Author: Noel Clarke
Writer’s Potential: 6
Four young women accidentally find themselves at the center of a jewel-smuggling ring.
SHANNON (20s, pale) stands on the ledge of Westminster Bridge in London. She’s been crying. In one hand she holds an art pad filled with great sketches; in the other, she clutches a black bag filled with diamonds. A car containing three other girls—JO (20s, wearing a convenience mart uniform; KERRYS (20s, black); and CASSANDRA (20s, rich)—pulls up next to her. They beg her to come down.
Two days earlier, these four girls do separate activities (Shannon sips coffee at a café, Kerrys practices for her driving test with an instructor, Cassandra plays piano in an empty concert hall, and Joanne swims laps. All of these girls converge at the café. They discuss boys (in particular, Shannon is perturbed that DILLON breezes through the café without noticing her, and Cassandra is eager to lose her virginity to her online boyfriend) and their weekend plans (most importantly, Cassandra is flying to New York for an audition, but she’s also planning to meet the online boyfriend for the first time; Kerrys will also be taking her driving test for the second time), but they’re interrupted when a man snatches Cassandra’s purse. The other girls chase him. Kerrys grabs Shannon’s big art bag and beats the guy with it. The contents of their bags spill out. As Cassandra and Shannon scoop up their respective belongings, Shannon doesn’t notice Cassandra accidentally take an unopened envelope addressed to Shannon.
After all the excitement, the girls walk home. They pass Dillon, who behaves strangely, as if he’s looking for something very important. At a certain point on the way, the girls split up. Jo gets on the subway, Cassandra gets in her parents’ Bentley, Kerrys gets on the bus, and Shannon rides a bike home. A four-way splitscreen shows each of them travel home, focusing on Shannon as she enters her house. Shannon’s father, MR. RICHARDS, lies prostrate on the phone, crying and begging MRS. RICHARDS to stay. She tries to maintain an air of dignity. Shannon doesn’t understand what’s happening. Mrs. Richards tells Shannon she slipped a note into her bag. Shannon doesn’t know what she’s talking about. Mrs. Richards leaves, permanently, without explaining why. Shannon is devastated. As Shannon packs to get out of the house, a news report in the background describes a big gem heist in Antwerp. Shannon goes to Jo’s house, wanting to talk about what happened with her mom. Jo’s distracted and busy. She puts Shannon off until the next day. Shannon goes to the canal and draws. She spots two men (Brazilian MANUEL and black TEE, both a few years older than she is) having a heated discussion about something Manuel can’t keep in his house because his family’s there. Manuel recognizes Shannon as his sister’s friend. They check out her artwork, then leave. That night, Shannon gets hammered in a bar. A guy flirts with her aggressively, and she’s okay with it. Kerrys saves the day, getting the guy away from Shannon to save her from herself. As Shannon argues with Kerrys, a riot seems to break out behind them. The guy, FRASER, returns with some friends, threatening to kill them. Kerrys drags Shannon out of the bar. They run until they get free. Kerrys hops in a seemingly random car and asks Shannon if she needs a ride. Shannon declines.
Shannon goes to the canal, munching on Pringles and staring at a drawing of a baby. She decides to graffitotag the wall, but she runs away when a cop shines his light on her. Shannon runs home, where her drunken dad has been worried sick. Shannon can’t sleep. She tries call Cassandra, who answers but blows Shannon off. The next morning, news of the jewel heist is still all over the news. Shannon’s upset because she thinks her mother left because of her, and now all her friends seem to have abandoned her. Later, Shannon walks past Kerrys (who is taking her driver’s test). Kerrys seems to look at her and ignore her. Some time later, Shannon goes to Kerrys’s house to confront her, just as Kerrys leaves, shouting obscenities at her unseen family. Kerrys lashes out at Shannon, as well, and storms off. Shannon walks past the café when Dillon stops her and decides to talk to her. He’s interrupted by a frantic phone call from Tee. Dillon flirts with Shannon and asks for her phone number. Shannon gets a call from Jo. Shannon asks if Jo saw the note. Jo tells her to come by her work later. That night, Shannon enters the convenience mart where Jo works. Shannon doesn’t seem to notice the tension. Jo tells Shannon to piss off, confusing and enraging Shannon. Even more confusing and enraging: Dillon, dressed in a hoodie, walks toward Jo and plants a kiss on her. Teary-eyed, Shannon runs out of the store, grabbing a tube of Pringles as she goes.
Shannon does some more graffiti. Just before she attempts to eat the Pringles, kids pop her with paintballs and start chasing her. An older woman, KELLY, beats them up and chases them away. She gets Shannon into her car and takes her to a fancy apartment, where she lets Shannon shower and change into some clean clothes. When Shannon gets out, she sees Kelly rifling through her art bag. Kelly wants the Pringles, which she says had diamonds in them. Shannon is baffled. She locks herself in the bathroom as Kelly tries to aggressively beat the door down. Shannon kicks the door open, knocking Kelly out, and runs out of the apartment. Back at the canal, Shannon finds the Pringles. Inside is the black bag filled with diamonds. The next morning, Shannon leaves a message for Jo about the diamonds. Kerrys calls, saying Cassandra found the note. Mr. Richards, drunk and now blaming Shannon for his wife’s leaving, has received a forwarding address from Mrs. Richards’s sister. Shannon goes to the address, a fancy apartment building. Mrs. Richards shows up with her new beau. Shannon confronts her, and Mrs. Richards strongly implies that a recent abortion Shannon had was the final emotional straw. That night, Shannon finds herself on the Westminster Bridge. The car pulls up.
The action returns to two days prior and the four-way splitscreen, this time closing in on Cassandra. Her parents give her some encouraging advice and a surprising amount of weekend money before dropping her off at the airport. On the plane, Cassandra is seated next to an international courier, BIG LARRY. Cassandra waits to meet Brett, who doesn’t show up. Shannon calls, but Cassandra blows her off. Later, Cassandra gives up and calls Joe, tearfully. She takes a cab to her hotel. A few hours later, Cassandra sleeps peacefully when somebody shows up at the door. It’s BRETT, her online boyfriend—exactly as his picture depicted. Instantly, they make passionate love. Afterward, Cassandra has the suspicion that Brett drugged her drink. She passes out and wakes up the next morning, thinking it was a dream—until she finds most of her belongings missing. Her purse is still there, though, and Cassandra finds the note from Shannon’s mom. Pissed, Cassandra scrolls through her old e-mails until she pieces together Brett’s address. She runs into Big Larry in the hotel lobby and asks him to hand-deliver the note to Kerrys (she doesn’t know Shannon’s address). Cassandra tracks Brett’s address to Brooklyn. When she knocks on the door, she’s surprised when a complete geek opens the door. This is the real Brett, or NEW BRETT. Cassandra beats him up and ties him up. New Brett explains that he and Brett arranged this—Brett was supposed to take a bunch of lewd photos of Cassandra while she was unconscious and drop them off. Cassandra waits for Brett, watching a news report about the diamond heist. She gets a call from Kerrys and gives her an odd code (4, 3, 2, 1).
Brett finally shows up. Cassandra beats him up and ties him up, too. Cassandra deletes every photo and video of her from New Brett’s computer, then realizes how late it is and rushes back to Manhattan. She’s missed her audition with MR. LAROFSKY. He is not very kind about it. Dejected, Cassandra returns to New Brett’s house. She pulls down their pants and takes humiliating photos of the two Bretts. Brett has come free of his tethers. He starts beating on her, so she runs out of the house. A big black woman notices the struggle and tells Brett to stop. He continues, hurling racial slurs at her. A large group of black men come out of the woodwork and attack. They let Cassandra leave. The next morning, Cassandra goes to Mr. Larofsky’s house and barges in the moment he opens the door. She dashes to the piano and plays her audition piece. Larofsky admires the ingenuity as well as the musicianship and accepts her into his program. Cassandra returns to London, where she learns Shannon is missing. Jo and Kerrys pick her up.
Two days prior, the four-way splitscreen. This time it’s Kerrys’s story. She arrives home and hops into bed with her girlfriend, JAS. Before anything can happen, MR. JAUO-PINTO (Kerrys’s Brazilian father) drags her downstairs to greet her extended family members from Brazil, who are in town for Manuel’s birthday. Manuel, her brother, is downstairs with Dillon. They’re discussing when Dillon should pick up the diamonds. Kerrys is baffled. She embarrasses herself (and her father) in front of the family by wearing a tight, revealing shirt. Kerrys leaves the house in a huff. She and Jas break into Cassandra’s apartment. They turn on the TV and see a report about the diamond heist. Jas gives Kerrys some Viagra, insisting it works as well on women as it does on men. They have sex. Later, Kerrys and Jas go to the bar where Shannon is drinking. Kerrys sees Fraser all over Shannon and pulls him away, flirting. Fraser tries to trade up, but Kerrys sends him packing. While Shannon’s too drunk to pay attention, Fraser and his friends start a fight with Kerrys that escalates into a full-scale riot. Kerrys grabs Shannon and runs. Jas pulls up in her car, which Kerrys hops into. Shannon declines a ride. Kerrys and Jas return to Cassandra’s apartment.
The next morning, Kerrys takes her driving test with the same examiner who failed her the last time. Sensing it’s not going well, Kerrys lashes out at the examiner and starts kicking the car door to prevent the examiner from getting out. She returns home to congratulations, but faces fall when she announces her second failure. Mr. Jauo-Pinto is horrified, Manuel ridicules, so Kerrys shouts obscenities at all of them as she storms out of the house—and finds Shannon waiting. Kerrys tells Shannon off, too, and goes back to Cassandra’s apartment. Jas shows up at the apartment with Manuel, who claims he wants to apologize. Instead, he somehow seems to know that Cassandra has a panic room built under her bed and knows exactly how to access it. The bed slides aside, revealing it underneath. Kerrys and Jas examine it, and Manuel shuts the panic room. Through a closed-circuit monitor, they can see Manuel bringing people inside. Before long, it’s a full-scale party. Kerrys and Jas can’t get out because they don’t know the code, and Kerrys won’t call Cassandra because they’re not supposed to be there.
Dillon and his friends show up. Manuel hands him a mysterious black bag. They leave. Kerrys and Jas try to figure out the code. As the party gets out of hand, they blame each other for the turn of events. Kerrys finally forces herself to call Cassandra for the code. Once they get out, Kerrys goes after the partygoers with a music stand. The next morning, Cassandra calls Kerrys about sending the note to her. Kerrys calls Shannon, but Shannon hangs up on her. Kerrys goes home and finds the letter. She opens it and is shocked by what she reads. Mr. Jauo-Pinto gets in Kerrys’s face about being late for her brother’s birthday party. Kerrys apologizes, and they have a heart to heart. Kerrys agrees to be less rebellious—after one last prank. She doses Manuel’s drink with a bunch of Viagra, humiliating him as his giant, unstoppable erection forms in front of his grandparents and aunts. Kerrys leaves, but Manuel chases her out of the house. She locks Manuel in the trunk of his own car, then drives it around. As she approaches Jo’s store later that night, Manuel has finally gotten through the seats. He grabs Kerrys, forcing her to hit the accelerator. She crashes into the store.
Two days prior, the four-way splitscreen. Jo’s turn. Jo’s stepdad has broken his leg and can’t work temporarily. As a result, Jo’s mom announces Jo and her sister, GWEN, need to pick up the slack by taking extra shifts at the convenience mart. Gwen already has plans, so Jo is forced to work that night. She meets Tee, the night manager, who browbeats and overworks her. Jo notices Tee doing something odd but unseen near the safe. She also notices one of the keys to the safe is gone. Before she can figure out what Tee is up to, her ex-boyfriend TERRY bursts in demanding to know if rumors she’s sleeping with another guy are true. Jo denies them. Jo is forced to work a double-shift—all night—because another employee doesn’t show up. The next day, she’s exhausted. Gwen begs her to work for her again. Jo reluctantly agrees. When she enters the store, Jo overhears Tee talking on his phone about something that needs to be done today. Jo gets a call from Shannon. She tells Shannon she’s busy and to come by the store later. Jo gripes about the job when she feels her period coming on. When she tries to take some tampons, Tee gets in her face about it. Jo brings up the safe key, which pisses Tee off. They’re interrupted by another clerk.
Dillon and his friends show up at the store. They get into the safe but are disappointed by the amount of money in it, so they decide to rob the whole store. Dillon points a gun at Jo after she tips off a customer about what’s going on and he calls the police. In the midst of this, Shannon shows up. Jo yells at her, but she won’t leave, so Dillon kisses Jo. Horrified, Shannon runs out, taking the Pringles tube. Kelly has been in the store in secret. She’s now angry, thinking Shannon took the diamonds. Kelly goes after her. Dillon takes the wallets of all the customers and throws the gun at Tee (who catches it, getting his fingerprints on it), then leaves, threatening them not to say anything. Tee searches the Pringles packs and finds none with diamonds. The police show up, but everyone plays dumb. Jo takes the security footage disc and hides it from the police. The next day, Gwen is sympathetic about the robbery. Shannon calls about the diamonds. Gwen offers to take Jo’s shift, but Jo insists on working. Shortly after her shift starts, Kelly arrives and starts browbeating Tee. Jo grabs the gun from last night (hidden in a fridge case) and holds it on Kelly. Kelly pulls out a gun of her own and trains it on Jo. Kerrys provides the ultimate distraction, accidentally crashing into the store. The police show up almost immediately, looking for Tee. Jo drives off with Kerrys. Kerrys shows Jo the note. They pick up Cassandra, then drive around to look for Shannon.
The girls find Shannon on the bridge. She nearly falls because of their distraction. The girls pull her back over the bridge. They’re all sympathetic about what’s happened to her family. Shannon appreciates the show of support. They turn the diamonds in to the police and use the reward money to book a flight to the U.S. Little do they know, Kelly is on the plane, watching them.
126.96.36.199 is the unholy lovechild of a Guy Ritchie gangster movie and The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants, a quirky gamble that doesn’t really pay off. Too much time is spent ignoring the diamond smuggling in favor of detailing the girls’ sordid personal lives (ironically, without doing a whole lot to develop their characters), and the nonlinear structure is more distracting than inventive. As written, it merits a pass.
Problems start in the first act. The writer doesn’t really set up the story so much as allow a few strange events to happen and hope the mystery carries over until he decides to pick up that narrative thread again. Focusing the story on one character at a time constrains the narrative, making the overall story muddled and frustrating rather than engaging and surprising. The first story—Shannon’s—clumsily foreshadows too much about the diamond smuggling. As a result, the moments of crossover during the other girls’ vignettes are not terribly clever or enlightening—precious few instances of “Oh, the pieces are falling into place” but plenty of “Yeah, duh” moments. This builds to a third act that doesn’t seem much like a third act, because it’s just filling in gaps in the story, sputtering to an unsatisfying, predictable resolution.
Although the details of who’s involved in the diamond smuggling operation and how it affects the girls is obvious long before it should be, the writer devotes precious little time to actually explaining how the smuggling actually works. People keep handing mysterious bags to each other, hiding things, searching for things, exchanging money, but it never quite jells. The writer is intent on making the diamonds a jokey subplot and devotes most of the time to what the girls are doing, which rarely has anything to do with diamonds or stealing. Their stories combine lurid male sex fantasies with melodramatic histrionics.
Sadly, the stories are also so overstuffed with meaningless misleads and “crossover” details, the characters themselves get lost in the shuffle. The writer offers glimpses of family life, jobs, hobbies, and passions—yet somehow manages to not use any of this information to provide real insight into the characters. For a script that tries to pretend its overarching diamond plot is a jokey afterthought, Shannon, Cassandra, Kerrys, and Jo all feel like constructs of a convoluted story rather than real people in a character-driven ensemble.
The supporting characters fare worse, not surprisingly. The villains are all irredeemably evil without much explanation of why (other than greed, but that’s not a terribly compelling reason), the family characters exist solely to provide melodramatic conflict for the girls, and the many characters Cassandra meets in New York have very little to do with anything—it’s just a weird, uncomfortable diversion. It’s telling, though, that the only friend Cassandra makes in New York is coincidentally an international courier who guarantees hand-delivered parcels. This perfectly illustrates the way this script turns its characters into cardboard cutouts who exist to serve the plot’s needs, rather than creating vivid, believable characters whose clearly motivated actions drive the story.
The “quirky caper” and “melodramatic teen angst” tones don’t mix as well as the writer seems to think they do. As a result, it’s hard to imagine anything short of brilliant direction making this script work as a film. Without an experienced director of high-energy crime films, it’ll come across like exactly what it is: a jarring, incoherent mess.