Untitled Lucas & Moore Comedy (a.k.a., Flypaper)

Author: Jon Lucas & Scott Moore
Genre: Thriller/Comedy
Storyline: 7
Dialogue: 7
Characterization: 6
Writer’s Potential: 7

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Recommendation?

Pass

Logline:

While two rival teams of bank robbers pull simultaneous heists on a Manhattan bank, the hostages try to figure out why one of the customer’s was murdered.

Synopsis:

Shortly before a midtown Manhattan bank closes, two teams of thieves descend on it: one very professional (comprised of DARRIEN, 40s, black, pragmatic; WEINSTEIN, 50s, white, nerdy; and GATES, 20s, safecracker extraordinaire, mildly psychotic), the other incredibly amateurish (hayseed pals known only as PEANUT BUTTER — hereafter P.B. — and JELLY). Shaking a bit, TRIPP (30s, charming) flirts with the teller, KAITLIN (30s, pretty), while she cashes his check. He asks for the location of the nearest pharmacy. The professional crew comes in through the roof of the bank, while the amateurs burst through the front doors. There’s a standoff, followed by an argument among the two teams. Hidden somewhere, a sniper shoots a customer in a Jets jacket, causing each team to open fire on the other. The customers dive behind the counter; everyone flattens to avoid getting injured. Fascinated by the killed customer, Tripp asks Kaitlin to let him use the intercom. She allows it. He makes a general announcement that he’ll be stepping into the fray to check on the shot customer. The robbers are all so flummoxed by this that they stop shooting. Darrien threatens to shoot Tripp, who announces that not only does Darrien not need to kill another hostage, the two groups can go ahead with their plans without killing each other. Using keen powers of observation brought about by a mental disorder, Tripp knows that P.B. and Jelly want to rob the ATMs, while Darrien and his crew want the vault. They can do their business and go their separate ways.

With that in mind, the two groups band together to lock the hostages in the kitchen area, where we meet the rest of our hostages: MADGE (60s and salty); REX (30s, a loan officer who gleefully announces he’s trained in handling robbery situations); MITCHELL (40s, the computer guy); GORDON (50s, the kind, diabetic manager); SWISS MISS (30s, an icy Nordic beauty who never speaks); and MR. CLEAN (40s, an ex-con security guard). Darrien’s crew has a very elaborate plan — they disable the motion-sensor alarms, unfurl a tarp in front of the windows with a tapestry of a totally empty lobby, and spraypaint the kitchen windows black. As Rex tries to keep everyone calm, Tripp constantly undermines Rex’s points and theories about handling themselves in a crisis. Tripp runs out of his medication, which worries him. He’s never run out of it before. Weinstein and P.B. supervise the hostages during their phone calls to loved ones. They find Tripp so annoying, they want to kill him. Meanwhile, Darrien works on getting through the extremely complicated vault. He and Jelly trade notes; Jelly leaves humiliated by his own incompetence.

P.B. and Jelly strap some C-4 to the ATMs. When they detonate, it activates an extra layer of security on the vault. Also, the force of the C-4 causes the ATM door to fuse to the unit instead of blowing apart. In the kitchen, Tripp leads the hostages in speculating as to why Jets Jacket was killed while they’re all alive. He notes standard bank-robber procedure of killing all hostages in the event one of them is killed. The others consider the possibility that each team thinks the other killed Jets Jacket, so none of them are willing to kill the hostages. Using his photographic memory, Tripp realizes Jets Jacket wasn’t killed in the crossfire — he was intentionally murdered for some reason, which means one of the teams has a double agent who’s more interested in his own agenda than the team. Fortunately, Tripp stole Jets Jacket’s wallet when he examined the body. He finds a clue: Jets Jacket (now known as Hayes) has a debit card for a different bank. Mitchell is annoyed that nobody on the street heard the gunfire and called the police. Gordon sheepishly admits that he had increased soundproofing installed to create a better atmosphere for customers. Tripp talks to Kaitlin about what he’s observed about her engagement. Based solely on the size of her ring and the photos she has in her teller booth, he decides she and her fiancé are not a good pair, and she’s only marrying him for money. Kaitlin’s insulted and defensive. Later, Tripp figures out a way to wriggle through the vents out of the kitchen. Everyone’s afraid he’ll get them all killed, but Tripp assures them he’ll be quiet.

In the lobby, P.B. and Jelly’s stupidity gets in the way of the other team — a powerful explosion breaks the fiber-optic camera they’re using to watch the kitchen, as well as Weinstein’s laptop and one of the windows in the kitchen, exposing their true identities to every hostage. Weinstein and Gates are ready to shoot P.B. and Jelly until Tripp drops out of a vent. Angry that he can’t kill anyone, Gates shoots Jelly’s ear off. P.B.’s angry, leaving Weinstein to break up the scuffle. With them distracted, Tripp wanders around, trying to dig up information on who would have murdered Hayes. All the hostages, including Tripp, are shoved into Rex’s windowless office, where Tripp starts interrogating other hostages as possible accomplices, starting with Mitchell, who would be performing a security upgrade on the computers as soon as they closed, leaving them vulnerable. Mitchell admits that he is working with the robbers. Weinstein takes the hostages on a bathroom break. They snoop around but find no clues. Kaitlin remembers that Mr. Clean wasn’t scheduled to work today and never, ever works Tuesdays. In the bathroom, they find a suspicious bag containing night vision goggles. Meanwhile, Jelly and Gates contentiously compare their rankings on the FBI’s online bank robber database. Not surprisingly, P.B. and Jelly are ranked rather low in comparison to the more professional team, but neither can touch master bank robber Vicellous Drum — not even Darrien and Weinstein, who once worked with Drum.

On their way back from the bathroom, P.B. and Jelly demand a volunteer to detonate their next ATM bomb. They’re both a little skittish about getting killed. Tripp volunteers. He sets up the ignitor and dives intentionally close to Hayes’s body. He searches Hayes and finds a shoulder-holstered gun. When the explosion doesn’t detonate, P.B. and Jelly are confused and Tripp is suspicious. Then they see Tripp holding the gun and panic. Tripp kicks the gun over to Darrien’s team, insulting P.B. and Jelly. Darrien recognizes it as an FBI-issued gun. Suddenly, the ATM explodes, surprising everyone. Shortly thereafter, they hear gunshots in the bathroom. When they go to investigate, they find Weinstein and Mitchell have shot and killed each other. Tripp makes Darrien and Gates suspicious about why Weinstein waited so long to go after Mitchell and why Weinstein didn’t bring anyone else for backup. Darrien refuses to believe Weinstein would double-cross him. Later, Kaitlin watches as Tripp pulls open Weinstein’s open mouth and retrieves a remote control clicker — the key to getting Darrien’s crew out of the bank. She’s suspicious.

Although close to breaking through the vault, Darrien and Gates can’t quite make it. Darrien decides the job is over, and they should just pack up and leave. Gates convinces him to stick it out, then calls all the hostages into the lobby to announce that he’s now in charge, and he won’t let them run rampant. Darrien turns on his plasma cutter, which explodes, killing him. Gates forces all the hostages back into Rex’s office. Tripp sneaks out almost immediately. Gates decides to team up with P.B. and Jelly, using their explosives to blow the vault now that the torch is gone. Gordon tries to make small talk with Kaitlin. They start talking quietly about Rex and quickly grow suspicious — he’s having dire financial problems, and he’s an expert on robbery procedure. Jelly catches Tripp following him. He’s getting shakier by the moment. Tripp shows Jelly that the C-4 ignitors have been tampered with so they don’t detonate, which proves a conspiracy. Jelly tells him it could be their point man, whom they haven’t met. The point man merely faxed them the location and plan, because faxing is safer than e-mail. Jelly hands Tripp a copy of the fax.

Gordon has a sudden diabetic attack. The other hostages try to help him. Rushing back to the office, Tripp manages to get Gordon’s glucose shot and inject him just in the nick of time. Tripp’s surprised by how quickly it takes effect. Gates comes to threaten them, when Tripp pulls Jelly’s gun. He reveals the remote key and tells Gates he’ll trade it for a conversation. Tripp asks Gates about their point man; Gates said their robbery was also arranged by fax. Tripp trades the gun for the fax. Back in the office, Tripp has a hard time focusing because of his lack of medication. He knows the faxes, the goggles, and the clicker in Weinstein’s mouth are all connected, but he can’t figure out how. In an attempt to get him focused, Kaitlin kisses him. While Tripp tries to work things out, Kaitlin realizes Swiss Miss has disappeared. They soon fine that she’s been killed and shoved above the office’s ceiling. Hearing the commotion, Jelly enters the office. Studying the fax, Tripp realizes something. Just as P.B. and Gates are about to blow the same, Tripp and the hostages storm toward them. Tripp announces that this isn’t a robbery.

Tripp lays it all out: based on blemishes on the paper, the faxes were all sent from the same machine, meaning they were invited there by the same person, and Tripp concludes that it’s master thief Vicellous Drum. Tripp explains: Hayes was the FBI agent on Drum’s tail, P.B. and Jelly ratted on Drum in order to reduce their own recent prison sentence, Weinstein and Darrien were tempted to flip on him, Mitchell has helped Drum break down bank security all over the world, Gates talks shit about Drum on the Internet, and Swiss Miss was helping him move stolen money through Swiss accounts. All of them were invited here to kill each other so Drum wouldn’t have to, and he intentionally set it up so it wouldn’t look like he’s involved. But it’s more than just a setup — Drum actually is among them, making sure the right people get killed. He killed Weinstein and Mitchell and staged it to look like they killed each other, he rigged Darrien’s torch to explode, he tampered with P.B. and Jelly’s ignitors — but who is he? Tripp and Kaitlin figure out how the night-vision goggles fit in: the easiest way to take out a bunch of armed criminals is by cutting power and killing them in the dark. They reason that whoever takes the goggles is Vicellous Drum.

They go back to the lobby, where they find Gates in a standoff with P.B. and Jelly. They’ve managed to get into the vault and stuff two duffelbags — one for each “team” — full of money, but now each thinks the other is Vicellous Drum. He presses the remote key — and nothing happens. He quickly discovers the battery is gone. Kaitlin grabs a gun and announces Vicellous Drum has it. All eyes turn to Tripp, as does Kaitlin’s gun. She reasons that Tripp is the only one who makes sense as Drum. He immediately runs away. She shoots at him, hitting him in the arm. Tripp hides. Suddenly, he’s not the shaky, semi-insane person we’ve come to know — he’s in survival mode, expertly making a tourniquet using duct tape. He cuts the power. Everyone panics, including the robbers. Jelly announces he’ll give up the money in exchange for his life.

Suddenly, gunshots ring out. Mr. Clean is killed. Gates is shot in the face. Everyone dives to the floor as a shadowy figure moves through the dark bank, trying to kill people. He rushes toward the bathroom for the night vision goggles. It turns out, Vicellous Drum is actually Gordon. Tripp holds a gun on him, explaining how brilliant yet simple the plan was. Work as a harried yet level-headed bank manager until he can set exactly the right trap, lure in all the people who could tie him to crimes, and wait for them to kill each other. Gordon confirms Tripp’s suspicions, but he points out that everyone already believes Tripp is Drum, so he can either shot sickly old Gordon and confirm their suspicions, or Gordon can kill Tripp and be hailed as a hero. The lights suddenly turn back on, distracting Gordon long enough for Tripp to flee. Gordon continues trying to convince them all that Tripp is drum, but the others are one step ahead of him: Tripp and Kaitlin faked the suspicion of Tripp in order to get the real Drum to reveal himself. Gordon refuses to surrender, so everyone with a gun — of which there are many, at this point — empties their clips on Gordon. Tripp lets P.B. and Jelly leave with the money.

Hours later, an EMT gives Tripp a temporary refill on his prescription. The police talk with Tripp and Kaitlin about what happen. Kaitlin reveals that she switched the money bags, so P.B. and Jelly made off with about $60 worth of deposit slips. The police are shocked that anyone would give the money back. Speaking pointedly at Tripp, Kaitlin announces she doesn’t need the money. Tripp’s impressed. Although he’s fallen for her, Tripp is willing to wish her well and leave her to her fiancé, but Kaitlin has fallen in love with Tripp, too. They kiss.

Comments:

Despite its non-title, Untitled Lucas and Moore Comedy is less a comedy than a heist thriller with occasional humorous one-liners. Its story may not hold up under close scrutiny, but it’s entertaining and fast-paced enough to remain compelling throughout. The characters, however, are a bit less impressive. As written, it merits a pass.

The first act sets up an amusing yet surprising scenario, as two independent groups of bank robbers attempt to make a score at the same bank, at the same time. The writers keep the heist plotting unpredictable and intriguing, but they really hit their masterstroke with the idea that one obsessively attentive hostage will realize a murder mystery’s afoot and spend the rest of the script trying to solve it.

The second act is devoted primarily to deepening the mystery, allowing each character to develop as they become suspects in Hayes’s death. Having two sets of thieves mingling with hostages allows for more variety and conflict as the thieves turn against each other, band together against the hostages, and then stop trusting anyone as the story coasts into the third act. Once all is finally revealed, the writers go overboard on explaining the plot. Although the ultimate mystery — that a master criminal has pitted them all against each other to tie up his own loose ends — is reasonably clever, it’s not clever enough to warrant the reams of dialogue devoted to unspooling every intricate detail.

Although the heist storyline is pretty good, the romantic subplot between Tripp and Kaitlin falls flat. Part of this is a result of Tripp not being the most compelling lead. His mental disorder seems less a character attribute than a conduit to deliver information about the plot whenever the writers move on to the next point, and aside from it making him tremble once in awhile, he never seems to struggle with it. Aside from the disorder, he doesn’t really have any other dimension. Similarly, Kaitlin is given a single bland character trait — she’s only interested in her fiancé for money — but doesn’t do much more than act as a springboard for Tripp’s crazy theories. The fact that Tripp and Kaitlin can have a conversation with each other doesn’t mean they’ve fallen in love.

Although the writers tell us a great deal about the supporting characters (because they all become suspects in Hayes’s murder), they’re never allowed to develop naturally, and few of them have the opportunity to show much personality. The hostages have a few nice character moments apiece but are mostly relegated to the background. Gates’s megalomania comes the closest to distinguishing him from the other robbers, but P.B. and Jelly are pretty much interchangeable, as are Darrien and Weinstein (aside from their physical descriptions).

The script has some fun moments, and the main storyline is very engaging. It’s possible that a capable enough cast can make some of the weaker elements — like the love story — work, but it seems more likely that this script needs a rewrite or two to work out its kinks.

Posted by D. B. Bates on October 27, 2009 1:39 PM