
                          desperation, the young man buys a 
                          gun, steals a car, tries to run, but 
                          he won't get far... from the ghetto.  
                          As the crowd gathers 'round the angry 
                          young man with his face in the ground 
                          with a gun in his hand, in the ghetto, 
                          on a cold and gray Chicago morning, 
                          yet another little baby child is 
                          born... in the ghetto.

                The title reappears.

                                      ANNOUNCER (CONT'D)
                          This has been... NEWS OF THE DAY!

                EXT. DIRTY ALLEYWAY -- NIGHT

                In a gritty urban environment, pavements slick, lights harsh, 
                down a dirty alley, we hear the sounds of a struggle.  Further 
                into its seedy interior we discover three thugs ruthlessly 
                beating our prone hero, JIM "JIMBO" HARRIS, rather stoically 
                accepting his torment, though still cries of pain with 
                profanities peppered in escape into the night.  In the 
                distance, dogs bark, sirens blare, and women yell at their 
                husbands from open windows.  For Jim, there is only the 
                unremitting sound of feet and fists finding the same spots 
                of his battered torso over and over again.

                Suddenly, they freeze, mid-swing, and after a moment, Jimbo, 
                the only moving figure, stands painfully and removes himself 
                slowly from the frozen tormentors.  He saunters towards the 
                camera, which moves back with him to reveal a stool, upon 
                which, he sits and lights a cigarette.  He takes a long drag, 
                exhales, pockets his lighter, and addresses the camera.

                                      JIMBO
                          It's three o'clock in the city, and 
                          these three aren't even out of high 
                          school before they get to be 'made 
                          men' for Romeo and his ilk.
                                      (MORE)

 -----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
                                                                          3.

 
                                      JIMBO (CONT'D)
                          And here I am, a private eye, one of 
                          the principle characters in this 
                          drama, with a whole lot of questions 
                          and more loose teeth than answers.  
                          But such is the fate of a film noir 
                          character, written as I am to accept 
                          these punishments.  This isn't the 
                          first time I've had to pull myself 
                          from the wet pavement, at least, I 
                          didn't think it was.  As it turns 
                          out, thirty-seven years that I thought 
                          that went by were merely backstory, 
                          written into my memory by some author 
                          I would never meet.  Stealing kisses 
                          from Amanda Richards in seventh grade, 
                          the smell of my mother's pasta 
                          fasioli, three heart surgeries and 
                          two divorces... None of it really 
                          happened.  Everything leading up to 
                          this point was prelude, was 
                          nonexistent, as I didn't exist, 
                          leastwise, not until now.  So here I 
                          am.  I've waited this long for the 
                          introduction, the opening credits, 
                          and my expository monologue.  You 
                          know, I always thought it'd be a 
                          little more... momentous.  Still, I 
                          guess I can't complain.  I think 
                          therefore I am.

                He makes a move as if to stand, but then returns his attention 
                to the camera and audience.

                                      JIMBO (CONT'D)
                          You may ask yourself, how I know all 
                          this?  How can I be aware of my own 
                          fictitiousness?  How do I know I'm 
                          not just crazy?  Well... I was written 
                          this way.

                He stands and stamps his cigarette out on the surface of the 
                stool.

                                      JIMBO (CONT'D)
                          Regardless, I sure don't like having 
                          the shit kicked out of me all the 
                          time.

                He then returns to his prior prone position, and after a 
                moment, the three young punks continue to pummel him into 
                the ground, and the camera pans away.

 -----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
                                                                          4.

 
                EXT. JUST OUTSIDE THE LOCAL CONVENIENCE STORE, YOU KNOW THE 
                ONE WHERE EVERYONE GOES AFTER SCHOOL FOR SLUSH-PUPPIES? -- 
                NIGHT

                Jimbo, bloody and shaken, stumbles and crawls his way to a 
                pay phone.  He deposits his coins and dials.  Moments pass 
                before somebody picks up.

                                      JIMBO
                          Hello?  Hello?  Mack, are you there?

                                      MACK (O.S.)
                          Yeah, Jim, what is it?

                                      JIMBO
                          I'm down on Seventh.  Romeo's goons 
                          rolled me up and down the alley.

                                      MACK (O.S.)
                          Again?

                                      JIMBO
                          Yeah.  I think I know too much.

                                      MACK (O.S.)
                          Were you shooting your mouth off 
                          again about all this film noir stuff?

                Jim holds his hand over the phone and addresses the camera.

                                      JIMBO
                          My partner, Mack.  He's a good kid 
                          but he doesn't understand me when I 
                          tell him he's destined to play out 
                          all these scripted movements.  Well, 
                          it is a mighty pill to swallow, I'll 
                          grant you.

                                      MACK (O.S.)
                          Jim?  Jim, who are you talking to?

                                      JIMBO
                          Just... just come and pick me up, 
                          all right?  Seventh.  By the gas 
                          station.  You know, the one where 
                          all the kids go after school to get 
                          slush-puppies.

                                      MACK (O.S.)
                          Yeah.  I'll be there in second.

                Jim slams down the receiver.  Across town, Mack slams down 
                his receiver as well.

 -----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
                                                                          5.

 
                INT. OFFICE OF JIM HARRIS AND MACK WRIGHT, PRIVATE 
                INVESTIGATORS -- NIGHT

                Mack crumples up the piece of paper he'd been writing on 
                prior to the phone call, and tosses it across the room, 
                without really looking.  It lands directly in the wastebasket.  
                He grabs his coat and is about to leave when his intercom 
                buzzes.  He goes back to his desk and answers.

                                      MACK
                          Yeah, Darla, what is it?

                                      DARLA (O.S.)
                          Someone to see you, Mr. Wright.  I 
                          think it may be a new client.

                                      MACK
                          Can you tell her to come back 
                          tomorrow?

                                      DARLA (O.S.)
                          Oh.  I think you'll want to see this 
                          one now, Mr. Wright.

                                      MACK
                          Oh?  Well... send her in.  But let's 
                          make it quick.

                The door opens and a woman enters.  Five-foot-eight and all 
                of it legs.  Tall and tan and young and lovely.  Full, pouty 
                lips, slightly parted, and clear blue eyes despite an exotic 
                Latin origin.  Dark tresses of a naturally-curly raven-
                coloured hair land on her bare shoulders, her dress revealing 
                quite a bit, but enough to keep her classy.  When she speaks, 
                she speaks in an assertive, direct tone.

                36-24-36.  What a winning hand.

                                      WOMAN
                          Excuse me, Mr. Wright.  I'm sorry to 
                          bother you, you sound quite busy.

                                      MACK
                          No trouble at all.

                He removes his coat.

                                      WOMAN
                          But, weren't you on the way out?

                                      MACK
                          My partner's out on the street 
                          somewhere, and needs to bum a ride.  
                          He does this at least once a week.  
                          Like I said, you're no trouble at 
                          all. 
 
 -----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
                                                                          6.

 
                                      WOMAN
                          But you see, I've gotten myself into 
                          a bit of trouble. 
 
                                      MACK
                          Why don't you sit down and tell me 
                          about it?

                                      WOMAN
                          Do you... do you have a cigarette.

                                      MACK
                          I don't smoke.

                                      WOMAN
                               (skeptically, with a 
                               hint of irony)
                          I've never met a private eye in this 
                          city that didn't smoke.

                                      MACK
                          You'll find I'm not your typical 
                          private eye.

                                      WOMAN
                          What else is particular... about 
                          you?

                                      MACK
                          I'm the only private eye in this 
                          city with an extensive Steely Dan 
                          collection.  Now... Miss--?

                                      WOMAN
                          Tess.  Teresa, but those who know me 
                          call me 'Tess.'

                                      MACK
                          Very well, Teresa--

                                      TESS
                          I said you could call me 'Tess.'

                                      MACK
                          Ah.  But I don't know you.

                                      TESS
                          Ah.  But you will.

                                      MACK
                               (clears his throat)
                          Very well, Tess.  Tell me what's 
                          wrong.

                                      TESS
                          Well, Mr. Wright...

 -----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
                                                                          7.

 
                                      MACK
                          Please, Mack.  You don't have to 
                          call me 'Mr. Wright.'

                                      TESS
                          Well, that remains to be seen, too.

                Mack smiles at this.

                                      TESS (CONT'D)
                          Well, Mack.  My brother is Romeo 
                          DeLatante.  And he's gotten himself 
                          in deep this time.

                                      MACK
                          Tess.  Deep implies that there's any 
                          further for him to fall.  Every cop 
                          and P.I. in the city knows that 
                          Romeo's the epicenter of drugs and 
                          guns to the Lower East side.

                                      TESS
                          Yes, but the Mayor's called an all-
                          out war on him now.  This time, 
                          somebody's going to do something 
                          very stupid.  If the cops don't get 
                          him, or one of the rival gangs, it 
                          may be one of his own.  You can't 
                          trust any of them.  Why, it may even 
                          be you, detective.

                                      MACK
                          Hm.  Nobody's hired me for that, 
                          either.

                                      TESS
                          But I thought your agency--?

                                      MACK
                          And that's my partner, too.  Asks 
                          too many big questions.  Talking off 
                          that big head of his is liable to 
                          get it blown off one of these days.

                                      TESS
                          So you're not on his case?  Then why 
                          the interest?

                                      MACK
                          In Jim's defense, he just likes to 
                          know more than anybody gives him 
                          credit for.  That's admirable, his 
                          pursuit of the truth.  Unfortunately, 
                          he lacks subtlety.  I'd just as soon 
                          keep my nose at some adulterer's 
                          window for the same grade of pay.

 -----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
                                                                          8.

 
                                      TESS
                          So you're not interested in my case?

                                      MACK
                          Oh.  There's a definite interest.  
                          All the same, I don't see what I can 
                          do to help.

                                      TESS
                          It's too late for my brother, Mack.  
                          I know that.  Even if I could save 
                          him he'd just get himself in deeper 
                          somewhere else.  It's in his blood 
                          now, that ceaseless rage.

                                      MACK
                          And you?

                                      TESS
                          When he got angry, I got smart.  I 
                          want out of this city, out of this 
                          state, out of this country.  His 
                          enemies are my enemies and I don't 
                          want to be around when the shit hits 
                          the fan.

                                      MACK
                          Well, you know what Jimbo always 
                          says?

                She shakes her head.

                                      MACK (CONT'D)
                          'When the shit hits the fan, stand 
                          back and enjoy the abstract art.'

                                      TESS
                          Is there anything you can do?

                He observes her for a moment. 
 
                                      MACK
                          It's easy enough.  I know somebody.  
                          I can get you a change of name, plane 
                          tickets.  It won't be cheap, but 
                          along with my retainer, you don't 
                          look like the sort of girl who hurts 
                          for money.

                                      TESS
                               (reaches into her 
                               purse)
                          Thank you, Mack.  Here's a photo 
                          I.D. for your man.  And here's the 
                          club where I can be reached at.

                                      MACK
                          You a singer or something?

 -----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
                                                                          9.

 
                                      TESS
                               (smiling)
                          Bartender.  There are some untypical 
                          things about me, too.

                She rises and walks to the door.  
 
                                      MACK
                          You know.  I must admit that when 
                          you walked in my office I thought 
                          you'd ask me to find some wayward 
                          husband or boyfriend.  But then I 
                          soon realized that if you had somebody 
                          he wouldn't be one to be cheating.

                                      TESS
                               (still holding on to 
                               the door)
                          That's a pretty long way to ask if 
                          I'm single, Mack.

                                      MACK
                          And?

                She closes the door behind her as she goes.  Mack smiles and 
                looks down at the business card which reads, 'The Club,' and 
                looks more like an Ace of Clubs than a business card.

                EXT. JUST OUTSIDE THE LOCAL CONVENIENCE STORE, YOU KNOW THE 
                ONE WHERE EVERYONE GOES AFTER SCHOOL FOR SLUSH-PUPPIES? -- 
                NIGHT

                Mack drives up in his old beat-up Ford, and picks up Jimbo, 
                lying next to the pay phone, barely holding on to its lower 
                half.

                                      MACK
                          Alright, drama queen.  Get in.

                Jim looks at him, seething, and slowly crawls his way in.

                                      MACK (CONT'D)
                          Let's get your ass to a hospital. 
 
                                      JIMBO
                          What took you so long?

                                      MACK
                          We had a client.

                                      JIMBO
                          Who couldn't wait?

                                      MACK
                          Not if you saw her.

                                      JIMBO
                          Oh?  Some dame, eh?

 -----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
                                                                         10.

 
                                      MACK
                          Please.  Dame.  How can you talk 
                          like that?

                                      JIMBO
                          What?  Dames!  See, there's two types 
                          of women out there.  There's dames 
                          and there's broads.  Now, a dame's a 
                          real classy gal, great gams and an 
                          even more impressive rack.  She 
                          dresses to impress, and when every 
                          head in the club turns her way she 
                          knows it.  She can be your greatest 
                          ally or your worst enemy.  One helluva 
                          lover, or gunnin' you down in the 
                          back.  You gotta watch her close, 
                          and use her to your advantage, 'cuz 
                          she sure as hell is gonna use you.

                                      MACK
                          And broads?

                                      JIMBO
                          Broads?

                He takes a drag off his cigarette.

                                      JIMBO (CONT'D)
                          Broads is everybody else.

                                      MACK
                          Yeah, well this wasn't just any broad.

                                      JIMBO
                          Oh?

                                      MACK
                          Not like that.  What I meant was, 
                          this broad was Romeo's sister.

                                      JIMBO
                          Teresa Delatante?  Jesus!  In our 
                          office?  Can we still get a hold of 
                          her?  What did you get out of her?

                                      MACK
                          Relax, Inspector, it's not like that, 
                          either.  She wantsout of the country 
                          and we're going to arrange it for 
                          her.

                                      JIMBO
                          Yeah, but Mack...

                                      MACK
                          And that's all.
                                      (MORE)

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                                                                         11.

 
                                      MACK (CONT'D)
                          She's in enough trouble as it is 
                          without our involvement.  In fact, 
                          it's probably best if you keep your 
                          greasy nose out of it.  What were 
                          you doing down here tonight anyways?

                                      JIMBO
                          I was wondering when I would get the 
                          lecture.

                                      MACK
                          I've told you a thousand times, we're 
                          not getting paid to get ourselves 
                          killed down on the Lower East side.

                                      JIMBO
                          Mack.  Do you remember the last time 
                          it was daylight?

                                      MACK
                          What?

                                      JIMBO
                          Have you ever seen daylight in this 
                          city?

                                      MACK
                          Oh, not this shit again.

                                      JIMBO
                          Yeah, but have you?

                                      MACK
                          Jim, I sleep during the day.  We 
                          both do, you know that.

                                      JIMBO
                          Well, how do we know there is daylight 
                          in this city?

                                      MACK
                          I think the newspapers would have 
                          mentioned something.

                                      JIMBO
                          Would they?

                                      MACK
                          With all the pollution, I wouldn't 
                          blame them if they couldn't tell the 
                          difference. 
 
                They arrive at the hospital.

                                      MACK (CONT'D)
                          Get out.

 -----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
                                                                         12.

 
                                      JIMBO
                          You're not going to come in with me?

                                      MACK
                          I've got shit to do.  Besides, this 
                          is getting to be pretty habitual, 
                          I'm sure they know the drill in there.

                                      JIMBO
                          You think I could make appointments 
                          for an emergency room?

                                      MACK
                          Better still, see if Romeo's men 
                          will just meet you over here.

                                      JIMBO
                          All right.  I'll see you later, Mack. 
 
                Jim hops out of the car and hobbles to the revolving door.  
                Mack sees that he gets in and then drives off.

                INT. GRIMY BASEMENT OFFICE -- NIGHT

                Mack descends the stairs to an ill-kempt office, littered 
                with garbage and papers.  At the base of the stairs is another 
                door, locked.  Mack knocks on it.

                                      MAN
                          Who's there?

                                      MACK
                          It's Mack.  We have an appointment, 
                          Steve.

                                      STEVE
                          Hold on.

                The scraping sounds of several deadbolts and locks being 
                undone can be heard on the other side of the door, which is 
                finally opened to reveal a hairy troll of a man, with a 
                nonetheless youthful appeal, his hair swept cleanly across a 
                minor bald spot, and his facial hair neatly trimmed, in fact, 
                the only tidy thing in the basement.

                                      STEVE (CONT'D)
                          Mack!  Good to see you!  I figured 
                          you'd just send Jimbo down like you 
                          usually do.

                                      MACK
                          He's... taken sick.

                                      STEVE
                          Well, I'm sorry to hear that.  
                          Anyways, I'm glad you could finally 
                          make it.  Want a tour?

 -----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
                                                                         13.

 
                                      MACK
                          Not really.  I have to get going 
                          soon.

                                      STEVE
                          Oh, just a second or two!  Come see 
                          my desk!

                Steve leads him begrudgingly into the basement's depths, to 
                a desk covered in fake I.D.s, passports, and clippings.  A 
                large magnifying glass adorns it as well.

                                      STEVE (CONT'D)
                          This is where all the magic happens.  
                          Though don't expect any trade secrets 
                          out of me.

                                      MACK
                          Right.

                                      STEVE
                          So, what'll it be this time?  
                          Gardener?  Poolboy?  District 
                          Attorney?

                                      MACK
                          No, it's not for me.  It's for a 
                          client.

                                      STEVE
                          Oh?  Well, let's have a look-see.

                                      MACK
                               (handing over the 
                               I.D.)
                          Teresa Delatante.

                                      STEVE
                               (does a double-take)
                          Tess Deletante?

                                      MACK
                          You know her?

                                      STEVE
                          Not... not really.  I mean, everyone 
                          knows Tess Deletante... by reputation.

                                      MACK
                          She didn't seem the sort to have a 
                          reputation.

                                      STEVE
                          Well, she does.  And anyway what's 
                          the deal?  She want out of the country 
                          or something?

 -----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
                                                                         14.

 
                                      MACK
                          Something like that.  I can't say 
                          much.  Client privilege.  And I want 
                          you to keep this under your hat, you 
                          understand.

                                      STEVE
                          Of course!

                                      MACK
                          I mean it, Steve.  This isn't going 
                          out on the wire.

                                      STEVE
                          When have I--?  Mack, I'm offended.

                                      MACK
                          Yeah, well.  I guess I can trust 
                          you.  As it is, I don't think your 
                          boss would approve of your hobby 
                          much.

                                      STEVE
                          Now, you don't have to go and say a 
                          thing like that.  It's just hurtful.

                                      MACK
                          Yeah.  If you had feelings to get 
                          hurt.

                                      STEVE
                          Everyone's got feelings, Mack.  Even 
                          us miserable crooks.

                                      MACK
                          Alright.  I'm out, Steve.  No rush 
                          on this particular job, but I'd like 
                          it as soon as you can get to it.

                                      STEVE
                          Sure thing, Mack.  And tell Jimbo to 
                          feel better.

                Mack grunts a reply on his way back out.

                EXT. STREET -- NIGHT

                Walking out of the Loan Office that houses Steve's 
                extracurricular activities, Mack rounds a corner onto a main 
                thoroughfare.  A Model-T screeches its tires as it rounds 
                the corner after him, and with catlike reflexes, Mack hits 
                the ground, a spray of machine-gun fire flies over his head, 
                and the car fishtails down the street.  Mack takes his hands 
                off of his head and quickly checks his  body for holes.  He 
                runs out into the street, but the car has made its turn.  
                Mack runs across the way and ducks into a corner doorway.  
                He removes his gun and prepares himself, huddled up against 
                the wall.

 -----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
                                                                         15.

 
                Moments later, the Model-T returns to finish the job, only 
                to find his body vanished.  The driver can be heard screaming 
                foreign obscenities to his shooter.  Mack makes a move as if 
                to aim his gun, but reconsiders.  Instead, he replaces it, 
                and removes his notepad and scrawls down the license numbers.  
                The Model-T speeds off and makes the other turn this time, 
                so Mack makes his way down the opposite side.

                 
 
                 
 
                 
 
                EXT. HOSPITAL -- NIGHT

                Mack drives up to pick up Jimbo, who stands there, the picture 
                of health, smoking a cigarette.   
 
                                      MACK
                          I wish you wouldn't smoke.

                                      JIMBO
                          Got to.

                He takes a drag off his cigarette.

                                      JIMBO (CONT'D)
                          It's for timing. 
 
                Jimbo gets in the car and they drive off.

                                      JIMBO (CONT'D)
                          What's wrong with you?

                                      MACK
                          Seems our friend Romeo has taken a 
                          little interest in me as well.

                                      JIMBO
                          What happened?

                                      MACK
                          I was outside Steve's for that little 
                          job we talked about... two guys in a 
                          Model-T tried to gun me down.

                                      JIMBO
                          Shit!  Are you all right?

                                      MACK
                          No.  They got me, Jim.  I'm perforated 
                          and have only minutes to live and 
                          that's why I'm driving away from the 
                          hospital.

 -----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
                                                                         16.

 
                                      JIMBO
                          All right.  No need to be sour.  
                          It's clear what happened.

                                      MACK
                          Is it?

                                      JIMBO
                          Everyone knows that Steve's an 
                          informer for Romeo.  When you called 
                          him for an appointment, his next 
                          call probably went to him.

                                      MACK
                          Why would Romeo care?  We've gone to 
                          Steve a dozen times.

                                      JIMBO
                          Yeah, but not to smuggle his sister 
                          out of the country.

                                      MACK
                          Yeah, except for one thing, wise 
                          guy.

                                      JIMBO
                          What's that?

                                      MACK
                          He didn't know I was there for Tess 
                          until after I got there.

                                      JIMBO
                          Tess?

                                      MACK
                          And what probably really happened 
                          was that you shot your mouth off one 
                          time too many and now I'm up shit 
                          creek with you.  I'm surprised they 
                          didn't plug you down at the hospital.

                                      JIMBO
                          Can't do it there.  Too many 
                          witnesses.

                                      MACK
                          Yeah.  Except you've got an HMO.

                Their car is about to get on the highway, but Jim stops him.

                                      JIMBO
                          Don't get on the highway here, I've 
                          got a stop to make.

 -----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
                                                                         17.

 
                                      MACK
                          You couldn't have told me that a 
                          block ago?  What am I, your errand 
                          boy now?

                                      JIMBO
                          This is for the both of us.  Up a 
                          couple more.  You know, Jenkins' 
                          Bar?  We're meeting somebody there.

                Mack eyes him, but does what he asks.  They get a decent 
                parking spot right in front.

                INT. JENKIN'S BAR -- NIGHT

                The two make their way to the back and find  
 
                 
 
                 
 
                 
 
                 
 
                INT. LOCKER ROOM -- NIGHT

                The sounds of the crowd cheering the current match are heard 
                through the layers of hallway and lockers.  Sitting alone, 
                carelessly half-dressed, staring out into a space that is 
                not there, is RICH McMURTRY, local hero of boxing fans all 
                over the three boroughs of the city.  Jim and Mack enter and 
                try to greet him, but he's at a loss for words. 
 
                                      JIMBO
                          Rich!  Rich, how are ya?  Rich?

                Jimbo sits next to him, while Mack stands at the end of the 
                aisle with his arms folded.

                                      JIMBO (CONT'D)
                          Rich, what's wrong?  D'ja get hit 
                          too hard in that last fight, Rich?

                                      MACK
                          S'probably just bummed that he lost 
                          one, Jimbo.  Some fighters get that 
                          way.

                                      JIMBO
                          Not Rich.

                                      RICH
                          Romeo came to see me.

                                      JIMBO
                          Romeo?  Romeo was here?

 -----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
                                                                         18.

 
                                      MACK
                          Has he got you one the take, Rich?  
                          I thought you said you couldn't be 
                          bought.

                                      RICH
                          He knew I'd pay. He had something to 
                          show me.

                                      MACK
                          What was it, Rich?  Was it the 
                          MacGuffin?

                                      RICH
                          I'm a decent Catholic.  I go to 
                          church.  I pray before every fight, 
                          and every night before my kids go to 
                          bed...

                                      JIMBO
                          Tell us, Richie!  What was it?  What 
                          is the MacGuffin?

                                      RICH
                          Tell me.  Do you believe in fate?

                Jim and Mack speak in unison.

                                      JIMBO
                          Yes.

                                      MACK
                          No.

                                      RICH
                          Well, I do.  Least, I thought I did.  
                          You ever get think you got your mind 
                          around something and then when it 
                          comes to fully understanding it you 
                          realize you don't know shit about 
                          thing one?

                Jim nods.

                                      RICH (CONT'D)
                          That's how I always felt about death.  
                          Wasn't afraid of it, until I ended 
                          up in the hospital with poor Suze 
                          and the boys crying over me.  Those 
                          times, I had to unlearn a whole lot.  
                          It's like that now... about fate.

                                      MACK
                          What did you see, Rich?

                                      RICH
                          He's got it all, Romeo does.
                                      (MORE)

 -----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
                                                                         19.

 
                                      RICH (CONT'D)
                          He's got the whole thing.  He knows 
                          every thing that's going to happen 
                          between now and the end of the world.

                                      MACK
                          The end of the world?

                                      RICH
                          Fifty minutes from now.

                                      MACK
                          What are you talking about?

                                      RICH
                          He's got it all written for him.  He 
                          came in here and knew everything I 
                          was going to do and say before I 
                          did.

                                      JIMBO
                          A script?  The MacGuffin is the 
                          script.

                                      RICH
                          Not just any script, Jim.  This 
                          script.  Our script.

                                      JIMBO
                          How much of it did you read?

                                      RICH
                          Enough.

                                      JIMBO
                          How does it all end?

                                      RICH
                          I can't tell you.

                                      JIMBO
                          Why not?

                                      RICH
                          Because the script didn't call for 
                          it.

                                      JIMBO
                          Can't you ad-lib?  Just this once?

                Mack finally starts to speak, but when he does, Rich speaks 
                with him.

                                      MACK AND RICH
                          This is ridiculous.

                Beat.

 -----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
                                                                         20.

 
                                      MACK AND RICH (CONT'D)
                          This doesn't make any sense.

                Beat.

                                      MACK AND RICH (CONT'D)
                          Stop that!  That doesn't prove 
                          anything!

                                      MACK
                          Fine.  What am I going to say next, 
                          smartass?

                                      RICH
                          Schenectady.

                                      MACK
                               (amazed)
                          Schenectady...

                                      JIMBO
                          Rich.  Can you tell us where he went?

                                      RICH
                          Yeah.  I can do that.  He went down 
                          to his office to pack up and get 
                          ready.

                                      JIMBO
                          Ready for what?

                                      RICH
                          You'll find out.

                 
 
                 
 
                 
 
                 
 
                 
 
                 
 
                                      MACK (V.O.)
                          On the ride over, I had a lot to 
                          digest.  Jimbo'd always flapped his 
                          gums about film noir this and film 
                          noir that, but he never seemed to 
                          address any of the important 
                          questions.  Questions about fate and 
                          existence.  For instance, when was I 
                          created?  Was it in the typewriter 
                          that my consciousness came to be?
                                      (MORE)

 -----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
                                                                         21.

 
                                      MACK (V.O.) (CONT'D)
                          Was it when some actor created a 
                          personality for me at some director's 
                          call?  Or was it on the celluloid?  
                          In the mind of each and every audience 
                          member who witnessed me?  I could 
                          not exist as I do without each of 
                          those components, and yet, I will 
                          never know any one of them.  It was 
                          all so ridiculous.  And yet, I so 
                          wanted to get my hands on a copy of 
                          that script.

                                      MACK (V.O.) (CONT'D)
                          What would that change?  Even with a 
                          script in hand, was there any way to 
                          change anything?

                 
 
                 
 
                 
 
                 
 
                 
 
                 
 
                 
 
                 
 
                 
 
                 
 
                 
 
                                      MACK (CONT'D)
                          How could we possibly get the upper 
                          hand?  He knows exactly what we're 
                          thinking.

                                      JIMBO
                          No, Mack.  He doesn't.  You can't 
                          write what a character is thinking 
                          in a script.

                Mack thinks about this.

                                      MACK
                          That's provided the writer is decent.

                                      JIMBO
                          Let's hope to God for our sakes that 
                          he is.

 -----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
                                                                         22.

 
                They both hope to God for their sakes that he is.

                 
 
                 
 
                 
 
                Mack goes to his partner's side, as he lay dying.  Mack is 
                panic-struck, trying to think of what to do next.  Jim is 
                calm.

                                      MACK
                               (panic-struck)
                          Don't worry, don't worry.  I'll get 
                          you out of here. 
 
                                      JIMBO
                               (calmly)
                          Partner always dies, Mack.

                And with that, Jim passes.

 

Treatment:
Mack and Jim are partners in a private detective agency in a town rife with bank shootouts, gambling, prostitution, dirty cops, and organized crime. However, Mack’s partner Jim is not like usual private eyes, he has the sick belief that he is living out the morbid reality of a film noir. In a twist on the classic deus ex machina, Jim has the strange ability to predict what is going on around them based on his knowledge of movies and literature. Dashiel Hammet and Raymond Chandler are like his gods, or more like prophets.
He strives to live ‘the Bogey way.’

Act I:
Open on Jim, getting the shit kicked out of him by several thugs. The action freezes and then Jim removes himself from the action to walk over to a stool. The camera follows him there. He rests for a moment and then lights a cigarette. He then goes on to explain his situation, his knowledge, and his ability in brief. He
ends by stating that despite all that, he still hates having the shit kicked out of him. He then puts out his cigarette on the stool as he rises and returns to his prone position and the thugs continue to assault him.

The thugs stop beating him and then tell him to stop asking questions about ‘Mr. Big.’ One of the other thugs tells him that there is no ‘Mr. Big.’ At which point Jim then asks why they would kick his ass and tell him to stop looking for him if there was no ‘Mr. Big.’ They look confused and then kick his ass some more.

Jim lopes to a payphone and calls his partner Mack, who is at the office. Mack, after chastising him for his wrecklessness again, starts off to pick up Jim and take him to a hospital. Jim hangs up the phone and then, as an afterthought, goes to collect his change, which has returned for him.

Mack leaves the office after giving instructions to their secretary on filing and closing up. He picks up Jim, who looks like shit. Jim refuses to go to the hospital, saying that noir characters don’t go to a hospital. What doesn’t kill them only makes them stronger. Mack is about tired of Jim’s shit and tells him that he has a lead on their case. Jim asks if its about ‘Mr. Big,’ and Mack replies that he needs to stop calling him ‘Mr. Big,’ his name is simply Romeo. At any rate, Mack had a visit from Romeo’s sister Tess, who swung by the office because she said she was scared of Romeo’s organization.

Her brother was overly protective of her, but the moment he’s removed from power by one of his capos, she would have no idea where to turn. She knows that eventually he’ll be turned upon, if not by someone in his own employ, than by one of the cops on the take, or a client, or rival gang member, perhaps even the detective himself. Mack is taken by her offer. She’ll help him get his name on the collar, in exchange for some type of passage out of the country. Mack coolly says he’ll consider the option.

Jim then goes on to explain the difference between broads and dames. Mack tells him he’s getting pretty tired of Jim’s ‘film noir’ nonsense. Jim is offended that Mack considers it ‘nonsense,’ asking him if it’s just some coincidence that they’re all color-blind? That everything ends so fatalistically? That smacks have such loud sound effects, even when they’re just taps? Jim tries to prove his point to Mack by calling in their secretary. She enters the office but before she can ask Jim what he wanted, he backhands her with an archetypical noir “smack” sound. Mack protests, but Jim asks the secretary if she felt anything. She hadn’t really, but is still shaken. Jim does it again. Mack goes to the secretary’s aid, as she is ready to pack up and quit, while Jim expounds on the noir sound effect, remarkably even against inanimate objects and his own face. Mack calms the secretary, promises her a raise and tells her she can go home early. He closes the door behind her and starts in on Jim and his nonsense. Jim doesn’t listen, but simply goes off on the different types of bitch-slaps in a film noir.

The partners go to meet Det. Ernie Branson at the local Irish pub. They are there, off the record, to exchange information about Romeo’s organization. Det. Branson realizes that the department, in the past, has not been particularly accommodating to the two, and wants to personally see that change. He tells the dicks how important it is now that they nab Romeo, and that he needs their help since there isn’t a clear way for him to get in, what with the Police Chief under Romeo’s thumb. Jim, however, soon lets his temper get the better of him, and accuses Branson of being a dirty cop, because, as the main cop character in the story, he must be on the take. Branson is offended, and Mack has to patch things up, as usual. Aside, Mack asks Jim, rather tongue-in-cheek, if he can keep his thoughts to himself, or at the very least, to his voice-over. As their conversation progresses, Jim’s narration overtakes them, at which point Mack finally bitchslaps him.

Another officer, just a rookie, comes up to whisper in Branson’s ear. Branson offers the two to go on a raid with him to see how uncorrupt he actually is.

Cut to the seedy poorly-lit basement of a homicidal serial killer, who has kidnapped another victim simply to read him his shitty poetry. He does, and just before he goes to cut up his victim, the door bursts in and the police enter, the two P.I.’s just behind. The killer has a knife to his victim’s throat, and so, after ordering him to drop his weapon, Branson shoots him in the arm. The killer drops the knife and falls to the ground, demanding to see a warrant. Branson informs him that he didn’t need a warrant when the killer invites you into the house. The killer starts to argue, and so Branson shoots him in the leg. He still won’t relent, and so Branson shoots him in the other leg. Howling in pain, Branson asks him one last time who it was that let him in the house. The killer promptly tells him to fuck himself, and for it gets shot between the eyes. Branson looks around and says what a damn shame it was for the man to be so close to confession, having even let them in the house to search, to suddenly resist arrest and all. He asks the would-be victim if he has any problem with the Detective’s methodology, and he seems perfectly satisfied, or in shock. Branson, on his way out, asks Jim if that was the sort of corruption he had mind.

Meanwhile, across the city, Morgan, a chemist, is mixing up a deadly batch of cyanide in his basement, which he proceeds to administer to each cigarette in his pack with an eyedropper. His wife interrupts him at the top of the stairs. Nervously, he sweeps the pack of cigarettes off of the table and into a waste can. She asks what he is doing, and he tells her that he is working on the latest research for the pharmaceutical company he works for. He tells her not to advance too closely, as the fumes may be dangerous. She tells him that she was just going out, and asks him if he needed anything. No. he doesn’t. And so she leaves. After Morgan is sure that his wife has left, he grabs the deadly cigarettes from his pack.

He follows her in his car and watches as she enters the apartment of another man. He smiles coldly and stroked his pack of laced cigarettes.

Act II:
Mack absent-mindedly crumples up his papers and each time he goes to toss one into his wastebasket, it cuts to a CU of the wad of paper making it every time. Jim eyes this with some interest. Mack continues with his theories on how to nab Romeo, but then Jim stops him mid-sentence. He then asks Mack to toss another paper. He does and, as usual, cut to the CU of the perfect three-point shot. Jim then asks Mack to turn around and make the shot without looking. Mack protests, but then patronizes Jim. He makes the shot. Jim then goes off on a hair-brained theory that, somehow, as a fictional character in a film noir, Mack has learned to edit to his advantage. Mack brushes off the suggestion as fantasy, and suggests that they stick to a more realistic way to get information on Romeo. Jim then suggests that they go see a man named Randall Path.

Randall is the least successful bank robber in the city. On one occasion he hired a narcoleptic getaway driver. He also once set up a bank heist only to discover that the bank was closed for Veteran’s Day. On his own once, he went to rob his usual bank in a costume, however, due to the party season, the only costume available to him was that of Pac-Man. The news was quick to blame video games for the rash of violence. Randall Path’s incompetence in heisting is paralleled only by his uncanny and indescribably ability to evade capture. Needless to say, with his finger close to the pulse of the underground, he is a good informant. He’ll talk to the private dicks, for a price, but would never rat to a cop. Jim and Mack offer him a bill for what he knows. He tells them that Romeo’s latest money-making caper would put him at the level of international terrorist. He keeps at his office a metal box marked simply, ‘MacGuffin.’ He keeps it under constant lock and key and usually keeps a close eye on it himself, so in order to get it they should find out when he is usually away from his office, which isn’t often, but watching his pattern may elucidate them.

Morgan approaches her wife’s lover, who also happened to be his best friend, at the office. The businessman is startled, at first, until he sees who it is. They get to talking, each very closely skirting the subject of the infidelity. Morgan offers him a smoke, and the businessman informs him that he is trying to quit. Those things’ll kill you, you know. Morgan tries to get him to take it, to no avail Left with no other option, Morgan then confronts his former friend about the adultery. After a heated exchange, the businessman says, “I think I will take that cigarette.” Morgan hands him the cigarette and he takes it. “Smoke every cigarette as if it were your last.”

The two P.I.‘s go to stakeout Romeo’s office to see what time he leaves, and so know when the best time would be to come for ‘the MacGuffin.’ Jim comments on “that Goddamned Expressionist lighting” because they can’t see a thing.

The stakeout isn’t going well, as Romeo himself is failing to leave the building with any of his thugs. Jim suggests that they call it a night and get some Chinese. Mack isn’t ready to give up so quickly. Jim then asks him if he’ll use his editing powers to simply flashfoward them to a scene where they have the evidence they need, and are back at the office, dry and safe. Mack eschews the idea as fancy. Instead, at Jim’s suggestion, he takes his watch and places it under the tire of Romeo’s Rolls-Royce. They can return the next morning to collect it and see what time it landed on.

Morgan is strolling down the sidewalk, lost in thought, when a roguish looking punker asks him if he can bum a smoke. Morgan refuses at first, but then his eyes light up and he agrees. He lets the kid take one of the laced cigarettes, who says that he’ll get him back when he can. Morgan mutters, “I’m sure you will.”

Jim and Mack return the next day, looking at the watch in dismay as they realize only then that it was a digital watch, useless and smashed. Now, however, in the daylight, the thugs start a shootout with our heroes, which takes them through the office building lobby and through the back lot where shipping and receiving takes place. Jim slips on the pavement, angry that pavement always has to be wet in a noir, and Mack is nowhere to be seen, and Jim is left to fend for himself. The thugs get into one car and Romeo is nowhere to be found. Jim returns to find that not only Mack is gone, but their car as well. He curses under his breath and hails a taxi. He instructs the taxi driver to follow the black Rolls, and the taxi-driver is enthralled at his first chase, also doubtful, repeatedly accusing Jim of ‘fucking with him.’ The chase takes them through all the conventions of movies such as “Bullit,” “French Connection,” and even “Starsky and Hutch,” finally culminating in the getaway of the thugs as Jim notices that the meter has gone up past what he can afford. He has to walk back to the office, cursing.

Tess is lying on top of a man in a seedy hotel room, having her way with him and he is enjoying every second of it. They are calling each other every name in the book, and the pace quickens until they are both about to climax and all of the sudden, Tess produces an empty cardiac needle and plunges it into her lover, who cries out in confusion. She licks her lips and releases the oxygen into his heart. She collects her plane tickets and new passport and makes her exit.

Back at the office, Mack is parked and honking the horn. Jim is pissed at Mack for having left him, but nonetheless gets in the car and demands to know what happened. Mack explains that he doesn’t know, he must have blacked out. One moment he was going back to the car for his gun, and the next there he was ready to pick up his partner. Jim is suddenly excited, explaining that Mack has just edited himself into a future scene. Mack tells him that there are no such powers, but then Jim asks him to flashback to his moments with Tess. He does, and relives the scene just as before, but with minor differences. When he returns, feeling flush, he is convinced. Jim says that now they are ready for an ass-kicking montage.

Mack sets out on a montage of ass-kicking, employing everything he’d learned about birch-slapping, to get the information he needs about the ‘MacGuffin.’ All he discovers is that Romeo plans to leave that night with it, and that he had been meeting with several noted international terrorists. He also discovered that the head of the anti-terrorism unit in their city was found dead of an apparent heart attack, however, their information leads them to believe that he was killed after procuring passport and tickets for Romeo out of the country.

Branson is at a crime scene. A young punk rock kid is found dead, just like the businessman the day before. No weapon can be found, tox reports from the first say cyanide poisoning, most certainly foul play.
A report will be awaited from the coroner for this victim. If it matches, it looks like there was no connection between the victims, and they are probably looking for a serial killer. Branson remarks that they’ll probably get some interfering pencil-pushing FBI psych profiler to take their cases away from them. “Bag him.” He says.

Mack and Jim are back at Romeo‘s office building, and it is go-time. Romeo will be leaving any moment. They enter the building and face up the opposition. The guards ask if they’re expected, when Jim goes to sign the registry. He shoots them both with the gun he has under the counter.

He looks to his partner, smiling, and stumbles, shot in the back, and falls to his knees with a painful sound. However, still smiling, he looks at his horrified partner and says, “The partner always dies, Mack.” His eyes roll back in his head and he falls flat on his face. Mack takes a few shots at the assailant, who scurries up the stairs.

Mack, really pissed now, makes his way to the top floor, and is set upon by Romeo’s gunmen. After an intense shootout, Mack moves toward the gunman and cuts away to an ECU of his gun, which clicks, spent. The gunman checks it frantically as Mack, with a single punch, takes him down. Cut to the interior of Romeo’s office. The door is kicked in and Mack drags Romeo’s unconscious bodyguard in and drops him on the floor. Romeo is duly impressed, but tells Mack that all his efforts were wasted, as Romeo pulls his own gun and several Thompson-gunners reveal themselves in the room, surrounding Mack. CU to Mack’s smile, and then cut to an exterior BEV of the office building, to the lights and sounds of gunfire, as well as shouting. One gunman is thrown from the window, then a second. Finally the gunshots cease, and we return to the office as Mack slams Romeo’s head down on the desk and cuffs his hands behind his back.  Romeo is amazed at how it could have happened.

Mack goes over to the case and gets ready to open it, Romeo begs him not to, as the power of the MacGuffin is beyond both their imagination. Just as he is about to open it, Tess appears with a gun to his back. She knows that Mack wouldn’t dare edit her, as he wants every second with her he can get. Betrayed, Mack hands over the MacGuffin. Romeo asks his sister to release him, but she shoots him instead. She points the gun at Mack, but can’t bear to shoot him, so she says. Instead she deals him a backhand proud to call itself a film noir bitchslap, which sends him reeling, giving her just enough time to escape down a stairwell. Mack recovers and starts to follow, when Romeo, gasping, tells him that he has to stop her before she gets hurt. Mack asks what’s in the case, and Romeo goes to tell him.

Mack hurries along, but as he looks down the stairwell, it pulls back and causes him to vomit. “Fucking Hitchcock.” he mutters. He decides to take the elevator. Impatient, he edits his way to the first floor, only to see Det. Branson shoot Tess right in the gut. She drops the MacGuffin case. Branson goes to open the case, but Mack yells for him to stop. With light creeping out of the edges of the box, Branson asks him what’s so important about it. Tess is simply laughing maniacally in the corner, slowly bleeding to death. Mack informs him that it was a case of enriched uranium, a ‘dirty bomb,’ that was going to be placed around Strategic Air Command in Omaha, Nebraska, and once set in place, that information ransomed off to the highest terrorist bidder. With SAC offline, all the defense missiles in the country would be blind. Romeo’s client’s were waiting for such an opportunity, and his banker was as well. Branson doesn’t believe him, saying it’s a pretty fanciful and unrealistic story. Mack yells at him that it doesn’t have to be realistic, this is fiction, for God’s sakes. Branson goes to open the case anyways, and is shot, but not by Mack. Mack looks over to see that Romeo has made his way downstairs, holding his wound. Mack reaches for his gun, but Romeo shoots him dead, and says, “how’s that for fatalistic?” Tess begs Romeo for forgiveness and to take her with him, as she had prepared to get out of the country. He smiles, and shoots her as well. “I’ve always wanted to see a movie where the antagonist wins.” As he exits through the back of the lobby, grabbing the case, he makes his way through the alley, trailing blood as he goes. He stops a passerby on the street and demands a cigarette. Morgan turns to him and smiles, saying that it’s his last one. Romeo points his gun at him and demands a cigarette again. Morgan reaches it over to him, and Romeo takes it, lights it, and gets off one long drag. He then shoots Morgan in the head and is on his way.

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