Five Killers

Author: Bob De Rosa and Ted Griffin and Michael Brandt & Derek Haas
Genre: Comedy/Thriller
Storyline: 8
Dialogue: 7
Characterization: 6
Writer’s Potential: 7

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Logline:

When a government agent retires, marries, and settles in suburbia, he’s forced to bring his wife into the trade when they’re attacked by assassins.

Synopsis:

Corsica. SPENCER BROOME, 30s, pursues sinister arms dealer JASPAR LEVENEUX. He secretly tracks Leveneux to a hotel restaurant. Over the phone, Spencer’s boss, HOLBROOK, gives the order to take Leveneux down. Spencer gets into snorkeling gear. Meanwhile, JEN KORNFELD, late 20s, accompanies her overbearing parents on vacation in the same hotel. Jen sneaks downstairs to get some relief and runs into Spencer on the elevator. Mistaking her for a French girl, Spencer begins talking in French. Jen says nothing. Spencer follows her, so Jen admits she doesn’t speak French. On the beach, Spencer and Jen get to know each other, bonding over growing up in the same town (Altadena). Spencer invites Jen for a drink in half an hour, and Jen accepts. During the half hour, Spencer swims to Leveneux’s yacht and places a bomb. Jen, meanwhile, buys a nice outfit and feigns illness to get away from her parents again. As Spencer and Jen share their drink, Jen’s surprised when she sees a yacht and chopper exploding over the ocean. A montage shows their courtship: Spencer takes her flying, to casinos, they have fun together. Jen introduces Spencer to her parents. Spencer takes Mr. Kornfeld aside to ask permission to propose to Jen. He allows it. Spencer tells Holbrook he’s quitting. Jen and Spencer get married and have an enjoyable wedding.

Three years later, Spencer and Jen have settled into a McMansion in a suburban development called New Ealing. Spencer runs a successful design firm; Jen suspects she’s pregnant and doesn’t want to tell Spencer. Spencer and Jen argue a bit about how frequently Jen sees her parents, who only live a few minutes away. Jen teases Spencer about his upcoming birthday. Spencer drives through the neighborhood, watching cougar OLIVIA BROOKS flirt with UPS man MILO, watching 30-somethings MAC and LILY BAILEY install a new front door, generally enjoying the neighborhood. Jen arrives at the real-estate agency where she works and complains to smarmy boss DON NOOTBAR about her assignment. Don doesn’t care. Spencer arrives at his firm, where he employs five people: architect HENRY (30s); construction specialist MANUEL (50s); secretary MRS. TOMLINSON; intern YASUKO (20s); and stoned delivery guy JOSH (20s). Henry asks if Spencer wants to play basketball tonight, but Spencer has dinner plans with Jen.

Jen goes to the supermarket to pick up Spencer’s birthday cake. She’s accosted by annoying next-door neighbor JACKIE VOLLERO; once Jen gets rid of Jackie, she buys a pregnancy test. At the office, Spencer receives a surprise call from Holbrook, who thinks he’s found “the Leopard.” Talking in code, Spencer reminds Holbrook that he’s out. Guilty, Spencer decides to meet Holbrook at the usual place/time, but Holbrook doesn’t show up, worrying Spencer. Behind him, tires squeel as a car peels out — Spencer knows he’s been made. Spencer comes home to a suspiciously quiet house. Readying his gun, he walks through the dark when — surprise! It’s a party for Spencer. He’s not pleased, but he goes along with it. Spencer goes upstairs and hides his gun. Jen tells best friend MAGGIE about the possible pregnancy. She’s concerned Spencer will be pissed, but Maggie doesn’t understand what Jen’s so worried about. After the party, Spencer and Jen lie in bed together, both worrying for different reasons.

The next morning, Jen drives to visit her parents when Maggie calls to ask what happened when she told Spencer. Jen admits she didn’t tell him because the timing wasn’t right. At the house, Spencer pals around with Henry. Henry gets a call on his cell, and as Spencer goes to the fridge, Henry suddenly attacks him. They fight, but Spencer has no idea what’s going on. In the car, Maggie reminds Jen that the man is her husband — he’s not going to be angry that she’s having his child. Jen turns around and drives home to tell him. She walks in on the fight, with Henry and Spencer sprawled in an awkward stalemate. Spencer makes Jen get his gun; once he has the upper hand, Spencer ties Henry to a chair and demands to know what’s going on. Henry explains that he’s an assassin who was hired to lay low, given a monthly stipend to simply watch Spencer. Today, he got the green light to attack. There’s a $20 million bounty on his head, and Henry isn’t the only assassin after him. Jen’s freaking out, not having any idea where this is coming from. Spencer and Jen flee town, and Jen forces him to spill his guts about everything. Spencer can’t explain in detail, but the bottom line is that he was a government assassin who pissed a lot of people off, and now he has to pay the price. He starts to explain about Holbrook contacting him when Henry starts chasing them. They end up in a construction site, where Spencer crushes Henry with a bulldozer. Jen is sickened.

Spencer takes Jen to find Holbrook. They arrive at his motel room, where Spencer finds his car but notices a secret code indicating trouble. Gun drawn, they bust into the motel room. Holbrook lies dead on the floor. He’s left nothing behind but a note with five strange number codes. Spencer tries to get Jen to hide out, but she won’t do it. She insists on staying with him. Spencer warns her that he has to pursue the Leopard — has to kill him in order to stop this and retire once and for all. Jen suggests asking her father for advice, and they argue some more about her unwillingness to separate from her parents. The argument results in her blurting out that she’s pregnant. Spencer’s shocked, then furious that she didn’t tell him sooner. They drive to the store to buy another pregnancy test (she never took the one she bought and they can’t go home), but they’re all out. A manager leads them into the back stockroom, where Spencer gets jumpy and almost pulls his gun on a stock clerk. Jen stops him in the nick of time. They get the pregnancy test.

In the parking lot, Spencer steals a car. Jen points out how she helped him and asks Spencer to consider asking for help once in awhile. Spencer doesn’t think he needs help and insists that, once she’s taken the test, he’s dropping her off somewhere safe. A neighbor approaches them as they drive through town, trying to tell them about a block party happening tonight, and Spencer mistakes him for a hitman and pulls a gun. The neighbor freaks out. Spencer explains who the Leopard is: a weapons technology dealer who is more dangerous and ruthless than anybody on the planet. Holbrook became obsessed with him and thought he finally found him. Spencer believes the Leopard is the one behind the contract on his life. They go to the design firm office, where Spencer gets another gun and shows Jen how to use it. Jen prepares to do the pee test when, outside the bathroom, Spencer finds Manuel knocked out — by Yasuko. They fight, but Spencer left his gun in the car. He beats on the bathroom door, begging for Jen’s. She’s a little preoccupied. Eventually, he manages to kill Yasuko by dousing her in chainsaw fuel, igniting it with a .22 gun lighter.

Spencer makes sure Manuel is okay. The pregnancy test is positive. Spencer realizes the numbers Holbrook wrote down are direct-deposit accounts. He notices Holbrook started to write more numbers, but they were incomplete. For all he knows, the whole town is after him. They go to a fast-food restaurant to eat, and it occurs to Jen that she can cross-reference the direct-deposit accounts with home sales at the realty office. They go there and snoop around. The place is empty (it’s Saturday), but Milo and Olivia show up — both are assassins. As Spencer takes care of them, Jen searches for the information she’s looking for. She finds nothing. Spencer find the Baileys’ interior design business card in Olivia’s pocket. He doesn’t think it fits Olivia’s taste, so they pay the Baileys a visit. On the way, Mr. Kornfeld calls Jen, wondering where she’s been all day. Jen apologizes and implies she has some big news. Kornfeld gets angry and hangs up on her, then storms out of his house, leaving Mrs. Kornfeld baffled.

The Baileys are hosting the big block party. Spencer and Jen have to navigate the various neighbors and friends, looking for the Baileys. While distracted by a new person to the neighborhood, who looks like a stereotypical Hong Kong assassin, Mac Bailey waits in a tree, lining up a sniper shot. Suddenly, Jen has a thought and starts running. Spencer follows. She demands to see the Leopard list again, because suddenly she’s remembering one of the numbers. She decides they have to go home so she can check some receipts, but the Baileys are standing in their way, launching a full-scale attack right in the middle of the block party. Spencer and Jen race through yards and playgrounds, trying to get home while avoiding the Baileys and the various explosions. Spencer readies the house for an onslaught while Jen searches for her receipts. Her inattentiveness annoys Spencer. The Baileys get the drop on them, so Spencer invokes Berlin Rules, which allows Jen to walk out the door untouched. She prepares to leave, but she sees Mr. Kornfeld standing there.

Jen knows something, from the receipts — Spencer is the Leopard and always has been. It explains his traveling, why Jen and Spencer coincidentally met on a family trip to Corsica. He kept the hitmen around to monitor Spencer, then activated them when he believed Spencer was going back to the trade. Jen tells him about the baby, and he calls off the Baileys, promising them $10 million apiece for their troubles. Kornfeld makes Jen promise not to tell her mother. A closing montage shows Jen getting bigger and bigger, taking a job working with Spencer at his design firm.

Comments:

This is a solid thriller story with a nice comic setting. The dialogue is reasonably snappy and, when the characters aren’t breathlessly explaining each plot twist, very natural, with each character having a distinct voice. The Kornfeld twist at the end took me by surprise, but it actually makes sense and doesn’t ruin everything that came before it, so kudos on the storyline.

Things go awry with the characters, however. Spencer and Jen are both reasonably compelling, but the pregnancy subplot feels tacked on, like the writers realized they hadn’t given Jen enough to do or maybe hadn’t created enough tension in the relationship, so they shoehorned it into a story where it doesn’t quite fit. Meanwhile, they gloss over some of the more interesting sources of conflict — Spencer’s irritation with Jen’s dependence on her parents and Jen’s anger at Spencer lying about his entire life. They argue about these things, but they move past them far too quickly. These problems could sustain the entire story if the writers didn’t breeze right past them.

The supporting characters are a little worse off, however. One of the consistent irritations in the script is the way these professional assassins continue to “blend in,” personality-wise, with this suburban lifestyle even after their cover is blown. It leads to some funny jokes, but the jokes don’t really have any kind of internal logic consistent with these characters’ personalities — mainly because they don’t have personalities. They’re suburban stereotypes who turn out to be assassins. It might be more interesting if, for instance, they’d been living their cover stories for so long, they’d gone soft — put on a few pounds, got way too interested in the mundane minutiae of their fake lives, almost forgetting they’re even assassins. This could generate comedy stemming from the more believable premise that they’re no longer living lies — they’ve become the characters and have actually turned into incompetent assassins as a result.

Despite the flaws, this script does have some funny moments, along with a good story and some well-conceived action sequences. It might be worth a look.

Posted by D. B. Bates on November 1, 2008 9:40 PM