Medallion

Author: David Guggenheim
Genre: Action/Thriller
Storyline: 3
Dialogue: 5
Characterization: 3
Writer’s Potential: 3

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Recommendation?

Pass

Logline:

Just released from prison, a professional thief must elude police as he searches New York City for his daughter, who’s being held hostage in a taxi.

Synopsis:

A mysterious passenger, soon revealed as EVAN KIEFER, slips into a Manhattan taxi, medallion #5K65. Kiefer makes polite conversation, in Arabic, with the Egyptian driver. The driver explains his family remains in Cairo until he can afford to send for them. The driver stops to drop Evan off on an empty, dark street. Kiefer kills the driver, stuffs it in the trunk, and gets behind the wheel. Meanwhile, WILL MONTGOMERY (40s, worn out) is released from prison after 10 years. He’s picked up by FBI Special Agent HARLAN FOX (55, black, seasoned) and his young partner, JACOBS. Harlan explains to Jacobs that Montgomery was one of the world’s best thieves until someone tipped them off to his last job, a bank heist. Harlan elaborates about the myth that Montgomery actually got $10 million out of the bank and has it stashed somewhere. Montgomery says he’s considering retirement. They drive him to an expensive apartment off of Central Park, where Montgomery greets his 14-year-old daughter, ALISON, who has lived with her aunt and uncle since he went to prison. Alison has little respect for Montgomery and is not excited about the reunion. Montgomery follows her downstairs, watches her awkwardly hail a cab. Montgomery helps her. She gets into a cab — driven by Kiefer.

RILEY SIMMS (30s, attractive) unclogs a toilet at a dive bar when Montgomery comes to see her. She’s thrilled that he got out and is shocked that she’d buy a cop bar. Riley finds it amusing to overcharge cops for watered-down drinks. Montgomery asks if she’s spoken to any of their former partners in crime since the bank job gone bad. She says one of them, Mercer, went MIA years ago. The other, Jonah Cross, disappeared after the bank job. Riley offers to let Montgomery stay with her. Another FBI car — this one driven by PATTERSON and BRODERICK — waits for Montgomery outside the bar. Montgomery greets them sarcastically and asks them to drive him to Riley’s SoHo loft. As soon as he enters the loft, a call comes through on Riley’s answering machine: it’s the voice of JONAH CROSS, looking for Montgomery. Jonah says he wants the $10 million, and when Montgomery denies its existence, Jonah lets Montgomery know that the cab that picked up Alison was arranged by Jonah, and she will die if he doesn’t bring Jonah the money in an hour. Stalling for time, Montgomery says he actually has $20 million, but it’s upstate and will take him six hours to get. Jonah accepts these terms. Outside, Montgomery finds a cell phone in an envelope. It’s been rigged to only accept calls from Jonah. Jonah tells him they’ll use it to arrange a meet in six hours and that it has a GPS to track Montgomery and make sure he doesn’t pull a fast one. Montgomery immediately uses Riley’s phone to call 911 and report a false fire. Patterson and Broderick, parked in front of a hydrant, are forced to abandon their post. Montgomery sneaks away from the apartment.

Montgomery pulls the GPS chip out of the phone, takes it to Grand Central Station, and puts it on a random train. Meanwhile, Alison’s legs are chained in the back of a cab, her mouth and wrists duct taped. She tries to pound the trunk and grunt, but loud heavy metal and traffic block the sound. Patterson and Broderick report to Harlan that Montgomery got away. Harlan is pissed until Montgomery shows up at the field office. He tells Harlan everything, but Harlan thinks he’s crying wolf. Jonah Cross died nine months ago. He has some more agents, WHITAKER and SHAW, escort Montgomery to a meeting with his parole officer. Jacobs asks Harlan if Montgomery might be telling the truth. Harlan thinks he’s plotting something. He calls for a wiretap on Riley Simms’s phone. In the cab, Alison rubs her wrists against a shard of metal until the tape snaps. Then she pulls the tape off her mouth. Alison plays with the wires, illuminating the cab’s “On Duty” sign. A LAWYER gets into the cab. Alison starts screaming, but the lawyer can’t hear her. He’s distracted talking on his phone. She tries to pound the backseat, but he doesn’t feel anything. Eventually, she claws her hand through the seat, but she’s too late — the Lawyer exits the cab just as she wriggles her hand out. Kiefer flips off the “On Duty” sign.

Montgomery has an interview with his parole officer. Montgomery subtly tips over the P.O.’s coffee, spilling it all over his pants. The P.O. excuses himself to get cleaned up. Montgomery sneaks a peek at his computer, looking up Jonah Cross. Nothing. Next: Donald Mercer. It has his mugshot, current address, and a note that he’s an informant. Montgomery runs off, bribing an NYU student for his school jacket so he can elude Whitaker and Shaw. Harlan learns that Montgomery looked up Mercer in the parole database and has cars sent there. Montgomery goes to DONALD MERCER’s apartment. After getting into a fight about Mercer’s reasons for tipping off Montgomery’s bank job, Montgomery admits he just needs to know where Jonah is. Mercer doesn’t have a clue. Eventually, Montgomery realizes Mercer is stalling. He sees the FBI sedans surrounding them. Patterson and Broderick arrest him for violating his parole. They cuff him and ride away with him. The cell phone Jonah gave Montgomery rings. Montgomery dislocates his thumb to wiggle his hands out of the cuffs. He beats on Patterson and Broderick, making them lose control of the car. He flees the scene, taking Patterson’s gun and calling 911 to report their injuries.

Montgomery picks up Jonah’s phone. Jonah reminds him that the clock is ticking. Montgomery notices a cab with the same “Drivers Wanted” sticker on the cab he sent Alison on. He “cabjacks” the driver, taking his cab. He finds the garage the taxi came from and heads there. Meanwhile, Alison finds the wires controlling the brakes. She tries to send a Morse Code message, but the only thing she accomplishes is Kiefer getting pulled over by cops who don’t notice the message. They also don’t notice her screaming or pounding on the trunk, and they let Kiefer off with a warning. Realizing Alison is up to something, Kiefer chloroforms her. Montgomery introduces himself to BRODSKY, saying he’s looking for specific cab from this garage. He asks Brodsky if anything unusual has happened with any cabs. Brodsky says one driver never returned at the end of his shift. He gives Montgomery the cab number and uses a GPS tracker to locate it — it’s parked in Chinatown. The driver Montgomery cabjacked shows up and recognizes him. Montgomery flees in the cab, but Brodsky calls it in. Harlan dispatches agents and air support. A chopper finds the cab, so Montgomery has little choice but to drive like a maniac, back into Manhattan. Both NYPD and Harlan and Jacobs are on Montgomery’s tail. With some innovative driving, Montgomery causes an NYPD cruiser to crash into Harlan and Jacobs. The chopper loses sight of him amid the skyscrapers. Montgomery calls the taxi commission and has them track the cab, which is now moving. He catches up to it — and discovers a teenager driving it. The teen tells Montgomery that a guy paid him to drive it around for the rest of the afternoon.

After being treated for the minor injuries they sustained in the accident, Harlan and Jacobs realizes Montgomery was telling the truth, now that they know he’s been eluding cops and causing trouble just to find one single cab. They go back to the luxury apartment where Alison’s aunt and uncle live. It dawns on Harlan that the $10 million Montgomery stole really doesn’t exist — it’s been spent on, among other things, the apartment, and on Alison’s care. With nowhere to turn, Montgomery calls Riley. Realizing the FBI are listening, they carry on a discussion in French, making plans to meet. Riley drives away, but Whitaker and Shaw can’t pursue — she’s slashed their tires. Montgomery and Riley meet up in Central Park. He tells her to get the crew back together, because they’re going to rob the bank. They have no other choice, and Montgomery is confident his plan would have worked if they could have executed it to completion. Riley says she can’t round anyone up to help, so they decide to go it alone.

Harlan and Jacobs dig into the finances of Alison’s aunt and uncle. It confirms their suspicions about where the $10 million goes, but it obviously follows that Montgomery can’t pay them. They consider what Montgomery could possibly do to pay them off. Posing as members of the FDIC, Montgomery and Riley secretly records the bank manager. They taser him, then use the recording to gain voice-activated access to the vault. They get inside the vault, but Harlan and Jacobs are hot on their trail. Montgomery calls Jonah to tell him he has the money. Jonah asks him to hand the phone to Riley, whom Montgomery realizes is now aiming a gun at him. Jonah tells Riley to kill Montgomery, and he’ll have Kiefer take care of Alison. Montgomery doesn’t have much time to feel betrayed — Harlan discovers the unconscious bank manager and sounds the alarm. The distraction allows Montgomery to get the drop on Riley. They fight for the gun, and it goes off. Riley is the one who is shot and killed. Montgomery leaves without taking a dime. He steals Riley’s SUV and discovers a parking pass for a warehouse on the docks. He calls Harlan and tells him exactly where he’ll be. Kiefer arrives in the warehouse with Alison. Jonah tells him to torch the cab, with Alison in it. Montgomery makes short work of Jonah’s goons. Jonah struggles to strangle Montgomery as he orders Kiefer to set the cab ablaze. An FBI chopper descends, blinding everyone but Montgomery, who expects it. He grabs a gun and shoots blindly as he dives into the cab. He drives it straight out of the warehouse and into the river. Underwater, he struggles to pull Alison from the trunk. The FBI raid the warehouse. Harlan apologizes to Montgomery. Alison asks if she can go home with her father.

Comments:

Medallion is fast-paced and contains no shortage of action, but it mines every available cliché in constructing a weak story that offers little satisfaction. As written, it merits a pass.

The first act offers promise that the screenplay never exploits. After going into details on the obscene diffculty of finding a particular New York City, how similar it is to finding a needle in a haystack, Montgomery finds the cab with minimal diffuclty. Instead of taking this grain of uniqueness and building it into a clever action movie, the script provides Montgomery with a series of external obstacles, unrelated to finding the cab. While Montgomery spends most of the first and second acts getting chased as he pursues the taxi, the writer plunders new depths of ridiculousness in the third act. The two-person impromptu bank-heist is too absurd to take seriously, obliterating what little suspense and momentum the story generated. The whole thing descends into an unsatisfying, standard-issue gunfight and rescue.

The plot might seem less uninspired if the writer bothered to engender any interest in his characters. They don’t have a shred of individuality, from each other or from other action-movie characters. Cartoonishly evil villains, overly hostile cops, an antihero who just wants to save his precocious daughter, an old friend who inevitably betrays the hero… All of these archetypes have been done better elsewhere. Here, they don’t feel like living, breathing people. They’re just props the writer guides through a dull plot.

If the stunts and action sequences don’t measure up, this script will offer nothing else to engage the audience.

Posted by D. B. Bates on May 2, 2009 1:46 PM