Trespass

Author: Karl Gajdusek & Eli Richbourg & Milo Addica
Genre: Thriller/Crime
Storyline: 7
Dialogue: 7
Characterization: 7
Writer’s Potential: 7

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Recommendation?

Pass

Logline:

When a gang of thieves holds a family hostage, the family is forced to face up to the lies they’ve been telling each other, and themselves, for years.

Synopsis:

KATE BROOKS (35) arrives at her large, isolated home. The inside is as nice as the outside, signs of wealth abound. Her husband, IAN, has a titanium briefcase with a high-tech lock cuffed to his wrist. He pops open the briefcase, then pops open the safe, without the audience ever seeing what’s inside either. Kate pencils adjustments on an architectural blueprint for an incomplete extension to their house. She immediately gets into an argument with her daughter, AVERY (15), who’s dressed above her age to go to a party with older guys. Kate forbids it, calling every’s best friend a bad influence. Ian reluctantly gets involved, and both women turn on him — Kate because he’s never home, Avery because he automatically takes Kate’s side. Ian sends Avery to her room when she calls Kate a bitch. Later, Kate brings Avery dinner and has a calmer heart-to-heart with Avery, who apologizes for calling her a bitch. Avery locks herself in her room and, while her parents are distracted with rekindling their romance, she sneaks out to meet her best friend, KENDRA, both of them carefully avoiding the motion sensors on the home’s alarm system.

Kate’s romantic machinations don’t have the desired effect. It’s clear from Ian’s distracted reaction and Kate’s anger that their marriage is collapsing. While Avery and Kendra arrive at a suburban McMansion to join the party, Ian and Kate are surprised when police show up. Suspecting Avery has been caught stealing again, Kate goes upstairs to get her from her room and finds the door locked. She finds the keys to unlock it and discovers the room is empty, but that’s not so much of a problem when the cops reveal they’re not cops at all — they’re thieves dressed as cops, wearing creepy baby doll masks. Ian notices this and shouts for Kate to run. She flees to the garage, leaping into Ian’s Porsche as COP #2 chases her. She manages to get out of the garage, but COP #1 stands at the edge of the driveway, holding Ian at gunpoint. JAKE (19), the guy throwing the party, wants to sleep with Avery, even after he finds out her real age. Terrified, she turns him down. He tries to impress her by opening a walk-in safe and pulling out bundles of cash, which he uses to snort cocaine. Avery decides to leave the party.

Cop #1 and Cop #2 shove Ian and Kate back inside the house. Cop #1 is smaller and more nervous and intelligent. Cop #2 is a big, calm sociopath, who keeps counting down the number of minutes they have before police are likely to be alerted to their presence. They meet the third accomplice, BABY DOLL, a woman who is very impressed with the house and doesn’t seem to realize how serious the situation is. The gang disables all the phones. They demand the code for the Brookses’ alarm system. After stalling them, Kate finally gives it up. Cop #1 panics, realizing alarm companies usually allow two passwords: the real one, and an emergency one that alerts police. Kate apologizes. Cop #1 leads them into Ian’s office and orders Ian to open his safe. Ian refuses, asking them what they expect to find. Cop #1 tells them they know things about Ian, and the action flashes back to Ian attempting to sell diamonds to jewelers. Ian offers them a deal: since all diamonds have to be registered, his would easily be traced back if they stole them. Ian tells them he’ll take them to a “gray market” dealer who will recut the diamonds to remove their serial numbers, then sell them and give Ian the money. The thieves don’t trust Ian, but he refuses to open the safe.

Cop #2 produces a hypodermic needle filled with ketamine, which he threatens to inject Kate with if Ian doesn’t cooperate. A SECURITY GUARD from their alarm company shows up, interrupting the threats. He’s also wearing a baby doll mask. Kate recognizes the body type, which Cop #1 picks up on. Kate flashes on three weeks ago. WILL, the security guard, was a workman repairing their cable, whom Kate found very attractive (and the feeling was mutual, although they never acted on it). In the present, she begs Will for help, but he’s under the thumb of Cop #1. Will calls Baby Doll by her real name, TONI, when he’s alarmed by her pilfering the Brookses’ fancy things. Meanwhile, Avery arrives home from the party. As she sneaks up the driveway, Kendra calls. From inside, the thieves hear the phone and go on high alert. Cop #1 confronts Kate about knowing Will. He’s angry about the supposed coincidence. Ian demands to know what Cop #2 wants. He says he’s a debt collector, but hints that the debt may not be Ian’s. Cop #1 pulls off his mask, revealing himself as DON, and he concocts an elaborate story about Kate cheating on Ian with Will. She lets him believe the story. Avery enters the house, which the thieves notice quickly and go after her. Kate screams for Avery to get out of the house immediately. Avery runs for it, and Toni shoots at her incompetently, missing but causing Avery to take pause.

Once they’re all gathered in one room, Don informs them that his mother has a bad kidney, so he can either come up with $180,000 for a new kidney, or he’ll take one of theirs. Still, Ian refuses to open the safe. Don goes after Ian with the needle, but Kate gets the drop on him, pressing the needle to Don’s neck and threatening to kill him with the ketamine if the others don’t back off. Don barks orders for his people to kill the family the instant she dies. Weirdly, Kate uses this to threaten Ian: she will kill Don, prompting the others to kill the family, if Ian won’t open the safe. Ian does as she asks.

The safe clicks open, revealing that it’s completely empty. The thieves stare, baffled. They’ve done the recon — they know Ian is a diamond salesman, always taking important business trips. Ian tells them it’s an elaborate lie. He was fired but pretends he’s still employed for his family’s benefit. Ian vows to give them a kidney if he lets their family go. Don ices down the area and sterilizes the knife, keeping up the charade to terrify Ian before finally revealing the kidney “sob story” was never true. Cop #2 receives a phone call from someone who sounds like a boss. He informs Don that they have an hour to get the money, or they all die. Don strips the computers of their cables and tells Will to tie up the Brookses. Will whispers sweet nothings in Kate’s ear as he ties her up. Ian is horrified to discover that they know each other. Will insinuates they had sex, which Kate vehemently denies. Separated from the others, Don and Toni are terrified that “TY” (Cop #2) is going to kill them. They make plans to run off together, but Ty catches them.

Things add up for Ian: Kate staged this robbery, not knowing Ian’s dire financial situation. Kate sadly informs him she knew all about it. She tracked down the contractor working on their extension, he told her the reason he stopped work was because Ian stopped payment on a check, so she started digging. They start arguing about their lifestyle, and Ian is surprised to realize Kate doesn’t care about it as much as the family. Kate offers to give the criminals a diamond necklace Ian got for her. He adds a new, expensive diamond for every year of their marriage: 15 and counting. They agree to accept this, assuming it’ll cover the amount they need. Ian reveals it’s cubic zirconium. When he hit dire financial straits, he had to sell the diamonds and secretly replace them. The thieves don’t believe him, so he tells them to test it: diamonds don’t scratch. Don scratches them with a knife, and sure enough, they scratch. Kate’s as angry as the others. Meanwhile, Avery fakes a panic attack. Toni takes pity on her, which Avery uses to get the drop on her. It’s a short-lived attack, but it distracts the others long enough for Ian and Kate to smash a window, setting off their alarm. Will quickly plugs in the phone and fakes a party atmosphere. While Don and Ty hold Ian and Avery at gunpoint, Will forces Kate to get on the phone and pretend it’s all a misunderstanding.

The alarm company operator cancels the police call, but a security agent shows up anyway. Ty shoots him dead in cold blood, before Will has the chance to explain that this is protocol. All Kate would have had to do is sign a form verifying it was a misunderstanding. Ian tries to convince them there’s a second safe hidden inside the safe. Ty shoots Ian in the leg for making up such a horrible lie, and Don shoots Ty in the head for being such a hotheaded idiot. Shocked, Don and Will contemplate how they ended up here: Don was a big drug deal, but just when he finally made his big score, someone stole his $180,000, and now he’s in deep to gangsters. Toni’s a stripper who works at their club, and Ty is the muscle to ensure they get the money. Don orders Ian to open the briefcase. He does, but all they find inside are private detective’s photos of Kate and Will together. Fed up, Don decides it’s time to get rid of the Brookses — when Avery announces she can get them bricks of cash, from Jake’s house. All she has to do is go back to the party and sleep with him. Ian and Kate aren’t sure about this plan, but Don agrees to go ahead with it. He sends Toni with to make sure Avery doesn’t alert the cops.

Avery drives along a wet road full of hairpin curves. She intentionally rams the Porsche into a tree, steals Toni’s gun, shoots her dead, and staggers back in the direction of the house. Back at the house, Will’s mind starts to reel when Kate makes it abundantly clear that they never made love — his perception doesn’t match reality. She slipped, briefly, and allowed him to kiss her, and now he’s obsessed with the idea of rescuing her from what he perceives as a rotten life. Kate realizes that this is not a robbery: Will chose this family because of his delusion, and he stole Don’s $180,000 to finance his escape with Kate and Avery. Will denies it, but to Don, it makes a little bit too much sense. Just then, they realize Ty’s body is gone. They find him in the office, and Don shoots him in the gut. Ty confirms Will is the one who stole the money. Don’s fed up with all the lies, but he can’t dwell on it — Ian and Kate have run. They dive out the upstairs window into the unfinished extension. Don and Will hear them and follow. Ian shoots Don with a nail gun, and Don shoots back with his real gun, then strangles Kate. Will sees this and goes after his brother. The violence knocks away the drywall, revealing the walls of the extension are lined with hundred-dollar bills: $973,000, to be exact. Ian’s secret nest egg, which not even Kate knew about. Don illuminates the situation: Ian knew Kate was planning to leave him, so he hid all his assets so he’d have something left after the divorce. Ian denies this, but it’s not terribly convincing.

Don’s ready to finish them off — when Avery shows up, holding Toni’s gun on them. Will’s got a gun on Ian; Don has a gun on Kate. No matter who Avery shoots, one of her parents will die — except Will shoots Don before he can kill Kate. While Will has a mental breakdown, Kate grills Ian about the money. He explains he stole it from the company when they fired him unceremoniously. Ian asks if she was serious about the money not meaning anything? When she says yet, he lights a spilled can of paint thinner, which sends a trail of flame to the money, burning up the extension, and Will inside. The Brookses dive into their swimming pool, narrowly avoiding being engulfed in the flames. The fire spreads to the entire house. Just as Ian and Kate are able to reunite, but Will’s not through with them yet. Enraged, he goes after Kate, pulling her under. Ian dives in after. Avery watches the water, waiting for a sign of life. Eventually, Ian and Kate reemerge, while Will’s fire-blackened corpse lies at the bottom of the pool.

Later, as police and fire officials sort out what happened, Ian lets Kate and Avery know that diamonds, in fact, do scratch — but they don’t burn. Their insurance will pay off what they owe on the house, but if they can find the diamond necklace, they’ll have a nice new nest egg.

Comments:

Trespass strives to combine a hostage thriller with a serious meditation on deceit and class warfare. It’s a gamble that yields mixed results. Some of the twists are clever; some aren’t. Some of the attempts to turn the tables are intriguing and heighten the suspense; others are silly and undermine the characters. There’s interesting material buried in this script, but overall it’s too uneven to work. As written, it merits a pass.

The first act starts things well enough: an affluent family in tatters, with a workaholic husband, bored wife, and rebellious daughter all at odds. The thieves’ siege on the Brookses’ house is chillingly effective, but problems crop up in a hurry. The use of excessive, often misleading flashbacks quickly wears out its welcome, but the writers continue to insert such flashbacks throughout the script, to little effect. There’s no real separation time to allow the gang of thieves or the Brookses to convene and reveal things that are necessary to the development of the story or the characters, which creates one of the biggest problems in the script: these groups are frequently distracted by things that don’t matter — they’ll matter eventually, but not at the times they’re set up. For instance, stopping to discuss fond marital memories with, say, a gun or a needle jammed into their necks rings false and casts a frustrating pall over the entire story.

Once Avery returns to the story in the second act, things start to get redundant. The writers effectively stick her into the same perilous situations Ian and/or Kate faced earlier in the first and second acts, only this time it’s the parents reacting to their child instead of a husband and wife reacting to each other. However, with similar situations and identical reactions. From there, the cause-effect chain moves too rapidly to build any real suspense. Take, for example, Kate’s decision to trip their home security alarm. It’s resolved almost instantly, with Kate dismissing it over the phone while her family stands at gunpoint. Not resolving it so quickly or tidily could have allowed for more natural discussions among the thieves about why they’re really at the house, and whether it was better to be arrested for murder or try to flee knowing gangsters want them dead, all the while building suspense as the Brookses listen to them discussing their options and realizing it doesn’t look good for them.

The third act resorts to standard action-movie fare. How many times have movies like this ended up in an under-construction area of the house, allowing the heroes to use all manner of construction equipment to surprise the villains? Worse than that, the script verges on horror movie territory. Every single thought-dead character gets up at least once, shambling like a zombie, unwilling to simply die. It’d be frightening and suspenseful if it happened once; three times, and it just seems silly. Burning the house, starting with the money lining the walls, is a little too over-the-top in terms of symbolism, but the resolution with the diamond necklace worked fairly well.

By design, the characters remain mysterious, almost until the third act. They hide things initially, then reveal things that turn out to be lies, before flashbacks eventually reveal the truth. This makes it fairly difficult to get a read on the characters and their motivations: did Ian really steal money from his company to get revenge, or was he planning a secret nest egg to hide from his wife? Was Kate telling the truth about Will, or did she lie because she knew he was too unstable to separate reality and fantasy? It’s hard to understand why the characters have done the things they have when the writers try to hide what they’ve actually done. The villains only fare better because their lies have less gray area than the Brookses: they’re bad people, even if they’re lying about why they’re bad. Overall, every character ends up suffering at the hands of the writers. The aforementioned decision to have them each get distracted from the immediate situation, in order to deliver otherwise irrelevant backstory or foreshadowing, makes them all seem a little inconsistent, a little stupid, and a little hard to believe.

Posted by D. B. Bates on May 7, 2010 11:12 PM