Sunday, February 16, 2014

Example of Treatment/Synopsis - Rambo 5

Rambo: Last Stand
Treatment by Sean Hood

Read the parent article about treatments and beat sheets on Genre Hacks: Writing The Feature Script: Week Three - The Treatment

Character List:

Rambo: With the events of the previous movies behind him, Rambo is looking to get as far away from violence and conflict as he can – as far away from people as he can. He is tired of killing and wants to live the rest of his life without anyone ever dying at by his hands.  However, in a way reminiscent of “First Blood,” John J. finds himself drawn into a small town feud that escalates, and escalates, and finally puts him at odds with a methamphetamine drug lord, and a deadly mercenary.
As in “Unforgiven,” Rambo must face the personal flaws that draw him, again and again, to situations of extreme violence and aggression – always as a misunderstood, provocative outsider.

Jordan: A nine year old girl who refuses to back down to bullies, child or adult.  She comes to idolize Rambo, despite his protests that there is nothing in him to admire.

Kathy: Jordan’s single mother. Her husband, a Green Beret, died in Iraq two years earlier. Kathy has a strong moral sense, and works actively to oppose the meth-heads who have taken over the land that her family has lived on for over a century.

Shannon: A beautiful, anorexic, somewhat psychotic, meth-addicted young woman who, after an initial “insult,” will not rest until John Rambo is dead. She is the girlfriend of The Fat Man, a drug lord who aims to control methamphetamine sale and distribution throughout the state. She is also a childhood rival of Kathy – they both grew up in this small town, but Kathy in an Idylic ranch, and Shannon in a filthy trailer.

For years, Shannon has been bent on driving Kathy out of town. Rambo gives her the excuse play rough.

Erik: A biker and meth dealer.  Shannon’s brother.

The Tweakers: A group of young men, meth-addicted, who work as muscle for The Fat Man. They are aggressive and heavily armed, but have no actual combat training.

The Fat Man: Whitetrash Nuevo-riche, he has recently purchased most of the land around town and driven most of the locals away so that no one will interfere with his burgeoning meth business.

The Mercenary: He’s half Rambo’s age and twice Rambo’s size, trained in the army as an elite fighter, an expert in survival tactics and guerilla warfare, and ultimately more cruel and sadistic than any individual Rambo has ever faced. The Fat man hires him to dispose of Rambo for good.

Auggie (Agustus), The Sheriff: A man of quiet strength, like Kathy. He avoids conflict with The Fat Man or his soldiers, hoping to keep the peace for the remaining civilians in his county.

Other supporting characters include a doctor, a priest, and two Japanese immigrants that work on Jordan’s ranch.

Opening Image/Pre-Title: Nine-year-old Boys on the playground play “war.“ They all have twisted aggressive expressions on their faces that eerily mirror the violence of adults.  A bully stalks the more timid kids, slugging them, stealing their shoes, and throwing  their shoes on the dilapidated schoolhouse rooftop. 

Then he reaches one little girl, Jordan, who doesn’t back down; she just stares at him, her little hands shaking and balling up into fists. The Bully laughs and lunges at her…

… only to rush straight into her KNUCKLES as they crack against his  nose.

Act One

Rambo lives and works on his dead father’s Ranch, now owned by Jose, his father’s former employee, and his family.  Rambo is tolerated but not entirely welcome. Jose’s relationship with his son Manny is contentious. It is so much like the relationship between John J. and his own father that it brings up bitter memories. When Jose’s overbearing work ethic almost causes Manny to die in an accident in an old well, Rambo leaves the ranch for good.

Rambo rides North on a motorcycle, hoping to run away from his history, his violent past, from all other people with whom he can never seem to avoid conflict.

Somewhere in rural Washington State, Rambo stops to repair his motorcycle. At the gas station minimart he sees a mother, Kathy, and her daughter, Jordan.

As mother and daughter walk to the parking lot they are harassed by the mother (Shannon) and uncle (Erik) of the little boy that Jordan hit in the opening scene.  Rambo intervenes, pinning the uncle to the ground. It is from this initial incident that the conflict will escalate.

Shannon, the meth- addicted girlfriend of a drug lord, becomes more and more obsessed about "payback" for the insult to her brother and her son. Rambo, for his part, will stubbornly refuse to back down or leave town, even as retaliations get more and more violent and life-threatening.

Camping in a roadside tent, Rambo is approached by Jordan on her mountain bike. She thanks him for helping her and her mother earlier. Because her own father was a Green Beret, she recognizes Rambo's fighting skill. Although Rambo is mostly silent and sullen, the girl seems drawn to him.

Later that night, Rambo Is harassed and taunted by “Tweakers,” young meth-addicted bullies, who keep pushing him and pushing him until he lashes back. Later, we will discover that these young men are soldiers for The Fat Man, who controls meth distribution throughout the area.

However, the driving force for continually taunting Rambo is Shannon.

The little girl, Jordan, witnesses the assault and Rambo taking down all six young punks, without killing any of them, even when they draw clubs and knives. However, Rambo is injured. His tent is burned and his motorcycle wrecked.

So, Jordan takes him home.
Act Two

News of Rambo's presence in town, and the thrashing of The Tweakers, reaches The Fat Man. It is absolutely necessary that his business and any associated violence be low profile, but  Shannon is hellbent on payback for the insult. She goads her lover, telling him that if he allows this to pass without retaliation, others, including the county Sheriff will end up causing him trouble. His reputation is a stake.

Throughout the second act we will see how meth is produced and distributed. We will also see the destructive effect it has on the rural poor throughout the area.

As he recovers from his wounds, Rambo works for a few days on Kathy’s ranch, doing repairs and working horses with Jordan.  Despite Rambo being prickly and curt, Jordan follows him around like a loyal dog. Through her (over the course of the story) Rambo comes to re-discover the beauty and majesty of the American landscape (a landscape ravaged by meth addicts.)

As Rambo goes in and out of the small town, he observes how an atmosphere of fear has driven most of ordinary people away from the area. Most who stay are either addicts or part of the Fat Man’s organization. Never the less, the Fat Man has to refrain from too obvious a show of violence or force lest he attract the attention of law enforcement from other counties, or even the FBI.

In contrast to Rambo’s problems with “authority figures” in earlier films, here Rambo finds himself drawn to the local Sherriff, who is his own way, an outsider and an underdog. He has lived in the area all his life and does his best to try to keep the peace, but he is up against forces that are too big and too widespread. The sheriff recognizes Rambo as a man of honor, and a former Green Beret, like Kathy’s dead husband.
It’s clear that The Sheriff has been in love with Kathy for a long time. They were childhood friends.
Kathy, for her part, is wary and disapproving of Rambo. She worries about her daughter idolizing this stranger, and forbids her to be alone with him. She questions why Rambo is stirring up trouble here – and whether he is doing more harm than good.

Meanwhile, Shannon (who has always hated Kathy) use wile and manipulation to get her brother Erik and other soldiers of The Fat Man try to push Rambo to leave, but for that very reason Rambo stays put.  He is stubborn and proud – he has been through too much to back down to anyone. In fact, Rambo boldly walks into the local bar to make sure his presence is known. It’s almost as if he is taunting them.

At Kathy’s ranch, petty harassment escalates to an outright home assault in the middle of the night. But Rambo draws the heavily armed but inexperienced attackers into the wilderness where he cripples and immobilizes each one. (There are echoes of “First Blood” here.)

Midpoint: The Fat Man calls in The Mercenary to take Rambo out.

The remaining part of the second act concerns the escalation to a show down between Rambo and The Mercenary, who is like a younger, stronger, more sadistic and ruthless, version of himself.

The mercenary stalks Rambo running him off a mountain road. In a long sequence of cat and mouse, they stalk each other through the wilderness like guerrilla fighters in a foreign war.  For the first time in his life, Rambo is completely outmatched. The sequence ends in a trailer park meth lab explosion that The Mercenary thinks has left Rambo dead.

But of course, Rambo is still alive. In a twist, Rambo saves the life of one of The Fat Man’s scrawny, seemingly feckless soldiers, only to discover that the young man is an FBI agent , working undercover to try to bring down the Fat Man’s drug ring.

Rambo returns to Kathy’s ranch to find that the house has been burned to the ground. Kathy packs what few items she can salvage into her car.  Jordan sits in the coral, near her dead horses – shot dead. The hapless Sheriff , who was perhaps the one decent man left in the town, is dead – seemingly the victim of the fire (or some other “accident” TDB.)

Rambo decides to arm up and assault the Fat Man’s stronghold, to kill both him and the Mercenary, and anyone else who gets in his way. Kathy scolds him, and tells him this has always been about him and his ego, not her, not her daughter, not their little town.

She says, “I think you came here looking for a place to die.”

Act Three

And maybe she is right. Rambo goes after the The Fat Man in his lair. 

The third act is one long action sequence. Rambo’s last stand. He infiltrates the compound, shoots past dozens of men, killing them all, and blasts his way into the main house.

It all comes down to a man on man fight between him and his shadow, The Mercenary. Rambo fights him without weapons… hand to hand… body to body… and wins.

The bloodied Fat Man, the last one alive, asks, “What for?” And Rambo tells him,“For me.” And shoots him dead.  In the pouring rain, a mortally wounded Rambo leads opens the coral and follows the horses in the darkness of the mountains.

In the aftermath, the undercover FBI man covers up Rambo’s involvement. The shootout is attributed to a civil war in the Fat Man’s crime ring. Shannon is taken into custody (or perhaps she dies of an over dose – but in any case, she will get what she deserves).

Last shot, as Kathy and rebuild their ranch house, Rambo has disappeared into the American Wilderness.

Read the parent article about treatments and beat sheets on Genre Hacks: Writing The Feature Script: Week Three - The Treatment

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