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September 19, 2006

My Life of Crime (Writing). A Film Treatment

In response to Mr. Pelecanos’s Guardian piece, I have decided to devote my life to spoof crime writing, if not simply to crime. Below is a treatment for a movie followed by a sample scene. Note: I realize the actor Dolph Sweet is dead, but some producer with a lot of suck with God/Spacemen ought to be able to coax Mr. Sweet back to work.

“Black and White and Red All Over”
by Chip Cornea
Randall Robinson (Wesley Snipes) is a hard-nosed homicide
detective in Los Angeles. He’s a good cop who’s biggest flaw is
that he cares too damn much. He and his wife (of eight years)
Florida have been separated now for nine months. She’s living back
in Delaware with family. She never could understand why Randall
gave up on his dream to have a nightly gig as an alto sax front
man in his own nightclub. Randall never could make her understand
that when his innocent twin brother Jerome got murdered in a drive
by back in 1989 something changed in him. When they pinned that
badge on Randall at cop school graduation, they pinned it to his
skin…good and deep.


Randall spends what little free time he has blowing cool jazz sax
on his fire escape at night or asking the Korean bodega owners in
his neighborhood if they’ve changed those rickety door locks yet.
On the job, when he’s not plying his own brand of Delaware justice
in the act of collaring bad guys, he’s knocking heads with Chief
McMurphy (played by the late Dolph Sweet). The latter used to be
as hot-headed and idealistic as Randall, but 24 years in the
system has worn his rough edges smooth. McMurphy has been very
careful the last couple years to keep things nice between himself
and the Commissioner. Next month there’s a full Chief’s pension
with his name on it and a 30-foot cabin cruiser named “Darlene’s
Daddy” in a marina in San Diego. There’s no way in hell a loose
cannon with something to prove is going to jeopardize all that.
McMurphy’s plan is to keep Randall riding a desk until his
retirement. Everything is going as planned until a Russian
diplomat (Randall once saved from a botched kidnapping attempt by
the LA Russian mafia) specifically requests (through the State
Department) that Randall work a local case involving the murder of
his niece Natasha Svboda’s (Daryl Hannah) fiance Alex Koslov.
Natasha Svboda is a U.S. born/bred Russian/Irish sculptress making
it on her own. She’s working her way through art school as a
hostess at an upscale Tex Mex/Russian Beverly Hills Restaurant
called The Lone Star of Odessa. The restaurant had been managed by
Koslov and is owned by the shadowy entrepreneur Roman Skoda.
Reluctantly, under pressure from the Commissioner who is under
pressure from the State Department, McMurphy puts Randall in
charge of the case. Randall is eager to get back out on the street
until he learns that his new partner will be Detective Yugo
Popanolof (Yakov Smirnoff) from Moscow PD’s combination bunko
/vice squad. Randall protests up and down to McMurphy, but it’s no
use. Randall will work with Popanolof if he wants to return
permanently to street duty.
Popanolof is on the case because, unknown to Randall, there is a
connection between the Koslov case and a white sex slavery ring
sting cooking in Moscow. This is more than a simple murder case.
Since the past has shown him that no murder case is ever really
simple, Randall has a hunch “something is up” with this one.
Popanolof also has a personal interest in the case: His sister
Mara was murdered by a Russian white slavery boss when she tried
to escape “the life” she’d been sold into. It’s his mission to be
especially fierce in his quest to break up all Russian white
slavery sex rings.
At first Randall and Popanolof are perplexed by each other’s
strange and unorthodox cop styles. Randall assumes the role as
boss. Since it’s Randall’s turf, Popanolof plays the good foreign
subordinate, though he often allows his wisdom to shine in the
form of witty truisms Randall is unable to contest. Gradually, a
bond is formed through their mutual distaste for obdurate cruelty
manifest in senseless crime. Especially that of a sexual nature.
The bond is cured solid one evening when:
Randall and Popanolof, confounded by the paucity of substantial
leads in the Koslov case, console themselves in Randall’s
apartment by drinking two 40 ouncers of malt liquor and a litre of
Russian vodka. They realize, through their uninhibited
appreciation for each other’s booze, that they are two of a kind.
A partnership is born. Randall breaks into a beat a la Bobby
McFarren while Popanolof raps in Russian. An assassin’s errant
bullet shatters a window and a wedding picture of Randall and his
wife on the mantle. The evening is over, but their determination
to solve this crime is redoubled.
Through their investigation of The Lone Star of Odessa, Randall
and Popanolof learn that Koslov was more than just slightly
involved in the dirty works of Roman Skoda. When Randall
anonymously receives a VHS tape of Koslov “breaking in” an
unwilling white Russian sex slave recruit, he brings it to the
attention of Natasha Svboda. At first she does not believe that
Koslov could be involved, and she slaps Randall in the face for
suggesting such. But she is soon bothered by flashbacks of Koslov
coming home to her with violent defense wound scratches on remote
parts of his body. A few times, he’d even been a little too rough
with her.
When Natasha finally comes around to accepting that her late
boyfriend was a sexually deviant criminal, she goes to Randall’s
apartment to apologize for the way she treated him. She arrives
some hours after Randall has been served with divorce papers by
his estranged wife Florida. Cool jazz saxophone with lots of
reverb fills the chrome and black leather-appointed apartment.
Nagel prints adorn the walls. Randall is drunk and weeping stuff
about Florida and his dead twin brother Jerome. Natasha comforts
him and helps him get into bed. While removing his skin-tight
shirt, she can’t help but admire his hairless, god-like pectorals.
Randall kisses her once, and she lets him. Then she pulls away,
tells him that it’s wrong. She leaves the apartment.
Meanwhile, Popanolof has done some digging, and finds out that
Roman Skoda is a partner in a real estate holding company called
Allied Holding Company. AHC’s other principal owner is Van Dyke
Arlidge (Wayne Rogers), who happens to be the Director of
Immigrant Affairs in the U.S. Customs Office at the Port of Los
Angeles. Could Arlidge be accepting large cash and land payments
from Roman Skoda through AHC in exchange for facilitating the
illegal importation of white Russian sex slaves? Randall agrees
with his Russian counterpart, and together they aim to bring down
Skoda, Arlidge and the whole white Russian sex slavery ring.
The drama peaks in a scene in a warehouse adjacent to The Lone
Star of Odessa. Skoda, having learned of the leak of the Koslov
sex tape to the cops, sets his sights on Natasha. Skoda believes
that Natasha leaked the tape as payback for Koslov’s murder. Just
as one of Skoda’s thugs is about to sculpt Natasha’s pretty
features, Randall and Popanolof bust in and shoot the place up.
Randall, consumed by hatred for Skoda and all he stands for, is
going to put a bullet in his brain. Popanolof and Natasha convince
him that Skoda’s not worth it. Randall says that since his brother
Jerome was murdered and Florida left him, he has nothing much to
live for. At that point, Popanolof reminds him of their
friendship. Natasha reminds him of his dream to be a saxophone
player and of their new connection. In the end, Randall spares
Skoda’s life. He agrees to “let a jury deal with this scumbag.”
Popanolof will return to Russia vindicated. He will finally be
able to put his dead sister’s ghost to rest. He will bring Skoda
back to Russia to face a litany of international charges.
Randall is unable to come to terms with the watered-down
convictions of many of the older cops on the force in the LAPD.
There is also no room in his life for Natasha until he can “get
his head on straight.” He decides to take a leave of absence
effective the night of McMurphy’s retirement party. At the party,
Randall and Popanolof listen to cop after cop toast McMurphy’s
heroic deeds of yesteryear. They observe the respect and reverence
shown to McMurphy by other cops. Perhaps Randall has been too
critical of McMurphy. Before leaving, Randall and McMurphy shake
hands. Randall congratulates McMurphy on a fine career. McMurphy
congratulates Randall on the Skoda case, calling it “one hell of a
bust.” Still shaking hands, McMurphy goes on to predict that
Randall will have “one hell of a future.” Randall replies that
it’s looking that way. Both men smile sincerely.
The next morning Randall drives Popanolof to LAX in his black
Nissan 300zx (with a T-roof). After their good-byes and the
unspoken acknowledgment that they probably will never see each
other again, Randall tries to pull away from the curb but his lane
is blocked by a taxi. Natasha steps out of the cab, smiling and
holding a red anodized saxophone. She is dressed like a knockout.
Popanolof looks on, shaking his head and smiling as Natasha
wiggles into the Japanese muscle car. Popanolof yells, “What a
country!” as the 300zx peels out and heads toward a sign that
reads, “Freeway East.”

Here’s a sample scene:

RANDALL and POPANOLOF are combing the Sunset Strip in
search of a Latina/Phillipina hooker named TIKKI. TIKKI’s
on-again-off-again old man is a two-bit pimp/bookie/fence
named Manolo Delasilva. Manolo’s been known to steer the
more super-classy immigrant chicks “looking for work” to
Roman Skoda’s restaurant The Lone Star of Odessa.

EXT. SUNSET STRIP – DUSK

RANDALL spots TIKKI working a corner. He points the
gleaming black Nissan 300zx toward her. C and C Music
Factory is making the Nissan’s sub-woofers throb.

RANDALL
Time to make this hot
Latina/Phillipina tucan sing for
her supper.

POPANOLOF
In Russia, we have saying: You
catch more Bolsheviks with bayonet
than with bread, but the be
stabbed rarely tell you for what
it is you quest.

RANDALL takes this to heart as he pulls the Nissan 300zx
up in front of TIKKI.

TIKKI leans her dyed-blonde head and precariously
holstered breasts into the Nissan’s driver’s side window.

TIKKI
(smiling, sizing up
the two men)
Oooh, yeah! This is what I’m
talking about. Black and white
double trouble is one of my
favorite kinds of trouble, sugar
bears. You boys are not-tee, not
tee, not-tee.

RANDALL
(businesslike, cold)
No sale, Charro. We’re lookin’ for
Manolo.

TIKKI
(coyly)
Oooh, king-kee! Looks like I got
myself a couple ivory tickling
Liberaces. Sorry, sisters. What
you wanna do is take a right onto
the interstate and get yourselves
off in San Francis-

RANDALL grabs her wrist with explosive/excessive force.
TIKKI loses her street-smart persona.

RANDALL
(slowly, quietly
menacing)
Don’t make me ask again. Where’s
Manolo?

TIKKI uses her free hand to soothe her captured wrist.

TIKKI
Owww! You’re hurting me.

A few other hookers take notice of the scene from a safe
distance on the sidewalk.

POPANOLOF plays good cop. He reaches over, and with a
motion of his hand, RANDALL’s grip on TIKKI loosens.

POPANOLOF
(to RANDALL)
Easy goes it, soul brother. She’s
just an innocent wictim. No way in
all that is hellish she could be
scrambled up in this goulash of
persecution and wiolence and
criminality.

TIKKI
(to RANDALL)
Yeah, izzackly what he said.

RANDALL
Where’s Manolo?

TIKKI has tears in her eyes. She lets her guard down,
launches into a sincere rant that is equal parts anger
and exasperation.

TIKKI
Where’s Manolo? Where’s Manolo?
I’ve been asking that same
question for two months now. Where
the fuck is Manolo! I got one of
his babies hungry, crying at home
and another one starting to cook
up real good right here (rubbing
her stomach). Where’s manolo? I
tell you what, you better hope I
don’t find him first,’cause if I
do there aint gonna be nothing but
a smoking pile of cheap-ass shoes
and clothes.
Morris Day and the Time-singing
mother fucker. Where’s Manolo?
Huh! Where’s Manolo? I tell you
what, when you find out, you let
me know and we’ll go there
together and we’ll be tcb in a
flash. You can have most of him…

RANDALL releases her wrist, and stabs the gas. He glances
over his sunglasses and into the rearview mirror. Shakes
his head slowly.

RANDALL
(in exhasuted
disbelief)
Shiiiit.

TIKKI is still ranting and gesticulating to the ever
shrinking Nissan.

POPANOLOF catches a glimpse of a hooker leaning into a
john’s driver’s side window. Her ass, barely contained by
orange skin-tight latex shorts sticks out into traffic as
the Nissan passes.

POPANOLOF
What a country!

CUT TO:

Joe @ 4:29 pm