SUBMITTED BY: JTN Entertainment, Inc.
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DIRTY MONEY contains the basic elements of a strong action/comedy, driven
by a powerful and unique central relationship. Although it contains some
exciting and charming scenes and moments, this draft fails to generate enough
narrative, dramatic, or emotional power as a result of a number of major
1. Underdeveloped, formulaic main storyline.
2. Superficial, one-dimensional leading characters.
3. Unfocused central relationships.
4. Two structural weaknesses.
5. Lack of theme.
A rewrite must dramatize the inner lives and problems of the principal
characters, as well as the involvement of members of the Washington elite
and intelligence communities in worldwide drug cartels. It should focus on
the fierce determination of one man to expose this connection to save his
life and that of his partner, and dramatize fully the stunning dilemma of
a woman who learns her father is a prime force in the international drug
trade, and must decide whether or not to turn him in.
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1. The primary narrative elements - the Washington political underworld,
the NSA, and the Latin American drug trade, are crucially underdeveloped.
Each is dealt with only superficially as nominal background to the action,
and this misses the opportunity to unite them in a way that maximizes their
One way of approaching this problem is for Ernest Kittering to be a U.S.
government official - e.g., a Senator or White House Chief of Staff, rather
than an investment banker, and for Vasquez to be a military strongman who
runs Peru with an iron hand, rather than a private drug dealer. The action
then could be driven from the U.S. Senate or White House here, and the
President's palace, drug farms, and military installations in Peru, allowing
the creation of more dynamic characters, conflict, and high-powered action.
The story then could be developed as follows: A U.S. Senator or White House
Chief of Staff (formerly NSA Director), and the President of Peru, once partners
and friends, have fallen out and now threaten each other with exposure or
destruction, generating a political and personal war into which Dodd is drawn.
He is almost killed during what appears to be a routine assignment, forcing
him to have to find out what is really going on.
After being assigned to go to Peru, he finally uncovers evidence that leads
him, via Vasquez, to his superiors at NSA, and eventually to the Senate or
White House. Together, he and Kittering succeed in getting hold of the evidence
(the videotapes) and bringing down the mastermind, who happens to be Kittering's
2. The Washington storyline must take us deep into the secret world of
transactions between government officials and drug dealers, allowing us to
see the connection up close - the vast sums of money that change hands, the
chain of secret alliances between Ernest Kittering and those who move the
drugs and cash, the layers of insulation between the penthouses and the streets.
Most importantly, the shock to Ernest Kittering when he realizes that his
empire has been penetrated by Dodd and his daughter, and his struggle to
decide how far he will go to stop them, needs to be dramatized as forcefully
as possible. There are scenes and moments of great power and intensity to
be elicited from this unusual and powerful situation.
3. The NSA (the Puzzle Palace) should be explored in detail, exposing its
core. We should go inside secret buildings, see the massive computer/satellite
coding and decoding systems used to monitor private, government, and military
communications - (e.g., handwriting can be read from a satellite), showing
us how the systems works, and how it can be abused. We should see the lengths
to which Halloran will go to keep his NSA empire intact and protect Ernest
Kittering, his friend and partner, but only by having Dodd followed, roughed
up, and warned off, but eventually by ordering him and Kittering killed.
4. The Latin American drug trade needs to be dramatized more vividly, and
in greater detail, showing its real power, and the scope of its operations.
One way this could be accomplished is if Vasquez is President of the country.
Another is for him to be one of several drug lords who control the market.
Whatever the choice, through Vasquez, we should see the entire process at
work - farms, production and distribution systems, security forces, money
laundering through a network of renegade banks, etc. We should see how these
men avoid capture, break colleagues out of prison, murder adversaries, and
pay protection to local and U.S. officials to enable them to flood U.S. cities
(a) The Dodd/Kittering relationship: Working partners with strong romantic
and sexual tension that remains unresolved until the end.
(b) The Kittering/Ernest Kittering relationship: Her difficulties and
ambivalences in dealing with her father as the enemy.
(c) Ernest Kittering's crisis as his empire comes tumbling down. The fact
that his prime adversary is his own daughter. The realization that he must
either have his daughter killed or lose his empire.
(d) Halloran's push to consolidate his power at NSA, his plans for Ernest
Kittering to be president one day now threatened by Dodd.
(e) Halloran ordering Farnsworth to have Dodd and Kittering killed, causing
Farnsworth to have to deal with being caught between two sets of loyalties
- NSA and the Director, and Dodd.
f) Vasquez finding himself at war not only with other drug dealers who want
him dead, but with his U.S. allies, who are prepared to sell him out because
Dodd has acquired the incriminating videotape.
6. By focusing almost exclusively on the surface action, this draft lacks
a clear theme or universal element, limiting its narrative, dramatic, and
emotional power. However, there are a number of thematic ideas and values
latent in the material that could be elicited to give it added force.
(a) Dodd/Kittering: Learning to trust/learning to love.
(b) Farnsworth/Dodd: Friendship is more important than professional duties,
whatever the cost.
(c) Kittering/Ernest Kittering: How far must a person go to uphold what is
legally and morally right? Must we turn in someone we love, whom we know
is a criminal? How far will a man go to protect his assets? Will he kill
the person he loves most in the world to achieve this end?
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Halloran selecting Dodd for the assignment, to Dodd being sent to Peru to
negotiate the release of Kittering (pp. 1-38).
Although the section establishes the basics, there are too many missed
opportunities, resulting in a segment that skims the surface of the story,
lacks intensity and drive, moves too slowly, and ends too late (p. 38). Concerns,
and areas for development include:
1. The Las Vegas sequence (pp. 6-19) works well, but is much too long at
fourteen pages for its importance to the story, and should be trimmed. We
need to see more of Dodd's feelings not just about being a fish out of water,
but also the fact that suddenly someone is trying to kill him. This man is
a computer scientist, who suddenly finds himself in the line of fire. His
surprise, shock, fear, anger, and suspicion about what's really going on
all must be part of what he goes through as he barely escapes with his life.
2. The Farnsworth/Director relationship is written too close to the surface,
needs more substance. We need to see more of both the legitimate and seamy
sides of the NSA and its people. For instance, Halloran, the ambitious
technocrat, and Farnsworth, the dedicated employee/civil servant, should
clash openly, as Farnsworth realizes his boss is involved in illegal activities.
3. Ernest Kittering should be seen not only in collusion with Halloran, but
masterminding the flow of drugs and cash, showing us not only his empire
in operation, but also his ruthlessness. Then, we can watch Dodd being set
up, and feel the true power of the forces arrayed against him.
4. At the party at Ernest Kittering's house, the reveal of Kittering as EK's
daughter must focus on the fact that she and Dodd are, unknowingly, going
up against her father, driving the story forward in a powerful and compelling
5. A stronger bond needs to be established between Dodd and Farnsworth.
Farnsworth is the one man in the NSA who really cares about Dodd, and we
should see the evolution of that relationship.
For instance, Farnsworth's concerns for Dodd as he sees him becoming more
deeply enmeshed in this situation creates great ambivalence in him. He is
loyal to Halloran and NSA; but his knowledge that if he keeps low he'll be
able to collect his pension soon and retire is no comfort when faced with
the fact that Halloran is willing to have both Dodd and Kittering killed,
and that he will end up being the man who gives the orders.
6. Dodd's efforts to uncover what is going on also should be dramatized in
greater detail. He would not simply accept the assignment without question.
He might probe Farnsworth, Kittering, other friends or colleagues at NSA,
check computer files on Farnsworth and Halloran, hunting for clues.
Maybe he goes to an old friend, an ex-NSA man, for help, only to be told
that he's involved in things too big for him to handle, and that his life
is in real danger. We should sense the ominous presence of the threat to
Dodd, even if we don't yet know exactly what it is - e.g., his phone is tapped,
he feels he is being watched, shadowed. Another friend might tell him to
stay alert - people have been known to disappear.
7. The first act also should expose us to more of Dodd as a person - where
he came from, what his interests, hopes and dreams, fears and problems are.
One approach is that he is a former mathematics teacher used to working in
a room with a computer, but who now must learn to use a gun and defend his
life. Whatever the specifics, we must like him, feel for him and the problems
he must solve, as he works his way through his deadly dilemma. See also below
8. The Dodd/Kittering relationship should be much further along by the end
of the act. We should feel not only the romantic and sexual tension between
them, but the beginnings of a charming, action-packed relationship, as she,
the street-wise professional, finds herself partnered with an attractive,
intelligent, academic, who must learn to fight for his life in the streets
against an unknown enemy. His journey to Cuzco to rescue her will gain added
emotional power if we have already witnessed the dawning of their romantic
and sexual interest in one another.
Act Two - First Half
Dodd flies to Cuzco, to Dodd and Kittering escaping into the jungle (pp.
This section lacks drama, complexities of story, character, or relationship,
and narrative drive, resulting in limited emotional involvement. By the mid-point
of the act and the film (p. 60), the only narrative element is the attenuated
surface story of Dodd trying to rescue Kittering from Vasquez. Areas for
development consideration include:
1. The Dodd/Kittering relationship. As written, it consists almost entirely
of flippant dialogue relating to their sexual chemistry, and this is not
enough. We need to know each of them better, see their ingenuity and teamwork
in the face of danger, their growing closeness as they realize they must
stick together to save one another. Possibilities could include:
(a) He works out a plan for them to backtrack and find out who's after them,
maybe tailing Farnsworth, their supposed ally, and she exposes a tough core,
a willingness to do whatever it takes to get the job done, surprising him.
(b) He says something about being a computer scientist, not a field agent,
revealing his fears; yet we sense something in him is enjoying all this
(c) He probes her about her father, and she refuses to talk about him, or
what may happen as the investigation unfolds. Dodd sees her anger and
frustration, tries to comfort her. A moment. They grow closer, then argue
about some detail like who gets the window seat on the plane home, reverting
back to their normal wariness.
Whatever the specifics, this section needs a significant advance in the
Dodd/Kittering relationship - heightened electricity, mutual suspicions,
and growing personal feelings, alongside problems of survival, and what they
must do to get out of Cuzco alive.
2. Vasquez and his drug empire. Whether as the President of the country,
or a major drug dealer, we need to see more than just his house and flamboyant
entertaining style. We must witness the enormity of his entire drug operation
- growing fields, slave labor, processing and distribution, gun battles with
competitors and the law, payoffs to officials in high government offices,
etc. The utter ruthlessness with which Vasquez and his colleagues operate
must be dramatized fully, so that we know Dodd and Kittering are in serious
trouble. Generating comedy out of Vasquez and Rosa is fine, as long as it
does not violate the dramatic underpinnings of the story, or trivialize the
real danger to Dodd and Kittering.
3. The individual and collective stories of Ernest Kittering, Halloran, and
Farnsworth. These should be intercut with the progression of events in Cuzco.
(a) As Dodd and Kittering try to get away from Vasquez, growing closer as
things become more dangerous, Ernest Kittering rages about being vulnerable
now - the first time in his life. He orders Halloran to get Dodd and recover
the tape, whatever it takes. Halloran is angry about being exposed, blames
Ernest Kittering. They argue, lock horns, but realize that they must do this
(b) Halloran orders Farnsworth to get the tape, and kill Dodd and Kittering.
Farnsworth is stunned, but has no options.
(c) Kittering now knows she's on a collision course with her father, doesn't
know what to do about it, or how she will react if push comes to shove. Dodd
tells her it's already past shove - people will come to try and kill them,
people sent by her father. They have no choice but to fight back.
Act Two - Second Half
Dodd and Kittering escaping with the other prisoner, to Vasquez sending Kittering
back to the U.S. to get the second tape, keeping Dodd as hostage (pp. 60-71).
The events that occur here - lucking into the members of the revolution,
making love, being captured by Vasquez men works well enough as far as they
go. But the section is underdeveloped, and contains one of the screenplay's
two major structural problems - it is ten pages in length. Narratively, the
end of the act is when Vasquez sends Kittering back to Washington to get
the tape (p. 71), triggering the long chase that leads to the climax and
conclusion. However, since the mid-point of the act - Dodd and Kittering
escaping, occurs on p. 60, the second half totals eleven pages.
The result of this structure is a section that is rushed and superficial,
lacks narrative, character, or relationship development, and unbalances the
act and the film. Development possibilities include:
1. Dramatizing more of the resistance movement. As written, the story virtually
bypasses the resistance, using it only as background to the capture of Dodd
and Vasquez. Opening it up would allow us to meet other members, hear debate
about what to do about Vasquez, feel the intensity of the people, and see
the lengths to which they are prepared to go to get rid of him.
At a rally, we could see how Dodd and Kittering are moved by the passion
of the speakers, and shocked at the extent of Vasquez' tyranny over these
people. Their realization that there are other ingredients, other human beings,
involved in this situation, deepens their commitment to get Vasquez and Ernest
Kittering. They tell the people they will do everything they can to help,
knowing it means confronting Kittering's father.
2. Intensifying Farnsworth's dilemma. After arguing with Halloran and being
threatened by him, Farnsworth reluctantly sends men after Dodd and Kittering
with orders to get the tape and kill them. After ordering his men into the
field, Farnsworth can't live with it, goes there himself to warn Dodd. At
the same time, Ernest Kittering brings in his own manpower to do the job,
agonizing over what he might have to have done to his daughter.
3. Deepening the Dodd/Kittering relationship. One way of approaching this
is as follows: Instead of their doing the predictable thing - having sex,
they get right to the point of no return, then hold off. It just doesn't
feel right to either of them. This is not the time for romance. Lives are
in danger, and there are real problems to be solved, not only their own now,
but also those of the people whose lives are being destroyed by Vasquez.
Their attraction to one another is obvious, and the sexual heat palpable;
but they will wait. No touching. They will work together until this is over.
The fact that they grow closer, and that there is unfinished romantic and
sexual business between them, will add narrative, dramatic, and emotional
power to the segment.
The Cessna with Kittering and Rosa on board landing at Lima, to Dodd/Kittering
and Farnsworth/Rosa in bed in their respective apartments (pp. 71-103).
Act three needs a total rewrite, a wholly different approach to the story,
and a restructuring of major character and narrative elements, as a result
of two major problems:
1. The broad, comic style of the section undercuts its ability to tell the
conclusion of the story in a forceful and compelling way, breaking down into
broad, sexual farce when it should be powerful and intense. The act must
escalate the tensions as the story moves toward confrontation between
Dodd/Kittering and Ernest Kittering and Halloran. Comedy to lighten the material
is fine; but allowing the finale to become a comic chase with broad sexual
overtones diminishes the power not only of the act, but of the screenplay.
2. The act contains a critical narrative error, which is also the screenplay's
second major structural weakness - the almost total absence of Dodd from
the end of the story. This is a major flaw, and virtually destroys interest
in the film. Dodd is our hero. We have followed him through the twists and
turns of the story , and now want to see him bring it to a conclusion. As
written, act three is almost entirely a chase to the finish for the tape
in Washington, while Dodd remains a prisoner in Cuzco. It must be redesigned
to allow Dodd to drive the action, either alone, or with Kittering.
One approach to solving these problems is as follows: Dodd is sent back to
Washington for the tape with Kittering. They escape, are helped by members
of the resistance movement, or sprung by an NSA agent with orders to torture
them for the missing tape. Dodd kills the man. He and Kittering get back
to Washington, with help from Farnsworth. After arriving in Washington, Dodd
is the architect of a plan to hunt down and trap Halloran and Ernest Kittering,
using Kittering as partner and decoy. As part of the action, Dodd also should
be directly responsible for Vasquez' downfall.
The strands of the story all should be brought together here - the climax
of the Dodd/Kittering relationship, the machinations of Ernest Kittering
and Halloran as Dodd and Kittering get closer, the ambivalence of Farnsworth
about having to order Dodd and Kittering killed, and Vasquez' fury at the
knowledge that if Dodd and Kittering get away with the tapes, his entire
empire will crumble.
There also are opportunities in this act to create extraordinarily powerful
moments and actions between Kittering and her father, whom she now must confront
with evidence that proves him to be her enemy. His realization that if he
doesn't kill his own daughter, he is finished, and hers that she must arrest
her own father in order to survive and save Dodd, contain the stuff of powerful
and compelling drama, almost entirely unrealized in this draft.
The ending itself is weak and anticlimactic because we don't see Halloran
and Ernest Kittering caught. We must see them arrested, the event covered
by the media, their friends and colleagues in Washington watching on the
news, Kittering filled with ambivalence as the police handcuff her father
and take him away. Whatever the specific choices, we must witness their downfall.
In addition, the story should not end on a piece of sexual shtick between
Farnsworth and Rosa, two supporting characters, but with a romantic reunion
between Dodd and Kittering. Having shared this adventure, saved their lives,
and dealt with the problem of her father as the enemy, they figure out not
only that they work well together, but that they might as well keep doing
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Superficial, unfocused, and lifeless, he is a formula action hero who deals
with everything at the surface level, and has no inner life. As written,
he is one of the major weaknesses of this draft. Areas for development
1. His internal life and its relationship to his actions. Because the audience
knows nothing about what's inside him, they will be unlikely to care about
him and what he does. His actions are confined almost entirely to his surface
functions - going to Cuzco, finding the tape, getting back to Washington,
etc. A prime example is that he finds one half of the tape, realizes he was
being targeted, makes an offhand crack to Halloran about being set up (p.
22), then takes the assignment and goes to Peru to get Kittering, without
referring to the incident again, or demonstrating any feeling about almost
being killed, probably by someone inside NSA.
But this is a man who makes his living with a computer, not a gun. Now, someone
is trying to kill him, and he finds himself catapulted into the world of
hard action, his entire orientation to life shifted, his life itself in danger.
An ordinary man in his situation would have powerful feelings about all this
- the danger, the shadowy people at NSA - his employers, who might be the
ones after him, etc. But we see none of this. We need to see how he handles
his fears, how resourceful and determined he is to stay alive and get to
the bottom of all this, what kind of guy he is, how he handles himself under
One possibility is that he starts his own investigation into everyone connected
with his original assignment, conscious of the fact that he's under constant
surveillance, he could be killed at any time. Yet it never deters him. He
bootstraps himself over his fears, hunts down possible leads, questions old
friends and former NSA employees, trying to find a crack in the armor of
his adversaries. Through it al, we feel his grit and commitment, his refusal
to roll over for these sinister men and their deadly game.
There is considerable dramatic (and comedic) potential in the story of a
man who ordinarily works with his intellect being forced to return to the
jungle and live by the code of violence. But we must see his fears, doubts,
resolve, determination, and triumph dramatized, as he learns to think like
a field agent, use a gun, fight hand-to-hand, and rise above his limitations
to solve the problems that threaten his life.
2. His passivity. One of the major problems with this character is that he
is reactive to virtually all the primary events of the story, rather than
driving them, and is offscreen for most of act three. The screenplay must
be redesigned to create a much more dynamic and active role for him. He must
conceive and execute unusual, imaginative plans and actions that continually
drive the story forward. Possibilities could include:
(a) Finding the first clue that points to Ernest Kittering. Having to tell
Kittering that their adversary is her father.
(b) Facing off directly with Halloran, challenging him in the hope he will
make a mistake and leave himself vulnerable.
(c) Engineering the escape from Vasquez' prison.
(d) Getting them back to Washington in time to stop Halloran and Ernest
3. His life outside NSA. We know nothing about any aspect of Dodd's life
that does not relate directly to the surface events of this story, impoverishing
him as a character, and limiting his appeal and power. His life and history
are relevant to our ability to connect with him and care about him. We need
to know whether he has friends or relatives, how he came to be working at
NSA, what happened in his life that made him so awkward with people, etc.,
elements that will help to make him a fully dimensional character.
4. His skills as a computer scientist. Although he's a computer expert, his
skills are never utilized. He could just as easily be a high school drama
teacher as an NSA computer expert. We need to see him use his resources to
drive the story forward and trigger the climactic events of the film.
(a) The ability to crack the codes of secret NSA computer systems, generating
clues to the mystery of who is trying to kill him.
(b) Creating or utilizing a sophisticated computer virus to fool or inactivate
(c) Jamming NSA signals by using secret computer commands, throwing attempts
by Halloran to have him killed into disarray.
One way of developing Dodd that addresses the above concerns is as follows:
A former mathematics teacher who went into computer science after massive
teacher layoffs, Dodd ended up in cryptography at NSA, likes the challenge
of coding and decoding work, but rebels against the authoritarian, Big Brother,
conditions. He's bright, funny, a loner, uncomfortable with people, teaches
math to kids in a juvenile detention center in his spare time. He is shocked
to discover himself chosen for a field mission, then stunned to discover
that someone inside NSA or FBI is trying to have him killed, presumably for
the tape. But who? And what is on the tape?
He has no idea what to do, who to talk to, whom he can trust. He starts to
confide in Farnsworth, but senses danger. Likewise with a friend in his
department. Finally, against his own impulses, he tells Kittering, explains
that he's got no choice but to find out who wants the tape badly enough to
kill him for it, or else just sit around until someone shoots him.
She says he's crazy, a hacker, never even fired a gun. Reluctantly, he asks
her to help. She agrees. The chemistry between them is strong. They argue
constantly, partly because of his inability to work as a team player, and
partly her natural toughness and no-nonsense style.
After the shock of discovering her father is their adversary, they realize
they have no choice but to work together to solve this, and that they must
go up against him. Dodd has to learn to respect and work with her, and she
has to learn to let her guard down enough to let him make a contribution.
Dodd's story is that of a man who works with his mind catapulted into the
world of hard action and physical danger, where he must learn to survive
with his life constantly in danger. A stylish guy, who bootstraps himself
over every problem that presents itself, he toughs it out at every turn,
trying to act like a pro and stay alive in the world of guns and knives and
severed body parts. His story also is that of a loner unable to trust other
people, who must learn to depend on someone else, a woman, and work as a
part of a team in order to stay alive.
Other development possibilites include:
1. He is a former marine or police officer, who has left the business because
of his distaste for the violence. He used his skills to learn computers,
found he had a knack, created a better life for himself out of the line of
fire. Now, he is forced to return to carrying a gun and living in the
kill-or-be-killed world he had rejected. This jams him, making him falter
at a critical moment in the story - e.g., can he really pull the trigger?
He does what he has to do, rising above his own limitations to save Kittering,
but knows that if he survives he'll quit NSA, will never again take a job
in which someone could ask him to kill.
2. The Dodd/Kittering relationship is badly underdeveloped - superficial,
trite, lacking character and dimension. Other than their sexual attraction,
there are virtually no dynamics between them, the screenplay barely touching
the surface of a potentially interesting relationship. Possible approaches
(a) They work together to solve their problems of finding the tape and staying
alive, fighting their obvious sexual attraction to one another all the way.
Along the way, after clashing over almost everything, they find they really
like each other. For instance, from the moment he arrives in Cuzco, there
are arguments over plans and methodology. He says that although he was sent
to trade with Vasquez for her release, they must search the place, and find
the second half of the tape. She says they should get out now, worry about
the tape later. He says they can't prove who they're up against unless they
get the tape. She says they need to be alive to prove anything, and if they
don't get out now, they never will. They argue. The heat rises, bursts to
the surface. They have sex, are captured.
After this, during the prison and escape segments, there is awkwardness,
neither able to deal with their feelings, each unsure of the other, danger
around every corner, and the prospect of having to face her father still
looming over them. Added to this, there is suspicion by each that the other
might be a plant for Halloran, further dividing them. When Kittering is nearly
killed by Vasquez' men, feelings change. They come together, happy to have
found each other, still arguing, etc.
(b) Instead of the obligatory sex scene and romance used in this draft, they
do not have sex, but remain working partners throughout. The relationship
begins with their working on opposite sides, being run by their respective
superiors, pitted against one another. As the conspiracy unfolds, they cautiously
join forces, eventually developing not only a strong partnership, but a mutual
respect that runs parallel to their sexual attraction. There is no overt
romance, but a resonant suggestion of it evolves as the story unfolds, underneath
their buddy-style, constantly disagreeing interaction, escalating to the
climax - will they or won't they?
3. The Dodd/Farnsworth relationship. As written, both men operate as
functionaries, saying and going only what the surface levels of the story
require. But there is considerable unexplored dramatic potential here.
Friendship, professional and/or personal rivalry, suspicion, hero-worship,
mentor/pupil bond, or combinations of the above, could underlie what is now
a superficial, characterless relationship. One possibility is as follows:
Dodd has worked with and for Farnsworth for years, learning much of what
he knows from him. While Farnsworth is a skilled mathematician, brilliant
with codes and ciphers, he never really became comfortable with computers,
and now has been kicked up to an executive level. Dodd, on the other hand,
showed an intuitive grasp of computer logic, and was able to bring these
skills to his training with Farnsworth, so that each learned from the other.
While Farnsworth is garrulous and effusive, Dodd is slyly humorous, his style
peeking out from under an otherwise taciturn demeanor. The bond they have
formed over the years is a friendly professional rivalry - the challenge
of solving each cipher puzzle they are handed, spawning a real underlying
affection between them. Once Farnsworth is ordered to have Dodd and Kittering
killed, and Dodd realizes that even though the power originates with Ernest
Kittering, the weapon will be Farnsworth, putting them on opposite sides
of a life/death struggle, the action will be complemented and enriched by
the dramatic conflict between them arising from their feelings for one another,
and the history of their relationship. This, or any comparable dynamic is
needed to animate and dimensionalize this relationship.
Whatever the specific creative choices, it is critical that Dodd be rewritten
to solve the problems discussed above. The narrative, dramatic, and emotional
power of the screenplay depends on a Dodd whose style and actions, needs
and problems, compel our interest. Caught in a situation for which he is
ill-equipped, his story must include not only the external events of the
adventure, but also those of his inner life, the journey he makes as a man,
while trying to survive in an unfamiliar, chaotic, and dangerous world.
Too one-note and obvious to arouse strong interest as written, and, like
Dodd, has no inner life. Other than her sex scene with Dodd, and the sexual
banter between them, nothing about her life, internal or external, is dramatized,
despite the fact that she falls in love with Dodd, the protagonist of the
story, and that her primary adversary is her father, a powerful and compelling
situation. Thus, she is a character with considerable unexplored potential.
But we need to understand more about her, care about her, root for her in
her relationship with Dodd, be involved in the stunning predicament of having
to face off with her father in order to save her life and see justice done.
Much of this depends on knowing more about her, seeing her up-close. For
instance, how and why did she get into this line of work? She was well-educated,
could have had any job she wanted in Washington as a result of who her father
is. So why did she choose to go into field work, put her life on the line?
What kind of woman is this? One way of developing her is as follows:
Ernest Kittering had been an OSS agent during World War Two, later was a
station chief for the CIA in various locations. She grew up in the business,
living close to the world of covert operations and the street life, and so
it seemed natural, comfortable for her. In contrast with Dodd, a white collar
man, she likes the action, being in the field, perhaps even the danger, anything
not to be just one of the girls. Now, after too many years, she's sick of
it, feels unfulfilled, but doesn't know what else to do with her life. She's
never had time for anything serious with a man, and has started to miss it,
fully aware of the ticking of her clock. She wants some other kind of life,
but doesn't know what.
Into this steps Dodd, a bright, charming guy from the tower trying to stay
alive in her world, the one sh's trying to get out of. Part of him is excited
by all this adventure, even the dangers, and this conflicts with her waning
interest in all this - she's seen it all before. We should see her ambivalence
as she finds herself drawn to Dodd, but feels awkward trying to act like
a normal girl, feels she's forgotten how to be a real woman. When he risks
his life to save her in Cuzco, she knows he's special, and that something
will happen between them. This excites her more than anything in years, but
also tilts her off balance.
When they find out that it is her father who is behind all this, and that
only if he is stopped will they be put out of danger, the enormous emotional
upheavals and strategic problems it creates for her jams her badly, and for
a while she is in shock. Finally, she and Dodd come up with a plan to bring
her father down, and she responds to his friendship, supportiveness, and
sensitivity to her awful dilemma. He recognizes how brutal this is for her,
admires her guts and style, and is angry that he is unable to do anything
about it, other than help her get through this and come out alive. She and
Dodd, two people who have spent their lives being totally self-reliant and
self-involved, come together and learn to work as a team and depend on one
another. In the process, they fall in love.
It is important to capitalize more on the natural drama inherent in the
Kittering/Ernest Kittering story. The basic elements are there for a riveting
story about a tough, independent woman, who must face her worst problems
and darkest feelings when she discovers her father is a drug mastermind whom
she must stop, and a man who must have his daughter killed or face destruction.
From the moment she discovers his involvement, until their final confrontation,
their actions should resonate with the intensity of their conflicted feelings
about this brutal predicament. A story that contains problems of such enormous
personal dimensions offers the potential for classic drama, not only enriching
the characters and relationships, but enhancing the narrative, dramatic,
and emotional power of the screenplay as a whole.
Functionary and essentially characterless as written. He simply does what
the story requires of him without contributing any point of view or feelings
about his having to have Dodd and Kittering killed. We need more understanding
of him and his relationship to Halloran and the NSA to let us inside him
and enable us to understand his needs and problems. Some possibilites:
(a) He is a man with an agenda of his own - to serve his government - i.e.,
he is fiercely patriotic, and sees his actions, even the distasteful ones,
as having to be done for his country. Thus, he may be willing to risk not
only his job, but his life, by going up against Halloran, the Director, when
he learns about Halloran's connection to Kittering.
(b) He has powerful ideas about what's right and wrong, whose loyalty to
the Agency prevents him from doing anything against it. This would result
in a profound ambivalence in him as he carries out Halloran's order to kill
Dodd and Kittering, one he cannot resolve until the end, when he proves himself
to be a good guy and helps Dodd trap the Director and Kittering.
(c) There is a missed opportunity to develop of strong relationship between
Farnsworth and Dodd - the handler and the handled, mentor and pupil. Farnsworth
may be doing his duty, but likes Dodd, and doesn't like manipulating him.
He is tortured when Halloran orders him to have Dodd and Kittering killed,
finally flies to Cuzco to warn them. We need to feel his ambivalence as well
as his growing respect for Dodd. Since Farnsworth is Dodd's only NSA ally,
his actions and feelings are important to the story. Developing a growing
friendship between them that conflicts with Farnsworth's career interests
will add emotional power to their relationship and the film.
Ineffectual. Too soft. Not nearly intense, dangerous, or sinister enough.
We must feel this man's ambition and lust for power in every word and action.
We must meet a man whose primary pleasure is manipulating people. Critically,
we need to know the nature of his involvement with Ernest Kittering, how
they came to be partners, the dynamics of the relationship. Some possibilities:
(a) Halloran wanted into the drug business, and there was Ernest Kittering.
(b) Ernest Kittering sought him out, and their relationship grew over the
years, their families close personal friends, etc.
(c) He is a member of some secret society or fraternity, or is a Hoover-style
autocrat with personal files on everyone, which allowed him to cut himself
a piece of Ernest Kittering's pie. This would result in a relationship that
is hostile and dangerous, an uneasy peace between men who hate each other.
Whatever the specifics, Halloran must be more sharply drawn, and a much tougher,
more dangerous man. He is not interesting or compelling enough to be a rogue
Director of the NSA.
The primary antagonist, and father of the leading lady, both roles and situations
underdeveloped in this draft. Here, too, a character with considerable dramatic
potential is not realized. In business, we should witness his brilliance
and ruthlessness in his dealings with everyone, whether government officials
or people from the drug world. He tolerates no failure, no fools, no excuses.
The job gets done, and the people who fail are dealt with harshly - e.g.,
firings, warnings, beatings, etc.
We should see his professional and social ambitions at the highest levels
- e.g., the White House, Senate chambers, corridors of power, and watch him
simultaneously operating a street level drug distribution operation. Possibly,
he really thinks he can be President one day. Or he might be a megalomaniac,
who turns hysterical and brutal at the first signs of dissent. Whatever the
specifics, we need to se the kind of man he is outside his relationship with
Possibilities for deepening the father/daughter relationship could be based
on a long-running family tension that affects their dealings with one another,
because of something he once did to her mother, brother, fiance, etc. - e.g.,
he drove one or all of them away with his demands and judgments and
Perhaps his constant disapproval of her being in the business, and not finding
a husband or settling down and having a family has become a sore spot between
them. But through it all, his love for her would be clear, in marked contrast
to the icy efficiency and ruthlessness that characterize his business dealings.
After spending a lifetime as the dictator of his own empire, he now finds
himself face to face with his worst nightmare - the only person who can bring
him down - the daughter he loves.
A cliche as written. However, if he was a dictator or powerful drug lord
in business with a high-level U.S. government official, other dimensions
could be added both to him and the story - e.g., his quest for ultimate power
in his own country, the capacity to influence U.S. policy by being in business
with top Senate or White House officials, as well as the NSA, and power players
like Ernest Kittering.
Whether he is a private dealer, or President of the country, however, he
needs to be more unusual and off-center as a man. Maybe he's a Rhodes scholar,
an ex-Notre Dame football player, a computer expert, or amateur archaeologist.
Perhaps he speaks impeccable Oxford English with no accent, or is a world-class
wrestler or chess player, or has an extraordinary art collection. Whatever
the specifics, he needs added dimensions to offset what is otherwise a Latin
drug dealer stereotype.
In addition, whether Vasquez and Ernest Kittering are developed as high-level
officials or not, some personal dynamic between them is needed to give their
relationship added power - e.g., former colleagues in the drug business,
who have fallen out and now are threatening to destroy each other. As they
go head to head, not only are both operating at their most ruthless, their
struggle for dominance becomes the battleground on which Dodd and Kittering
fight for their lives.
A nice attempt at an offbeat character, but ultimately she suffers from being
too one-dimensional and silly. She and Vasquez have the makings of an intriguing
and charming couple, particularly if their playing both with and against
each other can be developed. Most importantly, we need to see her drive to
get rid of Vasquez played against her attraction to him. As written, she
comes off as a clown, a waste of an entertaining and unusual character.
(back to top)
1. Structure - The two major structural problems - the short second half
of act two, and the almost complete absence of Dodd from act three, have
been discussed above.
2. This draft includes a number of scenes that are episodic, do not advance
story, character, or relationships, and thereby are gratuitous. Their presence
restricts narrative drive, pace, and momentum, limiting the dramatic and
emotional power of the screenplay, and depriving it of its natural energy.
The scenes are: The Dodd/Jane scene (pp. 2-3), the Khyber Pass Restaurant
scene (pp. 24-27), most of the Ernest Kittering party scene (pp. 29-35),
the Vasquez mansion suite scene (pp. 42-44), the Director's office scene
(pp. 44-45), the Insect itching scene (p. 62), the Cessna engine trouble
scene (pp. 72-73 and 75-76), he Vasquez Japanese gardens scene (pp. 73-74),
the Republican party scenes (pp. 79-82), and most of the cabbie scenes (pp.
These scenes should be cut, or revised to provide material that contributes
to narrative and/or character development.
(back to top)
1. The opening (pp. 1-10) does its job, but is not nearly taut or involving
or exciting enough. We must be catapulted into a strange and sinister world
in which our hero is clearly in real danger. In particular, there needs to
be more dramatization of the NSA and its operations - the sinister facility
and its robotic workers, its whole satellite and communications and computer
systems. We could watch some of the stunningly complex coding and decoding
processes on huge computer screens, as the facility tries to crack some Chinese
military code, etc.
2. As an element of this, there needs to be a more dynamic introduction to
Dodd and Halloran. As written both are too soft, and the opening too tame.
We could feel the menace in Halloran's suave style as he politely, but pointedly
forces Dodd to take this assignment, and Dodd's shock, as well as his
resourcefulness when he suddenly finds himself in this life-threatening
3. The Dodd/Jane and the Dodd/Marine scenes (pp. 2-3, 3-4) are superfluous
and should be cut. One possible replacement would be a segment that dramatizes
Dodd dealing with having been thrown to the wolves - e.g., target practice,
martial arts workout, trying to get an NSA friend to help him figure out
why he was put in the firing line, helplessness at not really knowing where
to turn, the resonant specter of someone clearly out to get him.
The dialogue in this scene is cliched, and should be polished - e.g., How
come we didn't work out? You left me. I'm a dummy sometimes. You wanna try
again? It's taken me a long time to get over you, but I'm ready now.
4. The Dodd's penthouse scene (p. 13) works nicely. The reveal of Kittering
as an FBI agent is strong and handled with charm. We feel the beginnings
of an explosive relationship between these two.
Dodd's closing line - God Bless America (p. 13) is not funny, and too soft
to end the scene. It should end with Kittering showing her badge, jabbing
Dodd with the gun, revealing herself as an FBI agent, perhaps with a touch
of pleasure in surprising him.
5. The Sal's mansion scene (pp. 16-17) is very effective. The twist, Mario
shooting his boss, is a shocker, and plays very well. The scene might gain
added tension and fun played with Dodd yelling into his crotch-mike, as he
tries to avoid being killed.
6. In the scene outside Sal's (pp. 18-19), there is a missed opportunity
to establish a much more personal and dynamic relationship between Dodd and
Farnsworth. Possibilities include: Mentor/pupil/adversary, growing
friendship/adversary, mutual professional suspicions, etc. Whatever the
specifics, their relationship would be enriched by a growing bond between
them as they are forced on opposite sides of this life and death issue.
7. The scene in which Dodd views the tape (p. 19) is too tame for this important
piece of business. The tape should be more graphic and shocking - e.g., people
involved in kinky sex, or simulated extreme violence, etc., giving it a sinister
and dangerous quality, a visceral dramatization of the kinds of people Dodd
is up against.
8. The NSA HQ segment (pp. 20-24) cries out for a closer look at the place
and its labyrinthine operations, as well as a more intense Halloran/Farnsworth
relationship. The NSA possesses the most sophisticated electronic equipment
for intelligence gathering in the world. As the story progresses, we should
see some of this machinery in operation, witness something of the complexity
of the coding and decoding operations, including their advanced methods of
surveillance, as well as the misuses and aberrations of the system.
In particular, we should feel the conflict between Halloran and Farnsworth,
two powerful intelligence professionals, over the use of Dodd, and ultimately
over Halloran's ordering Farnsworth to have Dodd and Kittering killed, We
could meet other NSA personnel who might be friends or enemies of Dodd, who
warn him about what can happen to him if he doesn't play the game.
Dodd's line, Is her job stressful, is cute, but most of the rest of the dialogue
in this scene is forced and obvious - e.g., No, Agent Dodd. I got your letter.
We need you more than they do, etc.
9. The Khyber Pass restaurant scene (pp. 24-26) is superfluous, other than
Kittering warning Dodd about the safe deposit box. If it is to remain, it
should be rewritten to add dimension to Dodd and his relationship to Kittering
and/or Farnsworth. For instance, we should see Dodd's realization that he
has been set up, and feel his determination to find out who is trying to
kill him and why.
10. The bank scene (pp. 27-29) does its job, but the dildo gag is tasteless
and unnecessary. The scene is dull and lacks the kind of intense cat-and-mouse
confrontation between Halloran and Dodd that the story requires - e.g., Halloran
trying to trap Dodd, Dodd one jump ahead, etc.
11. The Kittering party scene (pp. 29-34) is largely filler, and should be
rewritten to take us deeper into the Washington political underworld, for
instance, exposing Ernest Kittering's connections with other power brokers
inside the Loop, a mysterious hold he seems to have on Halloran, his unabashed
ambitions to be President.
The strong feelings he and his daughter have for one another, and her
disagreements with his political positions also should be established here,
setting the stage for the eventual confrontation between them.
Halloran shows up with Mona, a bimbo, diminishing his impact as a tough and
dangerous adversary for Dodd. But Dodd's escorting her out of her embarrassing
predicament is heroic and stylish.
The Dodd/Farnsworth apartments segment (pp. 34-35) does its job, but no
explanation is given for why Dodd would hide the key in Farnsworth's bathroom.
No special relationship between them has been established, and since there
are thousands of other places he could have chosen, picking Farnsworth's
apartment feels like a contrivance. If, for example, a Dodd/Farnsworth friendship
is developed, per the above, it would be plausible for Dodd to hide the key
12. The Halloran/Dodd coffee shop scene (pp. 36-38) works, but contains a
minor problem: Halloran tells Dodd about two severed body parts - Sal's head,
and Kittering's finger. Two such similar pieces of business detract from
one another. More importantly, the idea that Dodd would actually believe
that Vasquez might trade Kittering for Sal's head strains credibility. Something
else should be traded for Kittering, e.g., evidence against Vasquez and his
relationship with a U.S. government official.
13. The Cuzco airport landing scene, with Vasquez' army, band, and women
(pp. 38-41) is charming. Its only significant problem is that it casts Vasquez
in a comic light, a first impression that is tough to overcome, weakening
his effectiveness as a real threat to Dodd and Kittering. A quick look at
Vasquez' menacing side - e.g., supervising the torture or other mistreatment
of those who oppose him, could be added to the existing scene, for instance,
before the Cessna lands, enabling us to see both his craziness, and the real
danger he and his operation present to Dodd and Kittering.
14. The Vasquez mansion suite scene (pp. 42-44) is a throwaway, a wasted
opportunity to develop the Dodd/Kittering relationship beyond the superficial.
We should see some of their fears about the dangers they are in. Possibilites
include: Will he be able to get her out, his fish-out-of-water problems as
a computer scientist trying to operate as a field agent, his knowledge that
there are people out there trying to kill him, his concern for her.
In addition, her exterior toughness should be contrasted with her real fears
of Vasquez. The beginnings of suspicions about her father's involvement could
be added here, heightening the emotional intensity.
This scene relies too heavily on forced, flippant banter - e.g., Show a little
respect for your emancipator. Emancipate me and I might, etc. Her closing
lost cause line is thoughtful and touching, tells us more about what kind
of woman she is.
15. The Halloran's office scene (pp. 44-45) is soft. Halloran and Farnsworth
are just too tame for their high-powered jobs. Both characters need work.
One approach is as follows:
Farnsworth objects to the use of an inexperienced agent like Dodd, the danger
to him, etc., while Halloran says all that's important is the mission - Dodd
is expendable. Farnsworth's shocked reaction to this could have great force,
and tell us more about his feelings for Dodd, as well as his growing concerns
about how the NSA is being run. When Halloran finally orders him to kill
Dodd and Kittering, the hostilities between them could explode into open
anger, the seeds of which should be established in this scene.
16. The Vasquez/Rosa segment (pp. 46-50) shows their off-beat and quirky
relationship, but is too broad and should be toned down. Some of the threat
and sense of real danger is lost by drawing them so close to comic opera
characters. One possibility is that Vasquez gives Dodd and Kittering a tour
of the operation, allowing us to see the extent of his power - people in
his private prison, his relationship with other drug kingpins, the ongoing
wears between them as spies are caught and killed, etc.
These, or any comparable elements, will provide an underpinning of legitimacy
to Vasquez and dramatize his real power and menace. This will play nicely
against the more comic elements to his personality and his relationship with
The dialogue in this scene is banal and obvious, e.g., You want those filthy
words to be your last.
17. The Dodd/Rosa bedroom scene (pp. 50-55) is charming, a nice piece of
business with Rosa and the razor. The scene is much too long at five pages
for its importance to the story, and should be trimmed to half or less. Dodd's
you're beautiful, but the razor won't help line, is cute.
18. The Vasquez bedroom scene (pp. 55-56) does its job, but is weakened by
Vasquez' flippancy, which obviates the threat to Dodd and Kittering. Possibly,
he should talk about some of the other things he has to deal with in his
operation, describing how the government payoffs, killing of rivals and spies,
etc., works, how easy it is, and how smooth it makes everything, enhancing
the real sense of Vasquez as extremely dangerous.
19. The prison escape scene (pp. 57-60) is soft, and written too lightly.
It can retain the humor, but needs a stronger dramatization of the danger
to Dodd and Kittering. Maybe Dodd actually has to come right up to the point
of doing it with the guard, before being extricated by Kittering - i.e.,
he is willing to go to the wall to get them out of there, but ultimately
doesn't have to.
The escape itself is much too easy, needs obstacles - sirens, guards, tracking
dogs, laser night-vision goggles, etc., to enhance the dangers to Dodd and
20. The itching scene (pp 60-62) is gratuitous as written, and should be
cut or revised to provide material that advances story or character. Possibilites
include: Ernest Kittering dealing with his discovery that his daughter knows
about him, pressuring Halloran to get the tape by any means, the
Halloran/Farnsworth dispute over NSA methods, and the targeting of Dodd and
If the scene is kept, it should be rewritten to deepen the Dodd/Kittering
relationship. Possibilities could include: They have just found out that
her father is involved. She's stunned, livid, the anger suppressed. Dodd
feels for her, tries to comfort her. She tells him to keep his distance.
Later, she reacts badly to the insects. He sees this tough FBI agent go to
pieces, again tries to comfort her. Because of her vulnerability, she allows
it, sees what kind of man he is. They grow closer.
21. The jungle/warehouse scene (pp. 63-67) works well, but does not go far
enough. Enrique and Susana should be much more vocal and passionate in telling
Dodd and Kittering how they feel about Vasquez, how deep the opposition is
to him throughout the country. We should feel the sense of impending revolt
against drug lords.
22. The Dodd/Kittering bedroom scene (pp. 68-69) is formulaic and predictable.
We have waited half the story for this moments, and it turns out to be
anticlimactic and obvious. They have sex. Other approaches to the scene could
include: (a) She is preoccupied with the involvement of her father in this
situation, and is in no mood for sex or romance, despite her attraction to
Dodd. (b) Dodd feels it's inappropriate, despite his attraction to her, and
the opportunity. He says it's more important they try and figure out how
to get themselves out of this alive.
These, or any comparable elements that draw them closer together would give
their relationship more power, and be less familiar than the expected, obligatory
sex scene in the current draft.
23. The Cessna engine trouble scene (pp. 70-73) is contrived, and should
be cut or justified narratively. Possibilities include someone having tampered
with the engine, or pilot error.
24. The Vasquez/Japanese gardens scene (pp. 73-74) is a throwaway. Dodd and
Vasquez both need more interesting things to say. Possibilities include:
Vasquez' ambitions for his empire, his protectors in Washington, taunting
Dodd that he's a sacrificial lamb. Dodd's responses must show his style and
refusal to be intimidated - e.g., by baiting him, accusing him of destroying
the lives of children, generating a verbal battle, a plan calculated to distract
Vasquez so Dodd can get away.
If Farnsworth has arrived, or sent someone to help Dodd, this is the moment
for them to act. They break Dodd out, enabling him to get Vasquez' half of
the tape, and return to Washington to retrieve the other half, and save Kittering
from her father.
25. The Washington hotel room scene (pp. 75-82) is too light, needs more
intensity and sense of urgency. The coincidence of the Republican meeting
in the room next door, with someone recognizing Kittering as Ernest Kittering's
daughter stretches credibility. Kittering's escape should show her inventiveness,
but needs to be powerful and harrowing - e.g., facing death hanging from
the side of the building, etc. The segment can be lightened with comedy,
but should not itself be a comic piece of business, as in this draft.
26. In the NSA checkpoint scene (pp. 83-84), the sexual banter between Rosa
and Farnsworth is too broad, diminishing Farnsworth.
27. The cab segment (pp. 84-94) is unbelievable, the comedy much too broad
for this story. The sexual business between Rosa and Farnsworth is overdone,
breaking the emotional mood of the end. The segment is too long at ten pages,
and technically could be cut without affecting story or character. If it
is kept, it should run no more than two or three pages.
28. The Halloran's car scene between Kittering and her father (pp. 95-96)
is not strong enough. Her attitude to him would be much more forceful and
hostile, and she would pull no punches in telling him what she thinks and
how she feels about what he's done. We should feel the intense ambivalences
on both sides - the daughter who realizes she must turn in her father, the
father who knows he must have his daughter murdered or lose everything.
29. The finale on the yacht Athena (pp. 97-102), is soft, lacks narrative
and dramatic power. As discussed, there are major story and structural problems
with act three, primarily as a result of Dodd having been out of the action
since p. 70, now appearing to perform a final stunt. The act should be redesigned
to include Dodd as its prime mover, from the time he leaves Cuzco until the
Possibilities can include: Getting away from Vasquez, returning to Washington
ahead of EK's men, finding Kittering before her father's men get to her,
getting both halves of the tape, and arranging an final confrontation between
Kittering and her father.
30. The chopper scene (p. 103) works well. The I don't like you business
with Vasquez and his pilot is cute and funny.
31. The resolution to the Halloran/Ernest Kittering story (pp. 103-105) is
anticlimactic and soft. They just disappear. We need to see their downfall
- e.g., the media covering their arrest, seen by their friends all over town.
In addition, there should be a final confrontation between Kittering and
her father. The whole history of their relationship, what he did wrong as
a father, their love for one another, the agonizing dilemmas on both sides,
the knowledge that one of them must lose, but that both will lose, should
be dramatized here. This scene can contain some of the most powerful, compelling
moments in the film, as father and daughter face each other.
32. The final Dodd/Kittering scene (p. 105) is soft and thrown away, depriving
the audience of an emotional high at the end. It needs to be filled with
excitement, tension, and fun, as they realize they want to be together.
Finally, to end this film with a piece of sexual burlesque between Rosa and
Farnsworth does not do justice either to the central characters or the story.
The ending should involve a resolution to the Dodd/Kittering relationship
- e.g., the beginnings of a romantic future for them, and perhaps their hopes
that their ordeal in this adventure will lead to a few less drugs in the