Author: Skip Woods
Writer’s Potential: 3
A retired criminal, forced into pulling off a diamond heist, uses a mind-switching technology to find a kidnapped girl, get revenge, and unravel a corporate conspiracy.
At a grungy, urban diner, CRAY sits across from EVIL DUDE. Under the table, each holds a gun on the other. They have a discussion about belief in God. In voiceover, Cray contemplates how he got here.
At the lobby bar of the Daku Hotel, Cray gets a drink and pretends to flirt with HOTTIE. A man named DUTCH hovers near an elevator. When middle-aged Japanese businessman TANAKA—who has a briefcase handcuffed to his wrist—emerges from the elevator, Cray calls on his cell phone to activate a bomb in Tanaka’s SUV. As everyone in Cray’s crew places “demon Oni masks” over their faces and preps for the explosion, six-year-old LILY, Tanaka’s granddaughter, steps out of the elevator. Cray tries to abort, but before anybody can react, the SUV explodes.
Back in the diner, Evil Dude tells Cray about a Japanese fable. As he rambles about it, the fable is visualized using a combination of modern and ancient images. A dragon is pretending to be a little girl’s grandfather, but she realizes this because of a keen intellect provided by following the seven laws of Bushido. Evil Dude asks if Cray is familiar with the seven laws. With a white flash, an animated sequence displays the first law: LOYALTY.
At a suburban house, Cray mows his lawn. He is promptly beaten up by TIX, a “big, ripped black dude wearing a sundress,” and Dutch, a gargantuan pedophile recently released from prison. They say he owes money to someone called “The Wizard,” and as they beat him down, a mysterious Prius containing two hidden occupants sits beside the street. As Cray lay, bloody and beaten, a pink-haired Japanese woman (SOFI) appears in front of him.
At a nightclub he owns, Cray talks on the phone to “The Wizard.” He proposes a solution to the financial problem. Cray goes to meet Tix and Hottie at a different nightclub, where they take him back to an atrium where “The Wizard” stands on a scissor-lift, feeding giraffes. They explain pleasantries, and THE WIZARD descends, revealing himself to be a dwarf. In the Wizard’s office, with Dutch and a photo-snapping SKATER PUNK in attendance, Cray describes his plan. Tanaka, it seems, has created a process that will manufacture fake diamonds indistinguishable from the real thing. He’ll be in the U.S. for one night only, with the diamonds in tow, and Cray and this group will hit him and his men at the Daku Hotel.
Cray meets Sofi at a bar, where it’s revealed that she is a heroin addict going through withdrawals.
At the Daku Hotel heist, after the SUV explosion, Dutch goes crazy and starts shooting at everyone and everything, turning the place into a war zone. While everyone’s engaged in gunplay, Dutch cuts off Tanaka’s hand to get the briefcase handcuffed to it. Just before he can kill Lily, Cray scoops her up and shoots Dutch, casuing him to drop the briefcase of diamonds. Lily stabs Cray with a plastic bracelet and gets away from him. As the cops approach, Cray has to get out of there. He meets up with Sofi at a motel and gives her the bad news: they have Lily. She cleans up her cuts and they take a shower together.
Cray confronts The Wizard and his crew at an upscale French restaurant. The Wizard is angry about the lack of diamonds. Cray is angry about Lily. HOTTIE #2, a plastic-surgeried clone of Hottie, introduces herself and plays a DVD on which Cray’s face is superimposed over Dutch’s during the Daku Hotel massacre. The Wizard says he’ll release it to the police if he doesn’t get the diamonds. Evil Dude joins the party, bring The Wizard a cell phone on which Tanaka threatens The Wizard, giving him 24 hours to return his “property” and the little girl.
Cray, Tix, and Dutch go to the motel where Sofi’s staying. Cray ambushes them, shoots Tix dead, wounds Dutch. Fade to another animated Bushido title: HONOR.
Sofi, we discover, was recently a Nobel-worthy scientist lecturing at the University of Tokyo. She meets with a hired mercenary called USAGI, who agrees to take on an unknown assignment. After her lecture, she dyes her hair pink and gets packed for an unknown trip. Usagi goes to speak with Lily, who turns out to be Sofi’s daughter. He tells her they’re going to America, but before they have a chance to really bond, Tanaka, Evil Dude, and some thugs burst into Sofi’s apartment. Usagi tries to fight, but he ends up getting mortally shot as Tanaka and Evil Dude grab Lily and disappear.
Sitting in the Prius, Sofi watches Cray get beat up on the lawn of his suburban house. After they leave, she helps Cray and takes him back to her motel room. She offers him $1 million, presumably to do the heist at the Daku Hotel and get Lily back.
Post-motel-ambush, Cray joins Sofi with Dutch’s wounded body. She explains that she has been working on a new technology for her father—a kind of mind-swapping technology that she can use to implant Cray’s mind into Dutch and vice-versa. With Cray’s mind now in Dutch’s body, he infiltrates The Wizard’s operation. He tries to encourage The Wizard to do an exchange with “Cray”: the diamonds for the girl. The Wizard admits he doesn’t have the girl and tells Cray to go see BINGUM and JONESY, two crooked cops, and show him their doctored video to get a favor.
Bingum and Jonesy have an operation to lace heroin in Blow-Pops to ensure children will be addicted by the time they reach high school. This offends Dutch so much, he ends up killing them both. Forced to alter their plan because of Evil Dude’s time limit, Dutch and Hottie go to see Evil Dude. Dutch asks for an extension, and Evil Dude agrees and gives them a mysterious package to deliver to The Wizard. On their way back to The Wizard, Dutch asks Hottie to stop so he can use the restroom. He takes a very long time, so Hottie goes after him. He ambushes her, they fight, and Dutch takes her back to Sofi to use the mind-swapping technology on Hottie, because she has mortally wounded Dutch’s body.
Now in the body of Hottie, Cray takes the package to The Wizard. It’s a laptop that, when turned on, displays an exact duplicate of The Wizard’s office, including The Wizard. When the real Wizard talks to it, the laptop version talks back. According to the second Wizard, The Wizard does have Lily, and Tanaka wants her back. Just then, Hottie #2 calls to inform The Wizard that Carl, the Skater Punk seen earlier, has Lily. He demands payment for her, so The Wizard says to kill him. Hottie disappears to find Hottie #2. When he does, they have a lesbian tryst, then Hottie #2 pulls a gun on him because Hottie “eats pussy like a dude.” Hottie kills her, then invites Sofi over to see Lily.
Sofi goes to a large corporation and demands that a receptionist send a company-wide e-mail. On the roof, a mysterious corporate MAN meets Hottie. Hottie proposes a trade—$20 million in exchange for all of Tanaka’s corporate secrets. The Man is aloof, but he agrees. Meanwhile, “Cray” shows up to offer another deal to The Wizard.
When Hottie and Sofi meet back at the motel, she’s surprised to find that Cray’s body, the research, and everything else in her possession is gone. Hottie tells Sofi to go back to the loft to be with Lily. Hottie spies on The Wizard and sees “Cray” dealing with The Wizard. She sneaks into The Wizard’s office and steals “Cray”‘s keys. They match a Ferrari, inside of which Hottie finds the body of Evil Dude—he’s the one who’s now in Cray.
Hottie meets up with Sofi again and discovers Tanaka’s mind is in Lily’s body. Another title: COURAGE. Cray’s brain is now in Evil Dude’s body. He tells Sofi to get out of there because Cray knows where they are. Evil Dude calls up Cray, who is dismayed to find Cray now occupies his body. But he’s okay with it because he has Sofi, and if Evil Dude wants to see Sofi alive again, he’ll switch bodies back. Evil Dude wants to meet up, he says, or else he’ll kill Tanaka-in-Lily. Cray doesn’t believe he’d do that, but to prove he’s serious about Sofi, Cray rapes her, shoots her in the head, and sends Evil Dude the photos. Enraged and horrified, Evil Dude tells Cray he just lost his only bargaining chip.
Evil Dude discovers Lily’s mind in the body of a random henchman, but he traps Tanaka’s mind inside the computer. In the time this has taken, Cray has shown up at Evil Dude’s penthouse and opens fire on them. Evil Dude runs away. Later on, he calls up Cray and proposes yet another trade. With no leverage other than their respective lack of bodies, he merely wants to trade back. A final title: JUSTICE.
Fully brought up to speed, we’re back at the diner, with Evil Dude and Cray holding the guns on each other, at a stalemate. A MAN shows up, and Evil Dude hands over the computer containing the mind-swap technology and Tanaka’s mind. As the Man returns to his limo, Evil Dude explains to Cray that the woman he raped and killed wasn’t Sofi—her mind had been transferred to Hottie, who waits in the limo for the Man. Evil Dude also points out, in voiceover as flashbacks reveal the truth of his statement, that Cray—is not his body. He has been Usagi all along, so he does not mind blowing Cray’s body away. The real Cray was actually swapped with a Japanese minion and has retired on a beach.
After this, The Wizard gives Evil Dude $1 million for killing Cray. He goes back to Sofi, and they can happily retire with the money.
I’d give this one a pass. The opening sequence creates the illusion that this will be some sort of mix of Fight Club, The Matrix, and any given Yakuza action movie. Although it retains its early veneer of pseudo-philosophical voiceovers and fetishizing Japanese culture, Hyperreal settles into a formulaic shoot-’em-up before turning into an incoherent disaster. It distinguishes itself only through the mind-switching device, but even this lets the writer down.
Trying so hard to keep the secrets of whose mind occupies whose body forces nearly every character to assume a generic role. This doesn’t matter so much with The Wizard’s bland henchmen, but Cray and Sofi have the same problem. He reveals certain facets of these characters, but what do they amount to? Cray’s master-criminal past is much more significant to the story at hand than the fact that he appeared on a reality show and owns a failing nightclub, yet we learn more about these two details than we ever do about Cray’s criminal background. Similarly, Sofi has a heroin addiction that has no bearing on her character or the plot and is all but forgotten by the third act. Providing additional character details like these is fine, but not when he skimps on details that are necessary to make us understand the characters’ actions in the story.
This is not aided by the fact that many of the actions are contradictory, and not solely because sometimes these characters aren’t who they say they are. In retrospect, the whole point of Usagi/Cray hitting Tanaka at the hotel is to get back Lily—yet he acts surprised when she shows up and it seems to wreck his entire plan. If this was supposed to be a “steal the diamonds to use as leverage to get Lily back” plan, that’s never made clear. Late in the script, we’re led to believe it was always about grabbing Lily, so why the surprise? As the story folds in on itself, inconsistencies and contradictions like this appear in abundance, and very few of them are addressed before the story ends.
The mind-switching muddles the overall story much more than it needs to, up to the point of the big Shyamalan-style “It was Usagi all along” twist—somehow he manages the feat of both telegraphing it and masking it so much that some things, like Cray’s pretentious voiceovers in the diner, make no sense. (If it was Usagi all along, shouldn’t Usagi deliver the voiceovers? It would blow the surprise, but it doesn’t make sense any other way.) The writer doesn’t establish a firm set of “rules” for this technology (for instance, the eleventh-hour “trap Tanaka in a computer” decision comes out of nowhere) and relies far too often on red-herring characters for the mind-switching (e.g., Lily’s mind is coincidentally in the body of a henchman we’ve never seen before). Similarly, the nonlinear structure really hurts the story, rather than enhancing it. Each flashback feels like a “gotcha!” cheat instead of startling revelation, and it—combined with the lack of logic with the mind-switching—turns the convoluted gangster story into an incoherent mess.
The writer tries very, very hard to focus the appeal of the screenplay on Westerners obsessed with mindless action and/or Japanese culture. It may appeal to them, but he panders so hard that it might end up alienating them instead. Even if he does, it seems like a relatively niche market, and it doesn’t seem like the type of action movie that would appeal to a broader base.