Protection (a.k.a., Bullet for the Border)

Author: Brandon Noonan
Genre: Action
Storyline: 1
Dialogue: 3
Characterization: 1
Writer’s Potential: 1

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Recommendation?

Pass

Logline:

After failing to escort a political family through Mexico, a mercenary must cross the U.S. border to find the family’s daughter, who’s been targeted by a vicious gang.

Synopsis:

A group of private security men prepare to lead the Mexican governor from Mexico City to Phoenix, Arizona, for a court appearance regarding gang members. Security’s tight because the gang will attempt to attack them along the way. The group of security men have a tight rapport, with the exception of a white man only known as HOMBRE. He’s new, and he’s a loner. The deeper they move into Mexico City, the harder it is to control the situation around them. The SUV convoy is attacked, and most of the security men are killed, as is the governor and his wife. Daughter LUCY (16) is entrusted to Hombre, who’s been stabbed but is okay. Hombre carjacks a man in a Mercedes, and he and Lucy make their escape. While on the highway, Hombre’s bleeding increases and he loses consciousness. He awakens in a Catholic-run orphanage, being tended to by nuns. When he’s well enough to leave, the monsignor tells Hombre that the gangsters came to the orphanage because they recognized the stolen Mercedes. He managed to get Lucy out and hide Hombre, but they’ll track Lucy and kill her. He tells Hombre he sent Lucy to a cathedral to purchase safe passage to the U.S.

Hombre goes to the cathedral. He bribes CHRISTOPHER to gain passage of his own to the U.S. He’s led, along with 15 or so Mexicans, into a secret compartment in a truck, driven by PILATE. The truck is stopped in the middle of the desert by a group of soldiers. Hombre listens to Pilate talk to the soldiers. A MEXICAN WOMAN sitting next to Hombre has a mystery package that they want. Pilate takes it, then goes with the soldiers, abandoning the truck with the migrants locked in the secret compartment. When the migrants shout for Pilate to come back, one of the soldiers fires a single bullet into the truck. It kills the Mexican Woman and creates chaos. Hombre uses his knife to chop apart the wooden roof of the truck. He leads the migrants out, then climbs back down to tend to the Mexican Woman. Dying, she calls for her son, Alejandro. Hombre pulls her from the truck, then drives it until he catches up with the soldiers. He kills them all, then demands Pilate tell him where the next drop point is. Terrified, Pilate tells him. Hombre stabs Pilate with his knife. Hombre drives to the drop point, where he catches up with the migrants. Hombre takes Pilate’s place as the “coyote,” willing to lead them to the border.

PEDRO INFANTE, a sinister cop with gang ties, investigates the dead soldiers and Pilate. He sees the grave Hombre dug for the Mexican Woman, a little confused. Pilate’s ID leads Infante back to the cathedral, where he asks for Christopher’s help in tracking down the migrants. Meanwhile, Hombre and the migrants are shoved into a fruit truck, driven by white men into the U.S. They’re told to empty their pockets completely, then taken to a “drop house” in Phoenix, where they’re put in a basement. Hombre notices a young boy, ALEX, standing in the yard, waiting. Hombre watches as HECTOR, who runs the drop house, tells Alex something. Alex reacts in disbelief. Hombre looks at the locket he took from the Mexican Woman. Inside is a photo of Alex. Infante finds Hector when he returns to Mexico for the next group of migrants. He demands to know what the new “coyote” looked like. Hombre and the other migrants work as roofers. An older man, ALONZO, is in desperate need of water. Hombre sees Alex staring at them still. He yells for Alex to bring some water. Alex does. At lunchtime, Alex practices tricks on his bike when a group of gang bangers come and threaten him. Hombre steps in, and when they threaten him, Hombre attacks. The gang bangers are both frightened and angry. After beating some of them badly enough to scare the others away, Hombre tells Alex that he’s in Phoenix to find Lucy.

Alex takes Hombre to a youth center run by CEBALLOS, who denies seeing Lucy. Hombre sees through the lies and eventually admits he sent Lucy to a place called “Fashion 41.” An I.C.E. agent meets Infante on the tarmac of the Phoenix airport. Alex tells Homnbre that his dad died a year ago, and his mom’s on her way from Mexico. In the meantime, he’s been crashing at the homes of other kids in the neighborhood. They arrive in Phoenix’s Garment District and look for Fashion 41. Infante meets with gangsters FAUSTO and RONALDO, looking for Lucy and/or Hombre. Fashion 41 is a dull, disgusting factory. Hombre wanders among the workers, presenting a photo of Lucy and asking for help. Everyone ignores him, except the FLOOR MANAGER, whom Hombre beats until an OLD WOMAN explains that Lucy was at Fashion 41 but left days ago. Infante, Fausto, and a large group of gangsters also arrive at Fashion 41. When they see Hombre and Alex, they start shooting. Hombre and Alex make an escape. Infante follows them out. Hombre sends Alex away, then runs to an abandoned building. He runs to the roof while Infante shoots at him from the ground level. Hombre drops the locket on the way up, and Infante takes it. When Infante announces his name, Hombre recognizes it as the name of an old Mexican actor. Infante proudly states that he was more than an actor — for many years, he was Mexico. When Hombre insults the older Pedro Infante, his descendant gets angry and rushes up to the roof, but Hombre’s long gone.

Hombre stays with Alex, who’s living with his friend JAVIER (16). Infante has Fausto send his gangsters around town, looking for Hombre and Alex. They find Javier’s house in the middle of the night. Hombre tries to hide while Javier deals with the situation, but Alex wants to confront them. Realizing Alex is in over his head, Javier sends Alex away and makes up a story about him having mental problems. When the gangsters are gone, Javier complains to Hombre about migrants leaving Mexico to escape these gangsters, and now they’re here, too. The next morning, Hombre and Alex steal Javier’s car. Alex drives so Hombre can lay low. They wait at Ceballos’s youth center until Hombre stops some hired muscle. Alex follows them to a palatial estate, where a party is going on. Alex smoothly convinces the valets that he and Hombre are hired help. Sneaking around, Hombre finds Ronaldo in the study with his daughter. Ron is preoccupied with a leather-bound accounting ledger, which catche’s Hombre’s eye. Ron catches Hombre sneaking around and knows exactly who he is. They threaten one another, but Ron can’t do anything at this party. Hombre leaves, with the accounting ledger. Ron sees him go with it but can’t do anything with so many witnesses. Alex takes Hombre back to Ceballos, who admits he tried to get Lucy “off the radar” by sending her to what they call a hub, a cattle ranch where she can get new papers and disappear.

Hombre drives to the cattle ranch, but Fausto and his men have been tipped off. They fight in the middle of the killing floor, while the migrants flee in terror. All except one — Lucy, whose hair has been cut to make her look like a boy. Hombre kills Fausto, but cops arrive, and he’s forced to flee before getting to Lucy. Javier takes Hombre to VATO’s house for safety. Alex is there, too. He’s made “missing” posters for Lucy. Hombre’s touched by his thoughtfulness. One of Ron’s gangsters monitors security footage from the cattle ranch. He sees Hombre getting into Javier’s car, zooms in on the license plate, cross-references it with the DMV, and gets Javier’s address. Infante is alerted. From the roof, Hombre can see Javier’s place. It’s set on fire. Javier’s horrified and upset by this. Hombre suddenly realizes Alex is missing.

He’s with Infante, who feeds Alex a bunch of documents suggesting that Hombre is responsible for everything that’s happened so far, and he only wants Lucy so he can kill her. Alex doesn’t believe Infante until he produces the locket. Hombre asks Javier and Vato for guns and a ride. They’re angry at Infante and the gangs, so they’re happy to oblige. Hombre goes to a tenement complex where the gangsters are headquartered. He fights, shoots, and stabs his way inside. When he reaches Alex, Alex demands to know the truth from Hombre. Hombre tries to explain, but Alex doesn’t believe him. Hombre tells Alex everything she said before she died, and Alex realizes he could only know this if he was telling the truth. Infante and his gangsters start firing. Trying to keep Alex safe, Hombre retreats. Unable to escape, and unable to fight alone, Hombre gives Alex his knife. They fight together. Hombre returns to Infante, where they fight hand-to-hand. It’s a brutal assault, injuring both of them quite severely. Just before Infante delivers the deathblow, Alex drops the knife to Hombre, who stabs Infante in the neck.

Police arrive, arresting the gangsters who aren’t dead. When news of this breaks, Lucy seeks out Alex at Javier’s place. Alex and Javier visit Hombre at a fleabag motel, where he’s preparing to leave. They have brought Lucy. Hombre takes her to Ceballos, who takes her to a truck that will take her, and other migrants, very far away. Together, Hombre and Alex board a Greyhound bus.

Comments:

Protection tries to combine typical action-move plotting with a social conscience about the horrors of illegal immigration from Mexico to the U.S. Unfortunately, it uses the latter as little more than a stereotypical backdrop for uninspired action sequences. Since it also lacks a coherent plot and well-developed characters, the script simply fails on every level, meriting a pass.

By design, Hombre is such a man of mystery that the audience isn’t even told his real name, but his mystique is as dull and lifeless as the scripts many action scenes. It doesn’t make him intriguing or suspicious; it just makes him uninteresting, and without character development of any kind, it’s hard to care much about anything he does. Similarly, there’s absolutely no emotional connection between Hombre and Lucy. Hombre searches for her out of duty and civic responsibility, which is noble, but it certainly isn’t dramatic. Instead, the writer attempts to build an emotional connection with Alex, but it never quite works. Alex has some dimension, but Hombre’s stoicism makes it seem like Alex is baring his soul to a brick wall.

The script doesn’t have much story, so it’s surprising that it’s as frenzied and sloppy as it is. Characters refer to scenes that haven’t happened yet, some of them make cameo appearances long after Hombre has killed them, and minor details like Lucy’s father switching from a governor to a judge halfway through the script, all contribute to this incoherence. Otherwise, the story follows a rigid formula as Hombre pursues Lucy, battles Infante, and bonds with Alex. The first act sets Hombre on a course for Lucy, and Infante on a course for Hombre. In the second act, Hombre searches various places for Lucy as the body count rises. In the third act, he does away with Infante, and Lucy comes to him. The writer spends too much time trying to develop a bond between Hombre and Alex, who serves little purpose other than to keep the plot moving with his knowledge of Phoenix. The author builds little suspense or jeopardy regarding Lucy’s fate, so it’s hard to care much about about Hombre’s desperate search for her.

If Protection has a great, stylish director who can choreograph its many action sequences into a breathtaking tour de force, there might be some hope for it. However, it has too many story and character problems for it to ever truly succeed.

Posted by D. B. Bates on May 5, 2009 4:35 PM