I don’t know how many We-are-a-troubled-family-but-are-brought-together-when-criminals-break-into-our-house-and-hold-us-hostage films have been made, or how many more there will be made. But I plead to the studios — if you aren’t going to bring anything new to the table, don’t make the movie.
I wasn’t in the room for the pitch on this film, but I can imagine it going something like this: (Television writer Karl Gajdusek talking to studio exec)
“OK, so a guy is rich, right? Porsche. Nice house. Beautiful wife. Feisty daughter. But things aren’t as good as they seem! There is trouble brewin’ The daughter wants to go to a party, but the parents frown on it. So…get this… she SNEAKS OUT! And meets her friend outside the huge, many acre plot of land (oh, and BTW, we’ll totally film this in Lousiana to get the tax break. We’ll be able to build the house for about eight bucks.)
So, they go speeding away and they are giggly like girls are, and they almost SWERVE off the side of the road and crash. This’ll be a setup for a callback later. But, don’t worry, this is the ONLY bit of foreshadowing I’m doing in the movie. NOTHING else will be given away. This movie is FULL of surprises and twists. You’ll love it!
So the cops show up and are at the gate, but you only see their shoulder patches — get it!? We don’t see that … THEY ARE WEARING SKI MASKS TO HIDE THEIR FACES!… The audience is going to gasp when, Kyle. That’s the dad’s name. Kyle….Miller. Yeah. And the wife is Sarah. And the daughter is…is… ummmm. AVERY! You know, because its in for girls to have guy’s names. It’s cool. Like Brewster. Anyway! The perps push their way in, and they bust shit up. Throw picture frames around like badasses. Talking like they mean business. And they know A LOT about the family. How do they know? I don’t know…. the audience doesn’t know. BUT the criminals KNOW stuff. There are three dudes and a chick. But there is turmoil in there — ITS like ALLEGORY man — for the family unit. Allegory… Metaphor.. something. They want Kyle’s diamonds. But wait — they don’t know that diamonds can be traced — they have no one to cut them. Kyle’ll explain all that shit so the audience stays with us. But Kyle won’t open the safe. This guy loves his family, but HE IS TOUGH. He knows that if he does they’ll lose leverage. He ain’t givin’ them shit…what? A biometric reader to open the safe? Great idea. That hasn’t been done before. And we’ll threaten that they’ll cut his thumb off to use the print — but then, we’ll twist that overused idea on its ear, and NOT cut his thumb off!
OK, OK. So the thieves are getting antsy because Kyle won’t give up the goods. THEN … uh-oh… Sarah recognizes one of the thieves. How does she know him? So we’ll do a flashback to show that he’s the security guy — we won’t show it very well, so that the audience thinks he’s a contractor working on the house — but really. He’s the guy installing the security system. THAT’S HOW THEY KNOW HOW TO GET IN! Oh — and don’t worry about giving away too much. We’ll show just enough to lead the audience down the wrong path — only to TWIST IT AROUND LATER. We they lovers? Maybe, looks like he’s sensitive and good looking (he has to be good looking)… in fact, we’ll have him come walking out of the pool with rippling abs. Of course they are lovers. Is Sarah in on it? Maybe? Maybe not? BOOM! No!…. but still…maybe.
OK, back to the guys and trying to get in the safe. The leader gives a spiel that his mother was beat by her husband to the point of renal failure and needs a kidney. They threaten to kill whats-her-face. No, not Sarah. The kid. Avery! Oh yeah, she came back. I don’t know, she was at the party, and some dude was hittin on her and she came home. WAIT! Maybe HE has money… because ultimately we’ll find out that Kyle has no money and is in tremendous debt because he just wanted his family to have things. RIGHT?! Isn’t that what America is all about? Families having stuff? OK, OK. So, they want Avery’s kidney, and the big thief guy lifts up her jacket and looks like he might take it — but then he lets her go….. I don’t know… to prolong the tension. Yeah! Maybe she ALMOST escapes, but then the big dude catches her again. Its like a game. Like The Most Dangerous Game! Classic story.
OK, so Kyle offers his kidney. And the leader thief goes nuts. Throws everything off the desk and lays out Kyle face down and whips out a knife. He’s gonna do it man! Woman are screaming. Guys are yelling at each other. AND the knife!! SLAMS into the desk. Whew! The thieves DON’T want kidneys. Nothing so altruistic. Oh… great idea…. I never thought of that. Yeah, yeah. There are those drugs… that paralyze you. Yeah, paralytics. Like in that movie Audition…. You never saw it? Well, that’s OK neither did anyone else outside of Japan…. HEEEEEYYYYY! We can totally use that and it’ll sound original. Totally threaten the family with torture of removing kidneys while they watch but can’t do anything about it. Brilliant. Where would third rate thieves get this drug? I dunno, who gives a shit? Its cool. Anyway.. here’s where we turn up the twist factor. The chick thief is a junkie slash stripper, so she’s a wild card. We can do a lot with her. Have her walk around in underwear. Steal Sarah’s gown…I don’t know. Why NOT?! She’s a fucking druggy stripper. Who knows what those crazy bitches do? OK, so her boyfriend is Leader. He was a drugdealer. And this is the REAL reason they need money. They were jacked out of $180K worth of supply, and the dealer wants the money. The big guy is the henchman to make sure everything goes down ok. And the last guy is Sarah’s lover. Or maybe he’s not?! See what I’m doing there? Or MAYBE… oh SHIT! MAYBE he THINKS he’s her lover, but she has spurned him. Let’s throw in that he’s on medication. Security firms hire guys with prescriptions for anti-psychotics, right?
OK — so this is where we start throwing in the twists and take the audience on this rollercoaster. Sarah lifts the paralytic from the Leader as she plays seductress (could she have been Security dude’s lover? Perhaps.), and then pulls the syringe on him later — but that will go nowhere. Total wild goose chase. Kyle will get into a fight with the big guy who wants to inject him with the stuff, but Kyle works his way in so that the syringe goes into the big dude. But will shoot it in such a confusing way that the audience isn’t sure. And to top it off, we’ll shoot an insert of the syringe with the stuff in it. Did it plunge? Did it not? Was it into Kyle? Was it into the big guy? Keep the audience on their toes. The big guy will wake up later to try and kill the Security dude (the Leaders little brother, be the way), only to reveal that the little brother was PART of the drug jack to begin with? Why? Because he got $!0K, and a chance to come back to the house and take is lover away to a life where she’ll be happy. Yeah…. his lover…. what do you mean who? Sarah? Of course she’s his lover…. or is she?!
OK OK, so the leader gets shot by his little brother… yeah, Security guy… sorry… this is a little confusing. But not after finding out that Kyle HID hundreds of thousands of dollars behind the drywall in a part of the house that it still being built!! RIGHT?! He was bluffing all along!!! He sold Sarah’s necklace for the money — we can even have a flashback of people we’ve never seen before to show the transaction. What necklace? What do you mean?! THE necklace! The one in the picture of Sarah, that the thieves find and demand to know where the necklace is. But its a FAKE!
So leader gets shot by security guy — his brother, remember?, the big guy is already shot by Leader for trying to strangle security guard. Kyle has been shot in the leg, so he’s slowly bleeding out. But he has strength to shoot security guard in the foot with a nail gun. The stripper? Oh, right. Avery takes her in the Porsche to drive back to the party so they can steal the rich kid’s stack of money that we saw 90 minutes before. But… instead, remember that curve that Avery and her friend almost crashed at? WHAMMO! Avery crashes.. knocking Stripper unconscious. Seat belt? Oh that’s easy. In the middle of driving headlong into a telephone pole at high speeds, Avery leans over and unbuckles the strippers seatbelt. Done. And in the very end, Kyle lights the house and the money on fire with Security guy inside.
Who am I thinking? I’m thinking the best — Nic Cage as Kyle. Totally. I think he’ll nail this. And how about.. Katherine Heigl for Sarah. She’s busy? Hmmm… Yeah, sure. Nicole Kidman. Why not. We could do worse. What about the other people? No-namers? I think so. We are going to blow most of the budget on Cage and Kidman. This will be THEIR vehicle. We don’t want to overshadow them by getting big stars as anyone else. I didn’t even think about a director… does that matter? Its Nic Cage and Nic Kidman. The two Nics! — they practically direct themselves. Absolutely — didn’t you see Drive Angry? I don’t even think there was a director on that movie. Pure Cage. Who? Joel Schumacher? OK. He’ll love the security guy pool sequence. He hasn’t done anything notable for a couple decades. He’s probably free. Yeah … probably available, too.”
The pitch session was PROBABLY something like that. Or it could have been a studio exec to the writer “Hey, you did a great job on that play … we need you to write a wrestling movie.”
This movie cost $35M to make. Box office estimates are that in the U.S., it pulled in sixteen THOUSAND eight HUNDRED and SIXTEEN dollars. Worldwide was $6M — probably because Cage is huge in Algeria or something. I’m sure this project was fast tracked so that the studio could claim a loss for tax purposes.