Wicked Wonderland

Author: Michael Sean Conley
Genre: Action
Storyline: 6
Dialogue: 6
Characterization: 5
Writer’s Potential: 6

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Logline:

A computer nerd retrieves a woman’s purse from a mugger and finds himself embroiled in a conspiracy to blackmail Hollywood celebrities.

Synopsis:

A car accident happens outside a diner in downtown L.A., grabbing the attention of the patrons — except for JIM, whose gaze is planted firmly on gorgeous RITA. He witnesses an Asian woman, KITTY, steal Rita’s purse. He chases her down an alley, is nearly stopped by a group of three thugs who obviously work for Kitty, but he manages to grab it from Kitty and escape unharmed. He searches the purse and finds $10,000 in cash, a handgun, barcoded blood samples, a CD-ROM, two tickets to Bangkok, and a birthday card with Rita’s address written on it. He goes to check out her address, find it’s empty and being cleaned out by KEVIN, the building owner. He agrees to rent the apartment, using Rita’s cash to secure it immediately. Kevin explains that Rita just up and disappeared a week ago and hasn’t paid her rent, so he’s renting her place.

The next day, Jim is threatened by two menacing Cambodians — CHEY and SENG — until Kevin pulls a gun on them. They leave willingly enough, and Kevin explains that they used to live there, but he threw them out. In retaliation, they ate his dog. He says they’re busboys at a restaurant in Chinatown. Jim buys a cheap barcode scanner, loads software from the CD-ROM onto his laptop, and scans the blood samples. They belong to famous Hollywood celebrities. Later, when Jim returns from the laundry room, he discovers the locks have been changed — his keys no longer work. Rita opens the door, aiming a gun at Jim. She’s found the blood samples, but she also wants to know where her cash and guns are.

After explaining his intentions to return to the bag, she spills everything: she works at a high-profile blood-bank, the Cambodians put her boyfriend JOEY (he’s gone missing, and he’s Kevin’s cousin) in touch with a doctor who came up with this plan to sell celebrity blood to a sex club whose patrons get off on the “vampire” lifestyle — they could make thousands from one drop of a celebrity’s blood, so she agreed to help them steal the samples. Kevin arrives and explains that everything Rita thought about this vampire-club deal — “Wicked Wonderland” — is pure fiction. The real story: he, Joey, and Kitty figured out a method to create stem cells from blood samples, then create sperm from stem cells. They intended to use this to create celebrity babies and extort the “father” for huge sums of money.

Kitty’s thugs chop of Joey’s finger and have it, and the remains of Kevin’s dog, delivered to Jim/Rita’s place in a Chinese food container. Joey calls up, begging for them to do whatever Kitty wants (little do they know, Joey is actually on Kitty’s side), and Kitty wants the blood samples, delivered to her that evening. Later, Kevin tells Joey about “the Doctor” — the man who can make their blood-to-sperm process a sure thing — who is in Bangkok. Jim tells Kevin about Rita’s plane tickets. Rita announces that they have to go to Joey’s penthouse (his father’s a wealthy doctor who owns the blood-bank) to get the real blood samples — the samples in Rita’s bag are fakes.

They find a party in full swing, led by DOUG (the doctor) and his porn-star wife MINDY. It’s being catered by Kitty’s restaurant, with the three thugs waiting tables. After a fight that results in Rita’s kidnapping, they get to talk with Doug and Mindy. They show them Joey’s finger — now on ice — and Doug makes excuses and denies. They get the real samples, and they realize both Doug and Joey are involved in Kitty’s plan. Kevin and Jim head to Jim’s house — not Rita’s former apartment. Turns out, he’s a government-employed computer hacker who basically knows all about the plans. He decides to help them screw over Kitty by writing a computer virus for the blood-bank’s system that will trick Kitty into believing their fake samples are real. They drop the samples off at Kitty’s restaurant and get Rita back. Turns out, they accidentally gave away the real samples. They discover Rita’s ticket to Bangkok has been canceled — and replaced with a ticket for Kitty. They have to get the samples back before Kitty and Joey get on that plane.

This leads them on a high-speed freeway chase on the way to the airport, during which they discover the Cambodian busboys are actually in charge of the operation, and the thugs have Joey — killed — rolled up in a carpet. They’re assigned to dump the body. While in pursuit, Jim, Kevin, and Rita make a deal with the thugs — they’ll give all the money in Kitty’s bank account to them if they switch sides. The thugs agree, so they’re no longer a problem. In fact, they’re sympathetic to Kevin’s sadness over losing Joey. Meanwhile, Jim reports Kitty’s car stolen, so her Lojack locks her out of the car, which they’ve tracked to a warehouse. There, they discover that Doug is the “Doctor,” the man behind the whole operation. A deal has been set up for someone else to pay $10 million for all the blood samples. The trip to Bangkok is actually retirement, to a private island. After another gunfight, their problems are solved. Kevin and Jim are friends, Jim and Rita get romantic, Doug and Kitty get their comeuppance, and nobody gets the blood samples.

Comments:

This script has a great first 10 pages — an absolutely great hook that reeled me in and generated so much positive energy that I didn’t realize until page 62 that, from page 11 on, not much had actually happened. The plot is overly complicated and there are too many characters, so the bulk of the script is written as long, stagnant scenes of characters delivering and redelivering exposition, revealing new plot developments, occasionally punctuated by pointing guns at each other. There are a few good action set-pieces, a few genuine surprises, but on the whole it’s a story with potential that needs a lot of work.

This story is pretty much a Hitchcock-style “innocent-man-stumbles-into-something-huge” plot. The blood samples and that whole plot are a big fat MacGuffin. Instead of standing around talking about the plot all the time, these people should be doing things — specifically, things that help to reveal their character. There’s some of that, but all the characters are still pretty thin, especially Jim. Part of this is by necessity, because he needs to remain mysterious until he reveals that he’s been tracking this deal all along; however, that reversal is pretty unnecessary and comes at the expense of developing his character.

Rather than concentrating so hard on the details of this blood conspiracy, the author should concentrate on the people involved: who are they, why do they do the things they do, etc. What’s the purpose of the Cambodians pretending to be busboys with a poor grasp of English? It’s made clear they don’t care particularly about the deal and don’t stand to gain much from it, and their loyalty is weak — so how do they feel about everything that’s going on, everything they’re forced to do, and why do they continue to work for Kitty? What’s at stake for them? As it stands, everything seems to come down to money matters. It could be a lot more interesting if their reasons — not the plot — were more complicated than money. As for the “good guys” — why is Jim so intrigued by Rita? Why are Kevin, Joey, and Rita so willing (almost eager) to involve themselves in criminal enterprises? Do any of these characters have any kind of moral/ethical concerns about this? If so, they should be addressed. If not, why? These are all questions that can be raised and answered in an exciting, action/conspiracy story — even within the action sequences themselves. Show us how clever Jim is, show us Kevin’s moral reservations, show us Rita’s grief over Joey’s betrayal, all while they’re trying to shoot their way into or out of places. If the last 110 pages are as interesting as the first 10, this could be a big winner.

Posted by D. B. Bates on July 24, 2006 4:53 PM