presented by Suburban Films
written by Chris Shue
Let me start by
saying that if you get a chance to read the whole movie, please do. I
understand, however, that we all have RL commitments and sometimes the
plot summaries just have to suffice!
The movie opens in 1994
with a scene of the lead character, Michael Stevens (Vince Vaughn),
walking down a downtown Boston street. As he nears his destination, a bomb
goes off in the building where his fiancée, Allison (Natasha Wagner)
works. We find out later that it was an abortion clinic bombing and that
Allison was killed by the blast.
Title and credits roll
over a montage of the next nine years of Stevens’ life. We see him doing
a number of things. Attending Allison’s funeral. Alone in his room,
crying. Crying in the arms of Janice, Allison's best friend, (Emily
Watson). Fitfully sleeping. Attending the FBI Training Academy. Reading
newspaper accounts of the bombing that killed Allison. Graduating from the
FBI Academy. Marrying Janice. Doing deskwork at FBI headquarters. Sitting
alone in the dark of his new home. Holding his newborn baby while his
toddler son crawls into his lap. Crying in the arms of his wife. This
montage lasts approximately five minutes, giving us insight into the
trajectory of his life over a nine year period.
It is now 2003 and
Michael is meeting in a motel room with his boss, Cliff Howard (Phillip
Baker Hall). They are both members of the FBI's Domestic Anti-Terrorism
Unit. Howard informs Michael of a top-secret directive he has received
that involves killing suspected domestic terrorist threats in the US. The
directive specifically allows the use of assassination as a means of combating
Michael's first target,
Max Davis, is a member of the Texas Freedom Party. Stevens is briefed that
Davis is masterminding a plot to blow up an office building in Austin,
Texas. Stevens flies to Texas, finds Davis and kills him. Stevens begins
to have frequent dreams that involve Allison, the abortion clinic bombing
and Davis. He feels a strange catharsis from killing Davis, however. After
the killings we are privy to the conversation of two unknown individuals,
discussing the operation. They mention Buxton Swain (Jon Voight) in some
context. We later learn that Swain is an ultra-conservative religious
leader that is considering a run at the Republican nomination for
Michael's new found
obsession with Allison's death and his situation at work are straining
things at home with his family. Janice, his wife, feels Michael growing
Michael soon receives
another directive at a meeting with Howard and a new agent, David Arnold
(Nick Nolte). He and Arnold are to travel to Boston to find and kill an
anti-abortion terrorist, James Faldo (Lucian).
Michael finds Faldo in a
bar in South Boston and spends the evening drinking with him before luring
him out to the car and killing him. After he kills him he has a major
catharsis, pounding Faldo's body with his fists, taking all of his pent-up
We learn a bit more
about the objective as we listen in on a conversation between the same two
male voices as earlier. We learn that Buxton Swain is the final target,
perhaps because his political star is rising. One of the men comments on
how Stevens seemed to be the perfect choice, but that they were going to
have to come up with a way to get rid of him after the operation is over.
Meanwhile, Swain has officially declared for the 2004 Presidential
Stephen Jackson (Don Cheadle), a fellow agent, is in town for training and
comes over to have dinner with Michael and his family. They stay up late
No. We just
started working together two weeks ago.
guy is infamous. He’s been suspended at least twice. He beat up
one of his partners and put him in the hospital. He “accidently”
shot another one during a drug bust. That’s the stuff that’s on
his official record. The other stuff is rumored and much worse.
completely corrupt. Like he has shaken down hundreds of people. Like
he has killed several crooks when they’re business dealings got
out of hand. Of course, it's all rumor, but he is supposed to be on
administrative duty until his retirement. There is no way they would
let him work with your Unit. No freakin’ way.
looks squarely at Michael).
What kind of
shit are you involved with Michael? You are talking in general terms
about all of these “directives”, but it doesn’t sound like the
kind of procedures the Bureau follows. I don’t know that much
about Cliff Howard, but I know that Arnold is no good. Michael, tell
me you aren’t breaking the law.
Michael looks away
from Stephen. He is heavily conflicted, his face looks pained. The
number of questions racing in his head are making him dizzy.
can’t. I can’t tell you anything. It’s high-level stuff. I am
not even sure what is going on. I don’t know anymore. The whole
operation is completely insulated. Nobody knows what is going on. We
meet away from the office and don’t file reports and…
Michael trails off.
ok. Let me make some phone calls at least. Just poke around a
OK. That would
probably help. I don’t know what is going on with me lately. I
have just been consumed with thoughts of Allison and the bombing. I
think work is taking a toll on me. Janice has got to be sick of me.
I am just not the same person anymore. I don’t know who the hell I
am. I am just becoming this detached, soulless thing. All I can
think about is revenge and justice and…shit I don’t know. The
anger and regret is paralyzing sometimes. I’m a goddamn stranger
to myself and my family.
this stream-of-consciousness semi-confession to Stephen. Stephen looks
at him warily. Michael begins crying and buries his hands in his face.
(patting him on the back)
Michael, it’s ok. It’s ok. I’ll make some calls. Se what I can
find out. You take it easy. Go upstairs and tell your wife you love
her. Take a couple of days off work. We’ll get you straightened
Michael is still unsure
of what is happening to him. Part of him is still very into the objective
he is involved with. Then several events occur that send him to the brink.
The following scenes
are played as another montage against slow, deliberate music. We sense the
struggle in Michael during these scenes, as he realizes he is going over
the edge. There are numerous close-ups of his face as we move through
three separate scenes: the first is Cliff, David and he discussing another
objective. The music fades in
and out as we catch sections of the objective. We hear “separatist”
“Franklin Garrett” “destroy a federal building” and “secluded in
The second is David
and Michael scoping out a small run down house in a clearing. They see
trucks come and go. The same man keeps coming outside to relieve himself.
The last scene is
during the night and David and Michael standing up against what appears to
be the same house. When the same man from the previous scene, presumably
Franklin Garrett, David grabs him while Michael moves to strangle him.
Another man comes out of the house and surprises them. David turns and in
one move, knocks him down and pulls a knife out, slitting the man’s
neck. Michael is struggling to strangle Garrett, but when he sees David
slit the other man’s throat, all of the strength goes out of him and
Garrett struggles free. Garrett gets up and start to run, when he suddenly
collapses from a gunshot to the back of the head from David’s gun. The
camera ends on Michael’s face. He looks like he’s in shock. David
pulls him up on his feet and they move quickly into the woods.
When Michael returns
to DC, he gets a call from Stephen, filling him in on David Arnold and
Cliff Howard. It turns out that Arnold was kicked out of the FBI the
previous year and that Howard is currently under investigation. During
their conversation, Stephen's line goes dead. Michael runs 8 blocks up the
street to the hotel where he is staying. There is an incident at the hotel
when the clerk tells Michael that Stephen Jackson is not registered at the
hotel. After some shouting and threats, Michael runs out of the hotel and
takes a taxi home.
He arrives home to
find David Arnold speaking to Janice in the living room. Michael threatens
David, but they go into the backyard to talk. After a brief scuffle, David
tells Michael that if he deviates from the current operation, Janice and
the children will be killed. In addition, he tells Michael that the people
they have killed so far have all been innocent. Just decoys to get Michael
deeply involved in the directive. Michael, upon learning this, throws up.
The final scenes are
quick, so I will include them here. Michael is to kill Buxton Swain and
businessman Roy Huffins (Joe Don Baker). Howard tells him that once this
directive is completed, he is free to walk away. Thanks for reading:
INT. ROY HUFFINS BEDROOM – EVENING
completely bizarre scene as Buxton Swain is having sex with a young
woman obviously not his wife, while Roy Huffins sits on a couch
about 10 feet away from them, doing coke in the nude. The phone
rings and Huffins gets up and goes into the other room to answer it.
here. We’re at the airport. We’ll be there in about two hours.
No one is here except us. We should be in the study. Come in the
back entrance. I won’t even know you’re here till I see you.
see if you can get him loaded or something.
working on it. David?
you have my money?
course I do. Now hang up.
INT. STEVENS HOUSE - NIGHT
is cleaning up the dinner dishes when the phone rings.
Where are you? Are you at the office? I called but they said you had
left this afternoon.
don’t worry about where I am. I just wanted to tell you that when
I come home, you are getting your husband back. I know I have been
preoccupied and distant lately, but I think I am over that.
I am going to start treating you like the incredible woman you are.
You deserve so much better and when I get back tomorrow I am going
to start treating you like that. Janice, I love you SOOOO MUCH.
Please forgive me.
yes of course! I love you too! I will always love you. I know how
tough you have had it lately and I just want you to know that I will
always be there for you, no matter what. No. Matter. What.
Honey, I have to go, but I will call you later tonight. I wanna
move…get the hell out off the East Coast…go be a farmer in Iowa
or something…whaddya think?
of course! Whatever you want! I just want you to be happy…I’m
just glad you’re happy again. We can talk about all of this when
you come home. Come home quick!
right honey, I love you. I’ll talk to you later tonight. Bye.
(smiling from ear to ear)
I love you too!
EXT. ROY HUFFIN’S ESTATE – NIGHT
and Arnold park about a block up the street and walk slowly up to
Huffins’ mansion. They walk through the front yard and go around the
back. David tries the handle to the sliding glass door and quietly
slides it open.
INT. ROY HUFFINS STUDY – NIGHT
and Swain sip brandy and talk about his campaign. Huffins lights a
victory cigar and lights one for Swain as well. They make a toast to the
election. Huffins tells some off-color jokes, sending Swain into spasms
INT. HALLWAY TO ROY HUFFINS’ STUDY – NIGHT
and Arnold move slowly down the hallway. Both have their guns drawn.
They can hear laughter coming from the study. Arnold gives Michael the
look and mouths “follow me” as they stride toward and into the
INT. ROY HUFFINS STUDY – NIGHT
and even Huffins are completely startled by the appearance of Michael
and David Arnold.
the fuck are you? What are you doing in my house? You come to rob me
you pansy asses?
up! Just shut up, please. Get up and turn off that music.
gets up, walks over and turns off the music. The room is now eerily
one of you is Buxton Swain.
me. I mean that’s me. I’m Buxton Swain.
lifts his gun leveling it at Swain’s forehead. About five feet of
carpet separates them.
your prayers, Reverend Swain.
of fire and Swain’s head snaps back. Blood trickles down his forehead.
Michael stands in shock, his gun dangling by his side.
on, Michael…we don’t have all night. Kill Huffins and let’s
is sitting there impassively, staring at Michael. Michael, shaking now,
lifts his gun and aims it at Huffins.
is a crashing sound and the camera pans back to reveal Michael lying
facedown on the floor, blood pouring from his head. Arnold stands with
his arm extended, smoke wafting from his gun, right next to where
Michael had been standing. We focus on Michael’s face for several
seconds, then cut to Huffins.
Christ…you scared the shit out of me! What if he had shot me?
Dammit I want two million now, you son of a …<<BANG>>.
turns and shoots Huffins in the chest, driving him back onto the couch.
Arnold pauses for a second and surveys the damage, then works quickly.
He takes the gun from Michael’s hand and puts it in his own pocket. He
places his gun in Michael’s hand and arranges his body as if Michael
had shot himself. He does a fast scan of the study and the hall, then is
INT. DARK OFFICES – NIGHT
same two men who have been speaking throughout the film are again
talking. We can make out the shadow of one man as Cliff Howard, but
still don’t recognize the second man.
Cliff is standing looking out his office window – we can see
the Washington Monument in the distance.
done. He’s gone and Michael has been taken care of as we
MALE VOICE #2
God. This has gone on for a seeming eternity. This is going to hit
the press like a fireball. Thank you, Cliff. We will talk again in a
couple of months.
welcome, Mr. Vice- President. It looks like your path is now clear.
INT. CHANNEL 4 NEWS STUDIO – NIGHT
news anchors, a man and a woman, are opening their broadcast.
shocking discovery this afternoon, as the bodies of Buxton Swain and
two other men were found in the study of Atlanta billionaire Roy
Huffins. There is no confirmation on the identities of the other two
bodies, but reports at this time indicate some type of
murder-suicide, although we are still getting details.
LaRoche from Atlanta Station WWRG-TV
is on the scene at the Huffins’ mansion. Joyce can you hear me…
INT. STEVENS FAMILY ROOM – NIGHT
sits alone on the couch watching the news about a murder-suicide in
Atlanta that claimed the life of Buxton Swain, the frontrunner for the
Republican Presidential nomination.