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PLOT SUMMARY
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 terrorist threats.

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 President. 

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 increasingly distant.

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 aggressions out.

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 Election.

Michael's friend, 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 talking:

STEPHEN JACKSON

David Arnold? You’re kidding.

MICHAEL

No. We just started working together two weeks ago.

STEPHEN

Michael, that 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.

MICHAEL

Like what?

STEPHEN

Like he’s 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.

(He 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.

MICHAEL

Stephen…I…I 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.

STEPHEN

Look, it’s ok. Let me make some phone calls at least. Just poke around a little.

MICHAEL

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.

Michael continues this stream-of-consciousness semi-confession to Stephen. Stephen looks at him warily. Michael begins crying and buries his hands in his face.

STEPHEN
(patting him on the back)

Jesus, 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 out.

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 mountains”.

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:

34.    INT. ROY HUFFINS BEDROOM – EVENING

A 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.

HUFFINS
(irritated)

Hello?

MALE VOICE

We’re here. We’re at the airport. We’ll be there in about two hours.

HUFFINS

OK. 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.

MALE VOICE

OK, see if you can get him loaded or something.

HUFFINS

I’m working on it. David?

ARNOLD

What?

HUFFINS

Do you have my money?

ARNOLD

Of course I do. Now hang up.

35.    INT. STEVENS HOUSE - NIGHT

Janice is cleaning up the dinner dishes when the phone rings.

JANICE

Hello?

MICHAEL

Hey, its me!

JANICE

Michael! Where are you? Are you at the office? I called but they said you had left this afternoon.

MICHAEL

Honey, 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.

Seriously. 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.

JANICE

Baby, 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.

MICHAEL

OK, 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?

JANICE

Michael, 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!

MICHAEL

All right honey, I love you. I’ll talk to you later tonight. Bye.

JANICE
(smiling from ear to ear)

Bye. I love you too!

36.    EXT. ROY HUFFIN’S ESTATE – NIGHT

 

Michael 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.

37.    INT. ROY HUFFINS STUDY – NIGHT

 

Huffins 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 of laughter.

38.    INT. HALLWAY TO ROY HUFFINS’ STUDY – NIGHT

Michael 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 study.

39.    INT. ROY HUFFINS STUDY – NIGHT

Swain and even Huffins are completely startled by the appearance of Michael and David Arnold.

HUFFINS

Who the fuck are you? What are you doing in my house? You come to rob me you pansy asses?

MICHAEL

Shut up! Just shut up, please. Get up and turn off that music.

Huffins gets up, walks over and turns off the music. The room is now eerily silent.

 ARNOLD

Which one of you is Buxton Swain.

SWAIN
(terrified)

I…I…he’s me. I mean that’s me. I’m Buxton Swain.

Arnold lifts his gun leveling it at Swain’s forehead. About five feet of carpet separates them.

ARNOLD

Say your prayers, Reverend Swain.

MICHAEL

David, WAIT. <<BANG>>

A flash of fire and Swain’s head snaps back. Blood trickles down his forehead. Michael stands in shock, his gun dangling by his side.

ARNOLD

Come on, Michael…we don’t have all night. Kill Huffins and let’s go.

Huffins is sitting there impassively, staring at Michael. Michael, shaking now, lifts his gun and aims it at Huffins.

HUFFINS

DAVID! <<BANG>>

There 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.

HUFFINS

Jesus 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>>.

Arnold 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 gone.

40.    INT. DARK OFFICES – NIGHT

The 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.

HOWARD

It’s done. He’s gone and Michael has been taken care of as we discussed.

MALE VOICE #2

Thank 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.

HOWARD

Your welcome, Mr. Vice- President. It looks like your path is now clear. Godspeed.

41.    INT. CHANNEL 4 NEWS STUDIO – NIGHT

The two news anchors, a man and a woman, are opening their broadcast.

MALE ANCHOR

A 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.

FEMALE ANCHOR

Joyce LaRoche from Atlanta Station  WWRG-TV is on the scene at the Huffins’ mansion. Joyce can you hear me…

FADE OUT:

42.    INT. STEVENS FAMILY ROOM – NIGHT

 

Janice 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.