Greatest Film Plot Twists
Film Spoilers and
Surprise Endings


Written by Tim Dirks

Greatest Movie Plot Twists, Spoilers and Surprise Endings
Title Screen
Film Title/Year and Plot Twist-Spoiler-Surprise Ending Description

The Letter (1940)

Leslie Crosbie Murdered Secret Lover Hammond, and Was Vengefully Stabbed to Death by Hammond's Eurasian Widow

In the shocking opening of William Wyler's classic melodramatic film noir of murder and deceit, British plantation owner's wife Leslie Crosbie (Bette Davis) shot neighbor Geoffrey Hammond (David Newell) six times as he staggered out of a tropical bungalow on the grounds of a Malayan rubber plantation.

Later when she described the killing and confessed to her lawyer Howard Joyce (James Stephenson), she implied that the murder was justifiable self-defense against a man intent on violating her. However, Joyce's law clerk Ong Chi Seng (Sen Yung) discussed with him a copy of an incriminating letter Leslie had written to Hammond the day she killed him, revealing her real motives (she was desperately in love with Hammond). She wrote that her husband would be away that evening, and pleaded with him to come - implicitly threatening him if he did not.

Leslie was blackmailed for $10,000 by Hammond's Eurasian widow (Gale Sondergaard) who had the original letter. A demand was made for a personal apology during the sale (that had emptied her long-suffering husband Robert's (Herbert Marshall) bank account). Mrs. Hammond made a dramatic entrance through a jangling bead curtain, and required that Leslie pick up the letter at her feet.

Leslie's Debasement to Acquire Incriminating Letter
From Hammond's Widow

With the suppression of the letter, Leslie was quickly acquitted in her trial. Later, during a celebratory party, as she was standing on her balcony, she saw a gleaming dagger planted there. Leslie's kind and generous husband, although he knew of her affair, offered to forgive her if she professed her love for him. She admitted her ultimate betrayal in the final line of the film:

Leslie: You're so kind and generous. You should have the sort of wife you really deserve. Through no fault of yours, l've failed you, wrecked your life. l can't ask you to forgive me.
Robert: lf you love a person, you can forgive anything. (She hugged him) So, what about you? Can you go on?
Leslie: l'll try. l'll really try.
Robert: That isn't what l was asking.
Leslie: l'll do everything in my power to make you happy.
Robert: That's not enough, unless... Leslie, tell me. Now. This minute. Do you love me?
Leslie: Yes, l do. (They kissed) No! l can't, l can't, l can't!
Robert: Leslie, what is it? Leslie, what is it?
Leslie: With all my heart, I still love the man I killed! Oh, no.

In the ending retribution scene, Leslie went to her balcony, where she noticed the dagger was missing. She walked deliberately into her own dark tropical garden, where she saw the outer gate was ajar. Shadows came over her as the moon was covered by clouds. Outside the gate in the darkness, she was confronted by vengeful, retribution-seeking Mrs. Hammond, and another man-servant. She was grabbed and gagged by the man (to stifle her screams), and then stabbed to death by a flashing dagger in Mrs. Hammond's hand.

As the two killers were leaving, they were briefly questioned by an officer. When they walked off (to be detained?), Leslie's body was revealed on the ground, as the moonlight illuminated the murder scene.

Murder of Hammond by Leslie Crosbie (Bette Davis)

Leslie Crosbie with Lawyer Howard Joyce

Mrs. Hammond (Gale Sondergaard)

The Dagger

To Husband: "I Still Love the Man I Killed!"

Onto Her Balcony and Into the Garden

Leslie's Stabbed Corpse

The Life of David Gale (2003)

Leukemia Victim and Fellow Activist Constance Made Her Death (Suicide?) Look Like Rape and Murder, to Convict Collaborator Professor David Gale of the Crime, For Publicity Purposes; The Incriminating Tape Showing Gale's True Involvement Was Discovered Too Late to Prevent His Execution

In this provocative and intense suspense-drama about a death row execution, the brutal rape/murder of anti-capital punishment Death Watch activist Constance Harraway (Laura Linney) was videotaped and ultimately revealed to be a framed set-up.

The leukemia-suffering victim had actually engaged in consensual sex with her friend David Gale (Kevin Spacey), sobbing convulsively during the actual act of rape. Her suicide was made to look like she was murdered by Gale. Her hands were tied and she was suffocated with a plastic bag over her head.

The plan was to frame title character: fellow activist and intellectual University of Austin philosophy professor David Gale in order to convict, imprison, and ultimately execute him on Death Row (with lethal injection) - he would be made to look like he was a martyr and innocent man in a highly publicized case - in order to prove his death-penalty abolition argument/cause and meet the challenge presented by the governor of Texas.

It was revealed that Gale was in on the crime (and he deliberately chose an incompetent defense attorney Braxton Belyeu (Leon Rippy), possibly involved in the deception) - told in stages as a flash-backed story in the few days before his execution to news magazine journalist Bitsey Bloom (Kate Winslet).

In the film's epilogue, an uncut version of the videotape (the film's third videotape) labeled "Off the Record" was sent to journalist Bloom from Gale's lawyer with a letter (" would be the key to your freedom"). The tape was secretly concealed in a stuffed lamb (Gale's reminder of his son), which Bloom then watched by herself in an AV room.

It showed that Harraway's death was not really a suicide, but that Gale had deliberately left his fingerprints on the plastic bag covering Harraway's head, as she already laid naked and dead on the kitchen floor. His unwarranted execution was designed to provide publicity for the cause of those protesting capital punishment.

Professor David Gale (Kevin Spacey)

Letter: "It Would Be the Key to Your Freedom"

Videotape of Rape/Murder of Activist Constance Harraway (Laura Linney)

Bitsey Bloom (Kate Winslet) Realizing Deception

The Uncut Video

The Lincoln Lawyer (2011)

Rich Real-Estate Playboy Louis Roulet Deliberately Set a Trap for His Sleazy Defense Lawyer Mick Haller In a Case of Assault and Rape. Roulet's Crime Was Linked to a Previous More Heinous Incident in Which Haller Had Sent an Innocent Man to San Quentin. Roulet Finally Received Justice. His Rich Socialite Mother Had Murdered Haller's Investigator. When She Pulled a Gun on Haller and Wounded Him, He Defensively Shot Back and Killed Her.

This noirish legal thriller was adapted from Michael Connelly's best-selling book) by director Brad Furman. The "Lincoln Lawyer" was:

  • Mick Haller (Matthew McConaughey), a sleazy, rakish, hustling defense attorney

The semi-corrupt Haller conducted LA-based business from the back-seat of his chauffeured black, aging Lincoln Continental (license plate - NTGUILTY). The vehicle was driven by Earl (Laurence Mason) - a former client working off his legal fees. Haller had lost his license for a DUI, but had his license returned 3 months earlier, but he still retained his way of doing business.

His shifty work, often abetted by lavish amounts of alcohol, was characterized by deal-making, seedy clients (Hell's Angels riding motorcycles in a threatening swarm, druggies, hookers and murderers), and helping to get criminals and other low-lifes freed.

Throughout the film, Mick also interacted with his pretty ex-wife Maggie McPherson (Marisa Tomei), a prosecutor who felt he had represented too many "dirtbags." Mick remembered what his father had memorably told him: "There's no client as scary as an innocent man." He had a slight conscience, realizing that if he sent an innocent man to prison, "you're never gonna be able to live with yourself." He was also hounded by Detective Kurlen (Michael Pare) who asked him in an elevator, "How does someone like you sleep at night, with all the scum you represent?"

The film opened with a lengthy traveling shot through a courthouse's corridors as Mick spoke to his shady bail bondsmen Val (John Leguizamo) who suggested that the unethical lawyer take note of a potentially-lucrative case. The cocky, drawling shyster lawyer decided to represent:

  • Louis Roulet (Ryan Phillippe), a smirking, spoiled 32 year-old Beverly Hills playboy and real estate broker

In the contested case of attempted rape and assault-murder, Mick's client Louis was supported by two individuals with deep pockets:

  • Mary Windsor (Frances Fisher), a rich, well-connected socialite real-estate mogul/mother
  • Cecil Dobbs (Bob Gunton), their family attorney

The manipulative Roulet had deliberately chosen Mick to represent him, so that if any evidence was raised that implicated him in any further crimes, he would be protected because of attorney-client privilege and confidentiality rules.

Two versions of the crime against prostitute Regina "Reggie" Campo (Margarita Levieva) were recreated and visualized:

  • Roulet claimed he was entirely innocent - he had been targeted as a rich guy in a bar by the opportunistic prostitute, and invited to the victim's apartment so she could fleece him. After entering, he said she abruptly knocked him out, then faked a vicious beating (had she beaten herself, or had a previous male client helped her?), bloodied his hand - and then sued him.
  • The prostitute claimed she had indeed propositioned Roulet at the nightclub, and invited him to her address written on a napkin. However, once there, she was viciously beaten and raped, but she survived.

As the investigation progressed, and included the death of Mick's own shaggy long-haired investigator Frank Levin (William H. Macy) - who was shot with Mick's own stolen antigue gun, it became clear that Roulet was guilty of the crime he was charged with. With veiled threats, Roulet also threatened Mick's eight year-old daughter Hayley (Mackenzie Aladjem), and he boldly admitted (off-the-record) to killing a previous murder victim in a similar case.

A talkative courtroom trial proceeded between two determined lawyers: Defense Attorney Mick Haller vs. Prosecutor Ted Minton (Josh Lucas), who was assisted by Mick's ex-wife Maggie.

There were unreliable witnesses (e.g., jailhouse snitch DJ Corliss (Shea Whigham)), and charges were ultimately dismissed, but the testimony revealed numerous plot twists:

  • Roulet had committed a previous crime, the murder of a prostitute named Donna Renteria, in a case where Mick was linked. In that instance, he had sent an innocent man, Jesus Martinez (Michael Pena) to San Quentin prison after he forced his client to plead guilty in exchange for avoiding the death penalty.
  • The incriminating evidence in Donna Renteria's murder case was that Roulet had received a parking ticket outside Donna's place on the night of her murder. Roulet had also said he liked to hurt women, because they deserved it. When charges were dropped in the Reggie Campo case, Roulet was freed but then was briefly arrested as a suspect in Renteria's murder (Mick told him: "Time to find yourself a new lawyer"). But Roulet was held for only a short time.
  • To protect his family members, Mick had his biker friends rough up the menacing sociopath Roulet when he came calling at ex-wife Maggie's house.
  • Roulet admitted he carried a switchblade knife with his initials carved into it (the incriminating knife was not pictured in the discovery file from the DA's office but was in Minton's file that Mick had received). He possessed the knife after an assault case in which his mother had been raped while showing a house in Bel Air. Mrs. Windsor admitted on the stand that she was the reason her son had a knife.
  • Mrs. Windsor confronted Mick in his home with the antique gun (she had stolen it) used to kill investigator Frank Levin. She realized that Frank was getting too close to the truth. She shot Mick in the arm and admitted: "I told you my son didn't kill Frank. I did." In self-defense, Mick shot back and killed her.
  • Innocent prisoner Jesus Martinez was freed from San Quentin. Roulet was again charged with Donna Renteria's murder and the DA sought the death penalty.

Lawyer Mick with Chauffeur Earl

Mick with Client Louis Roulet (Ryan Phillippe)

Defense Attorney Mick Haller (Matthew McConaughey)

Mary Windsor (Frances Fisher) with Son Louis Roulet

Rape Victim Regina "Reggie" Campo (Margarita Levieva)

Earlier Murder of Prostitute Donna Renteria

Murder of Investigator Frank Levin (William H. Macy)

Mrs. Windsor Confronting Mick With Gun

The Lion King (1994)

After the Death of His Father, Simba Grew Up and Returned to Defeat His Evil Uncle Scar and Become the New Lion King

In Disney's epic animated musical (considered an interpretation of Shakespeare's Hamlet), Lion Prince Simba was born in Africa to father Mufasa (the king), thus making his Uncle Scar the second in line to the throne. Mufasa's younger brother Scar was jealously angry and envious of his nephew Simba, and plotted with three spotted hyenas (Shenzi, Banzai, and Ed) to kill Mufasa and Prince Simba, take over the Pride Lands, and make himself king.

During a wildebeest stampede caused by the hyenas, Mufasa was killed (while rescuing Simba) by Scar and the young cub was led to believe that his father's death was his fault. Young, guilty-feeling, and gullible Simba was encouraged to run away from the kingdom. After years of exile, he grew up. A now grown-up female lioness Nala, with whom he had fallen in love, failed to convince Simba to return home, overthrow usurper Scar (who had become king), and claim the kingdom as his own.

After Simba had a vision of Mufasa in a water reflection and then in a large cloud, he was advised to remember who he was, and to return to the kingdom. No longer able to run from his past, Simba came back to the Pride Lands ready to battle Scar for the throne. Their combat began at Pride Rock after Scar tauntingly accused Simba of murder - until Scar admitted, in barely a whisper, that he had killed Mufasa.

After calling Scar a "murderer," Simba ordered his uncle from the land of Pride Rock to go into permanent exile when he begged for mercy ("Run away, Scar and never return"), but Scar remained and began fighting. Simba kicked him over the rocks to the hyenas, who attacked and killed Scar for his proposed betrayal ("It was the hyenas who are the real enemy. It was their fault, it was their idea").

The rains were restored to the dried-up Pride Lands, where Simba happily ruled the animal kingdom. Simba and Nala's newborn baby cub was presented to the other animals - thereby continuing the "Circle of Life."

The Murder of Mufasa by Scar

Young Simba's Grief

Adult Simba vs. Scar

Simba with His Newborn Cub

Logan's Run (1976)

The Carousel Ceremony Was Part of an After-30 Euthanasia Policy; Inhabitants of The Domed City Were Freed After It Was Discovered That There Was No 'Sanctuary'

Michael Anderson's sci-fi action-adventure presented a dystopic view of society in the year 2274, in which inhabitants lived a life of hedonism and pleasure in a domed city (run by a female-voiced super computer). At the age of 30, citizens had to submit to either "renewal" (a peaceful death) or "Carousel" (a gladiatorial battle) - otherwise, they faced having to become a "Runner" to escape.

Each inhabitant received a signal to attend a renewal Carousel ceremony, when reaching the age of 30. A "life-clock" crystal embedded at birth in the left hand's palm, would change color and blink red - to signal the "Last Day." Everyone was told that they would be renewed and reborn at the "Carousel" ceremony (attended by an audience cheering "Renewal" in a round amphitheatre), where the white robed participants floated up into the air toward a huge suspended gem - and exploded in a shower of sparks.

The film's twist was that the quasi-religious ritual was actually a death ceremony (the participants were zapped like bugs).

Logan 5 (Michael York), a cop-like Sandman, was entrusted with capturing Runners who attempted to escape, and trying to reach a place known as "Sanctuary." He learned of a secret underground rebel society (identified by the Egyptian 'ankh' symbol) that aided Runners to escape. And then, as part of his job, Logan 5 was commanded by the female-voiced, omniscient computer system, to become a Runner, find Sanctuary and destroy it. In order to infiltrate the rebel group and complete his mission, Logan 5 was aged 4 years and his life clock began to flash red. He became concerned about restoring his lost 4 years once his assignment was completed, but did not receive a satisfactory answer from the computer.

The truth about his society and its practice of after-30 euthanasia policies was revealed to Logan 5 - when he found himself ready to be terminated. He and Jessica 6 (Jenny Agutter) fled the city as fugitives to what they believed was 'Sanctuary.' Once they left the city and were skinny-dipping, they looked at their palms which had turned clear and Logan surmised: "The Life-clocks have no power outside. We're free."

'Sanctuary' was not real - it turned out to be the overgrown ruins of the National Mall in Washington D.C. They stared up at the weed-infested Lincoln Memorial statue. They found the area was inhabited by an elderly white-bearded man (Peter Ustinov) who was living in the US Senate building, where he was surrounded by cats.

"Look, Look, It's Clear!"
Destruction of Domed City
Amazement at Old Age

By film's end, they returned to their domed city where they attempted to free the entire population into the outer world (through exterior exits) and destroy the city. Logan 5 cried: "You can live! Live! Live and grow old. I've seen it, She's seen it!" and showed his clear left palm, but was met with disbelief.

After being captured, Logan was interrogated by the computer, but the truth in Logan's mind caused the computer system to overload and fail. The city's systems ceased and were rocked with explosions, and the exterior exits were opened. The people were released to the outer real world, where they were amazed to see the elderly man with a white beard.

Carousel "Renewal" Ceremony

Sanctuary - the Lincoln Memorial and Washington DC

Elderly Man (Peter Ustinov)


Lolita (1962, UK/US)

Clare Quilty Was Also Lolita's Lover; Jealous and Angry Humbert Shot Quilty To Death; Married and Pregnant at Age 17, Lolita Was Planning to Move To Alaska, and an Imprisoned Humbert Died of a Heart Attack While Awaiting Trial

Stanley Kubrick's once-controversial film version of Vladimir Nabokov's 1955 novel began and ended with a connected prologue/epilogue in which literature professor and Humbert Humbert (James Mason), young Lolita's (Sue Lyon) middle-aged stepfather, vengefully shot and murdered TV writer/pedophile Clare Quilty (Peter Sellers) after playing a mad game of ping-pong with him. He was motivated to commit murder for Quilty's duplicity and his part in seducing, running off and abandoning nymphet Lolita.

In the murder scene, Quilty fled from the living room toward the curving stairs as Humbert fired again and again. At the top of the grand staircase, Quilty was hit and wounded in the right leg, and he crumpled down. Quilty, dazed and gasping, dragged himself away with his wounded leg to find cover behind a Victorian, Gainsborough-type watercolor painting of an 18th century genteel young woman - the portrait was propped up against the wall in the hallway. Humbert emptied all six rounds of his gun into the portrait, killing Quilty (off-screen) through the painting.

At the very end of the main narrative (the in-between story set four years earlier), Humbert (now a broken man) expressed his genuine love and sacrifice for Lolita. He made one final plea to rescue her from her shabby, bland existence in a hovel (with her superficial husband) and return to their own world of the past. When she denied his request, he cried and poignantly reached for over $400 in cash, a check for $2,500, and a mortgage document (from her mother's estate) worth about $10,000. Lolita was astonished and concerned:

You mean we're getting thirteen thousand dollars? Wonderful. Oh, come on now, don't cry. I'm sorry. Try to understand. I'm really sorry that I cheated so much, but I guess that's just the way things are.

Afterwards, Humbert rushed for his car, as she called out from the door with the wad of cash in her hand: "Hey, well listen, let's keep in touch, huh? I'll write to you when we get to Alaska." As he drove away in the fog toward Quilty's mansion, the film returned to the prologue (now epilogue) in which Humbert called out: "Quilty, Quilty!" before the scene faded to black.

The ending shot was a second view of the watercolor painting of a young woman with a bullet hole through her face - symbolic of the irrecoverably-marked life of Lolita.

The epilogue's title card: "Humbert Humbert died of coronary thrombosis in prison awaiting trial for the murder of Claire Quilty."

Prologue: "Do you want to die standing up or sitting down?"

Humbert Humbert (James Mason) With Gun

Wounded Clare Quilty (Peter Sellers) Dragging Himself Behind Painting

Quilty Murdered Behind Portrait

Humbert with Married Lolita - Offering Her Cash


Lone Star (1996)

Lovers Sheriff Deeds and Teacher Cruz, Who Discovered They Were Half-Siblings, Decided to Keep Their Relationship A Secret

Writer/director John Sayles' murder mystery explored interpersonal and interracial tensions and dark secrets in Rio County, Texas (a fictional locale) - including the investigation of a past murder. The tagline was:

John Sayles invites you to return to the scene of the crime.

It ended with a twist revelation regarding the rekindled relationship between a loving couple - who originally dated in high-school:

  • Sheriff Sam Deeds (Chris Cooper), the Rio County law officer in the town of Frontera
  • Pilar Cruz (Elizabeth Pena), widowed, a dedicated high school history teacher, allegedly the daughter of Eladio Cruz and mother Mercedes

Sheriff Deeds and Pilar Cruz were actually half-brother and sister.

When earlier they were teenaged high-school sweethearts (Tay Strathairn as young Sam and Vanessa Martinez as young Pilar), their relationship was forbidden not because of racial enmity or prejudice, but because of a secret love affair between:

  • Sheriff "Buddy" Deeds (Matthew McConaughey), Sam's argumentative father - the previous law officer, who was married
  • Mercedes Cruz (Miriam Colon), Pilar's mother, a business leader, who was "Buddy's" mistress

[The film's major sub-plot revealed that an earlier corrupt, racist and violent Sheriff Charlie Wade (Kris Kristofferson) was not killed by "Buddy" (one of Wade's deputies at the time) after an altercation, but by Mayor Hollis Pogue (Clifton James), Wade's chief deputy and best friend at the time. "Buddy" took over as Sheriff shortly after Wade's death. During Wade's tenure as Sheriff, he point-blank shot and killed Pilar's alleged father Eladio Cruz for transporting illegal immigrants ('wets') across the border, witnessed by a horrified Hollis.]

The film ended with Pilar and Sam meeting at a deserted drive-in where they used to go as teenagers. They sat on the hood of his car. After Sam's investigation, he revealed that she was 'fathered' by "Buddy" (not Eladio) with Mercedes - and therefore, Pilar and Sam were half-siblings to each other.

Sam: "You gonna tell your mother we've been seeing each other?"
Pilar: "She'll find out sooner or later. I don't have to ask permission anymore, if that's what you mean."
Sam: "You have any idea when your father died? Eladio?"
Pilar: "Couple of months before I was born."
Sam: "Try a year and half..." (He showed her an old photo of "Buddy" with Mercedes)
Pilar: "They can't pull this on me. It's not fair. I don't believe this."
Sam: "He (Buddy) paid the hospital bill when you were born. Your mother, she always called you 'a beautiful daughter' in the letters she wrote to him."
Pilar: "From the first time I saw you at school, all those years we were married to other people, I always felt like, like we were connected."
Sam: "I remember thinkin' that you were the one part of my life that Buddy didn't have a piece of."
Pilar: "I can't have any more children. After Amado, I had some complications. I can't get pregnant anymore, if that's what the rule is about. So that's it? You're not gonna want to be with me anymore?"
Sam: "If I met you for the first time today, I'd still want to be with you." Pilar: "Start from scratch?"
Sam: "Yeah."

She delivered a shocking last line about digging up the past, indicating that they would continue their semi-incestuous loving relationship:

"All that other stuff, and all that history? To hell with it, right? Forget the Alamo."

[Note: The film that played at the drive-in when they were teenagers hinted at Pilar's mixed parentage of Hispanic/Mexican and Anglo: Black Mama, White Mama (1972).]

Sheriff Charlie Wade (Kris Kristofferson)

The Murder of Eladio Cruz by Sheriff Wade

Sheriff "Buddy" Deeds (Matthew McConaughey)

Sheriff Sam Deeds (Chris Cooper)

Pilar Cruz (Elizabeth Pena)

Revelations from Sam to Pilar at the Old Drive-In

Old Photo: "Buddy" Deeds and Pilar's Mother Mercedes

Sheriff Sam Deeds with Pilar Cruz - Half-Siblings

Looking for Mr. Goodbar (1977)

Theresa Was Brutally Raped and Murdered by One Night Stand Impotent Lover Gary, Not by Another Jealous and Possessive Lover Named Tony

Richard Brooks' sexually frank and cautionary adaptation of Judith Rossner's 1975 fictional best-seller descended into the carnal depths of New York's singles bars during the height of the sexual revolution.

It ended with an inevitable (although still shocking and chilling) fate for promiscuous, sexually-awakened, self-destructive Catholic-raised school teacher of deaf-mute children Theresa Dunn (Diane Keaton).

Theresa was a predatory, bar-hopping female cruiser searching for the perfect one-night-stand ("Mr. Goodbar") as a way to escape her dull and mundane life. She found herself threatened by possessive and jealous lover Tony (Richard Gere).

She ended up dead - a victim of casual sex and 'free love' in the late 70s. Her graphic and brutal murder was committed not by Tony, but by enraged one night-stand lover Gary White (Tom Berenger). She had picked Gary up at a bar on New Years' Eve, and she brought him home to her apartment. He turned out to be an unstable, closeted homosexual.

After they began making out on her bed, he claimed he couldn't get an erection, and she tried to be reassuring: "Maybe, maybe it's me. Whatever, it's not your fault. It happens." He responded: "Goddamn women, all you gotta do is lay there. Guys gotta do all the work. (She laughed) You think that's funny!" She joked further, not realizing that she was insulting his manhood: "Well, I think it's a helluva way to start the New Year."

When she demanded that he leave, and asked: "What are you trying to prove?", he went ballistic:

"Prove!? Prove what? I don't have to prove nothin'. You think I'm some kind of flamin' faggot. Goddamn it, I'm married to a girl that makes you look like s--t. She's down in Florida with a belly out to here with my kid. Mine! How's that for proof, you..."

A blue strobe light blinked on/off while he strangled, smothered and stabbed her, and also raped her after finding himself aroused.

The Murder of Theresa Dunn (Diane Keaton)

Looper (2012)

Young "Looper" Hit-Man Joe Simmons Realized That If His Older Self Killed Sara, Her Child Cid (Revealed as a Future Mob Boss named the Rainmaker) Would Grow Up With Revenge and Hatred. To Change the Future, Young Joe Killed Himself, Causing the Disappearance of His Older Self Who Was About to Shoot Sara

This was a mind-bending, intelligent sci-fi action thriller by talented writer-director Rian Johnson.

Two of the earliest characters introduced in the film were "Loopers" (or contract killers) - the film's title:

  • Joe Simmons (Joseph Gordon-Levitt), 25 years old
  • Seth Richards (Paul Dano), a fated, fellow friend of Joe's

Joe lived in the year 2044 in the burned-out, socially-decayed, dystopic metropolis of Kansas City. He was a low-level, yet specialized hitman (or "looper"). Both Joe and Seth worked for crime boss Abe (Jeff Daniels) in a Kansas syndicate. Abe had been sent back from the future by the mob to manage or run the loopers. He arranged and hired a contract killer (looper) to assassinate each of the mob's selected victims at a pre-arranged drop-off point - a remote corn/wheat field.

Although time travel was yet to be invented in 30 years (in the year 2074), it was immediately outlawed. However, it had been appropriated and used by criminal gangsters, such as a controlling mastermind mob boss named Rainmaker 30 years into the future (2074), to execute enemies and leave no trace. It was a foolproof method - targeted enemies to be eliminated were sent back from 2074 to the present year of 2044, to be disposed of (with no trace left, such as a murdered corpse).

[Anonymous victims would appear hooded and gagged in 2044, then promptly shot by the awaiting hitman-looper. A looper was paid with the silver bar attached to the target's back. The looper would work many years until his last hit when he found a gold bar strapped on the victim's back. This signified that that the victim was actually the looper himself (or who he would be in 30 years!). Once the looper killed 'himself' - he would "close the loop" - and be able to retire (living for 30 more years) - until he was then targeted and killed by his younger self.]

Because of his fancy and lucrative lifestyle and career, young hedonistic Joe was able to afford fine retro clothes, a classic red Miata, and a fancy hooker/showgirl Suzie (Piper Perabo). She worked as a can-can dancer at Abe's nightclub "La Belle Aurore." After a naked encounter together, she told him that their relationship didn't go further than "services rendered."

The main plot was that Joe found himself in a twisting situation where his next target was himself - 30 years older Old Joe (Bruce Willis). Old Joe had been living a good life in the future - in Shanghai, China with an unnamed wife (Xu Qing). He had traveled back in time to the year 2044 - to find and kill the monstrous Rainmaker as a young kid, to change the future, save himself from being eliminated, and retain his great lifestyle. According to Old Joe's sources, someone known only as the Rainmaker had called for all the retired loopers to start having their loops closed.

The younger Joe was in hiding from Abe (his own mob boss) at the remote Kansas farmhouse of devoted single-mother Sara Rollins (Emily Blunt) with her son Cid (Pierce Gagnon) (who was revealed to have enormous telekinetic powers). Young Joe suspected that Cid might be one of the children Old Joe thought was the Rainmaker, so he was there to protect Sara and her child.

The mind-bending conclusion revealed that Cid was the Rainmaker. Young Joe realized that if Old Joe killed Sara, Cid's destiny would be disastrous - he would be filled with anger and hatred, and would grow up to become the evil, vengeful Rainmaker. As Sara shielded her son Cid from Old Joe's line of fire, young Joe had a sudden realization - something he knew he could alter immediately:

"Then I saw it. I saw a Mom who would die for her son; a man who would kill for his wife; a boy, angry and alone, laid out in front of him the bad path. I saw it. And the path was a circle, round and round. So I changed it."

To remedy and avert the situation, younger Joe saw that he was too far away to prevent the tragedy of Sara's death, so he shot himself to death in the heart to erase Old Joe's life, just as Old Joe was about to shoot Cid's mother. Old Joe immediately vanished in front of Sara.

Old Joe
(Bruce Willis)

Sara Rollins
(Emily Blunt)

Young Joe Simmons
(Joseph Gordon-Levitt)

Joe with Suzie (Piper Perabo)

Young Joe's Sacrificial Suicide

Old Joe Disappeared in Front of Sara

The Lost Boys (1987)

Santa Carla's Head Vampire Was Not David But Video-Store Owner Max, Who Was Controlling a Motorcycle-Gang of Vampires ("The Lost Boys") Led by David; Max Was Killed by Wood Stake Impalement, Causing All the "Half-Vampires" to Revert to Their Human Selves; Grandpa Knew All Along That There Were Vampires in Santa Carla

Director Joel Schumacher's R-rated teen horror film was titled to reference "the lost boys" in J.M. Barrie's Peter Pan and Neverland stories, and began with the premise that Peter Pan was a vampire.

Shot in the northern California coastal town of Santa Cruz, it showcased the talents of many young stars of the late 80s, including Kiefer Sutherland, Jason Patric, Corey Haim, Jami Gertz, and Corey Feldman, and contained a pop music soundtrack. There were two direct-to-DVD sequels (with more sex and violence) in a trilogy of films: Lost Boys: The Tribe (2008) and Lost Boys: The Thirst (2010) - Corey Feldman was the only actor in the original film to return in both sequels.

The cleverly-marketed, influential production was a hybrid teen film and comedy horror film, evidenced by its tagline:

"Sleep all day. Party all night. Never grow old. Never die. It's fun to be a vampire."

The stylishly-filmed, over-the-top story opened with the Emerson family moving from Phoenix to the northern California coastal town of Santa Carla (fictional) with a beachfront boardwalk and amusement park. They joined up with the financially-strapped, single mom's eccentric father - Grandpa (Barnard Hughes), a taxidermist:

  • Lucy Emerson (Dianne Wiest), a recently-divorced single mother, kind and gentle
  • Michael Emerson (Jason Patric), Lucy's hunky older son
  • Sam Emerson (Corey Haim), her younger son

The first hints that things were awry in the town was that its welcoming entry sign war marked with graffiti: "Murder Capital of the World." There were numerous "Missing Child" posters in town and the boardwalk area, and Grandpa mentioned: "There are some bad elements around here." An unknown entity killed a security guard in the boardwalk's parking lot and a couple in their car (after removing the car's top).

The members of the Emerson family soon found work or companionship:

  • Lucy began to work in a videotape-store owned by Max (Edward Herrmann) on the boardwalk, and became romantically-interested in him
  • Sam befriended vampire-obsessed comic-book store clerks: two brothers Edgar Frog (Corey Feldman) and Alan Frog (Jamison Newlander) (both named after horror writer Edgar Allan Poe) who claimed they were vampire-hunters, using the horror comics as survival guides: "We're dedicated to a higher purpose. We're fighters for truth, justice, and the American way"
  • Michael became interested in vixenish vamp Star (Jami Gertz), who was in a possessive relationship with sexy bicycle-gang leader David (Kiefer Sutherland), who sported blonde spikey hair

And then Michael, to get close to Star, visited the gang's sea-cliff headquarters (a cave - the remnants of a sunken resort hotel under Hudson's Bluff that had fallen into a fault crack in the 1906 earthquake). David had Michael believing that the Chinese food they were consuming was actually made up of live maggots and worms. To be initiated into their secret society, Michael accepted the challenge to drink a bottle of blood, David's blood ("Drink some of this, Michael. Be one of us").

Sam knew immediately that his older brother Michael had become a "creature of the night...a goddamn s--t-sucking vampire" - not casting a reflection in a mirror. The Frog Brothers confirmed the diagnosis.

After Lucy was attacked at video-store owner Max's house by his fierce, suspiciously-named dog Thorn ("a daytime protector, a guardian"), possibly an example of the "Hounds of Hell," Sam visited his Frog brother friends who stated: "Santa Carla has become a haven for the undead." From comic books, Sam realized that Michael was only a "half-vampire" because he had not sucked anyone's blood, and his condition could be reversed if the "head-vampire" was killed.

The major plot twists (or surprise revelations) were forthcoming:

  • Sam was suspicious of Max, although he tested negative for being a vampire at a dinner party in the Emerson household; he endured garlic in his food, a splash of water, and the mirror test
  • David and the gang members revealed their vampire selves (fangs and yellow teeth) to Michael, before they slaughtered a nighttime group of Neo-Nazi partygoers around a campfire during a feeding frenzy; David admitted: "Now you know what we are. Now you know what you are. You'll never grow old, Michael, and you'll never die. But you must feed!"
  • Although Michael made love to Star, she later told him that she was also a 'half-vampire' like he was, hoping to be cured; David's intentions were for Star to kill Michael, but she cared about him and couldn't kill him (Star: "You were supposed to be my first. That's what David wants, but I couldn't, Michael")
  • During a confrontation (Plan A) in the cave headquarters, Sam and the Frog brothers (equipped with wooden stakes) confronted the upside-down sleeping gang and killed Marko (Alex Winter), one of the vampires, but awakened all the others; the group was able to rescue half-vampires Star and a recently-abducted child, Laddie Thompson (Chance Michael Corbitt), and bring them to Grandpa's home for refuge
  • For Plan B, Sam and the Frogs repelled a retaliatory attack of the Lost Boy teenaged vampires in the house after sundown; Paul (Brooke McCarter) was pushed by the dog Nanook into a bathtub filled with holy water and garlic, and fizzled to death; armed with a toy bow and arrow, Sam sent vampire Dwayne (Billy Wirth) back into a stereo system and electrocuted him (with the cartoonish one-liner: "Death by stereo"); Michael confronted David one-on-one, who was impaled on a pair of deer antlers in Grandpa's taxidermy room
  • The belief that David was the head vampire, now dead, had been disproved - Michael and Star were unchanged as a result
  • Max was the 'head vampire' all along; he explained to Lucy and the others how he had passed the dinner party tests: "Don't ever invite a vampire into your house, you silly boy. It renders you powerless"; his intention was to lure Lucy into becoming a vampire, so that she could be a 'mother' to the Lost Boys (David's vampire gang) and her own sons: "It was all going to be so perfect, Lucy. Just like one big, happy family. Your boys... and my boys"
  • As Max was about to bite into Lucy's neck, Grandpa backed his Jeep (loaded with massive, spiked wooden fence posts) through the house doorway, impaling Max and propelling him as he screamed into the fireplace, where he exploded in flames
  • Michael, Star, and Laddie all reverted to their normal human selves

The film ended with a punchline from Grandpa as he went to the refrigerator for a bottle of root-beer, casually revealing that he had always known about the vampires:

"One thing about living in Santa Carla I never could stomach. All the damn vampires."

(Kiefer Sutherland)

Michael (Jason Patric)
and Sam (Corey Haim)

Star (Jami Gertz) with David

Vampire Comic-book

David's Vampire self

Michael: A Half-Vampire

Death of David

Head Vampire Max
(Edward Herrmann)

Max's Impalement and Death

Michael Reverting to Normal

Grandpa Drinking Root-Beer

Lost Highway (1997)

The Entire Film Was Possibly the Dream or Fantasy of a Convicted Killer Named Fred Madison (During Interrogations, or During His Time on Death Row, or at the Moment of His Execution in Prison); He Had Murdered His Unfaithful Actress Wife Renee; His Hallucinations and Paranoid Jealousy Were To Justify His Murder of Both Porno Mogul Mr. Eddy (Dick Laurent) and His Wife Renee (For Cheating on Him and For Her New Porn Lifestyle); Because of His Identity Crisis and Insecurity, Fred Imagined Himself In His Dream As A Younger Individual Named Pete Drayton Who Had An Affair With a Fantasy Woman Named Alice (A Doppelganger of His Wife Renee)

This intriguing, non-linear David Lynch psychological thriller, with film-noirish characteristics, was extremely enigmatic. The entire film could be interpreted as a subconscious, psychotic dream, deranged fantasy, or imagined memory (or even a kind of purgatory or hell) of the main protagonist, who was accused of murder (and possibly about to be executed in prison (by the electric chair)) after killing his unfaithful wife. It was possible that the prison was only metaphoric, and that he was imprisoned in his own fractured delusions during interrogations.

In the film's opening, a mysterious voice (over his home's intercom system) cryptically told wealthy LA tenor saxophonist/ jazz musician Fred Madison (Bill Pullman) a meaningless statement at the time:

"Dick Laurent is dead."

During part of the film, Fred's life was bizarrely linked or intertwined with many others. In prison, he morphed or was reborn into the 'hallucinated' character of Pete Dayton, after being convicted of murdering his wife Renee (Patricia Arquette) and held on death-row for execution.

When Pete returned to his auto mechanic garage job, he attracted the attention of mobster thug "Mr. Eddy" (Robert Loggia) for car repairs, and found himself having passionate feelings for the mobster's mistress Alice (resembling Fred's wife Renee) - Pete/Fred was soon having illicit sex with her, to compensate for losing his wife earlier.

When Pete was drawn into the schemes of Alice and Mr. Eddy, his plan was to rob her porn producer friend Andy (Michael Massee) and then run away with Alice, but the theft was bungled and Andy was accidentally killed. Alice told Pete that "Mr. Eddy" was actually a porno producer named Dick Laurent, and she was forced to perform in his skin flicks. When the two laid naked together in the desert and were lit by the car's headlights while making love, he told her: "I want you," and she whispered in his ear: "You'll never have me."

Fred Madison
(Bill Pullman)
Fred was married to Renee, but suspected her of getting involved with porno and having an affair; he was convicted of murdering (and dismembering) Renee, and sentenced to death in prison; Fred was reborn (morphed) or bizarrely intertwined with Pete Dayton; Fred kidnapped Mr. Eddy and beat him up when he found Renee having sex with him, and eventually he witnessed the Mystery Man murder Mr. Eddy in the desert for having an affair with Renee (proven by videotape)
Pete Dayton
(Balthazar Getty)
An auto-mechanic, who was found in Fred's place in a cell on death-row; 24 years old; Pete was released from jail for Renee's murder, since he was seen as being innocent; he had a brunette girlfriend Sheila (Natasha Gregson Wagner); Pete fled town with Alice (the doppelganger of Renee)
Renee Madison
(Patricia Arquette)
Fred's possibly unfaithful and beautiful wife, who was corrupted by working for porn mogul Mr. Eddy; she was cheating on Fred by sleeping with Mr. Eddy - and it was possible that she was having sex with porn-co-star Andy; she was vengefully murdered by husband Fred
Alice Wakefield
(Patricia Arquette)
She was the mistress of Mr. Eddy, and one of his porn actresses; Alice began to have secret sexual liaisons with Pete; she wanted to drop Mr. Eddy and leave town with Pete, but during sex in the desert strangely whispered to him: "You'll never have me"
Mr. Eddy (aka Dick Laurent)
(Robert Loggia)
A brutal gangster and porn mogul-producer (with the name Dick Laurent), one of Pete's auto-shop customers; Alice was his mistress and one of his porn actresses; he was shot dead by the Mystery Man (with Fred watching) for corrupting Fred's wife Renee and having sex with her
Mystery Man
(Robert Blake)
A creepy, pasty-faced man who claimed he was in Fred's house and took videotapes of Fred and Renee; he represented the dark or insane side of Fred's personality, that killed Renee and shot Mr. Eddy dead

Doppelgangers - Renee and Alice
Renee Madison
(Patricia Arquette)
Alice Wakefield
(Patricia Arquette)

Fred Had Sex With Wife Renee, Before She was Dismembered and Murdered

Alice Forced to Strip at Gunpoint for The Corrupt and Brutal Mr. Eddy

Mr. Eddy and Renee Had Sex in the Lost Highway Hotel, about the Same Time Pete Reverted Back to Fred

In the Desert in Front of Car Headlights, Alice Had Sex with Pete - She told him: "You'll never have me"

The plot became even more complex when Pete transformed back into his original identity as Fred, and Alice returned to being Renee, and the plot circled back upon itself. Fred's delusion broke down and he found himself back in reality and under interrogation for his wife's murder.

By the film's conclusion, the Mystery Man (standing next to Fred) shot and killed porn mogul Mr. Eddy (Dick Laurent) in the desert, for having sex with Renee. Just before the murder, the Mystery Man played videotape proof of the affair to Mr. Eddy.

The final few lines of dialogue were between the two detectives: Ed (Louis Eppolito) and Al (John Roselius), who were looking over the crime scene where Pete killed burglarized victim and Renee's porn co-star and producer Andy in his luxurious home, with the help of a scheming Alice. The officers noticed a photograph of Mr. Eddy (Dick Laurent), Renee, and Andy (earlier in the film, Alice was also in the same photo):

Al: "Ed. Take a look at this!"
Ed: "Yeah. That's her all right. That's Fred Madison's wife with Dick Laurent."
Another detective: "And Mr. Dent-Head [Andy] over there."
A second detective: "We got Pete Dayton's prints all over this place." Al: "You know what I think, Ed?"
Ed: "What is it, AI? Whaddya think?"
Al: "I think there's no such thing as a bad coincidence."

After returning from the desert in Mr. Eddy's car, Fred arrived at the front of his home and told himself at his house's intercom callbox that Dick Laurent was, in fact, dead. When the two detectives arrived at the house and saw him, they pursued after him - a chase into the desert, down a 'lost highway'.

Fred Madison (Bill Pullman)
Start of Film:

Fred Listening to Intercom Recording of His Own Voice: "Dick Laurent is dead."

The Mystery Man (Robert Blake) at Party (at Andy's House)

To Fred: "We've Met Before, Haven't We?"

Renee Murdered and Dismembered by Fred

In Prison, Fred Morphed into Pete Dayton (Balthazar Getty)

Mr. Eddy (aka Dick Laurent) (Robert Loggia)

Mr. Eddy Shot Dead by the Mystery Man (with Fred standing next to him)

(l to r): Ed and Al, Two Detectives Investigating the Case

End of Film:

Fred at His Intercom Callbox Recording: "Dick Laurent is dead."

The Two Photographs (With and Without Alice)

The Lovely Bones (2009)

14 Year-Old Susie Salmon Was Murdered by Creepy Neighbor Mr. Harvey; In The Afterlife, She Helped to Find Retribution Against Her Killer, Who Met His Own Death When A Magically-Released Icicle Fell On Him and Caused Him To Tumble to His Death

Producer/director Peter Jackson's gripping, difficult-to-view and emotional supernatural drama, with some references to Ghost (1990) and his own Heavenly Creatures (1994), was based upon Alice Sebold's 2002 best-selling novel (her second) of the same name.

It told of a family tragedy that occurred in 1973 in Norristown, Pennsylvania, involving:

  • Susie Salmon (Saoirse Ronan), a perceptive 14 year-old

The slightly-preachy, misfiring film was actually told from her perspective within the afterlife, as a dead and omniscient narrator and observer - symbolized by the opening scene of a young Susie peering into a snowglobe where a penguin was trapped:

"There was a snow globe, and I remember the penguin who lived inside the globe. He was all alone in there, and I worried for him."

Abruptly finding herself narrating the film from the hereafter following the film's early plot revelation, she had just been viciously raped (off-screen) and murdered by:

  • Mr. George Harvey (Academy Award nominee Stanley Tucci), Susie's seemingly-harmless, suburbanite bachelor neighbor, a meticulous builder of dollhouses

Just before Susie's murder, in a cautionary sequence, the adolescent, sexually-curious Susie was coming of age and just about to experience her first kiss next to her school locker, delivered by her older senior schoolmate crush Ray Singh (Reece Ritchie). But then Principal Caden (Thomas McCarthy) interrupted them - irate over the "obscene," anatomically-correct nude female that her classmate friend Ruth Connors (Carolyn Dando), a "strange, other-worldly girl" had sketched.

On her way home in the middle of a cornfield behind the school, the predatory pedophile and child molester had lured Susie through a trap door and down a ladder into an underground dugout or "clubhouse":

  • Susie appeared to climb out of the den (in reality, she was murdered), and her 'spirit' hurriedly ran away down a darkened street past Ruth, who sensed her presence
  • Susie's father Jack (Mark Wahlberg), who was in town searching for her, did not respond to her calls
  • In her own house, she could faintly hear - but not see - her mother describing her clothing to police officers
  • In an echoey, surreal, bright-white bathroom upstairs, she saw Harvey soaking in muddy and/or bloody water in a bathtub, with a washcloth across his face. There was mud and blood on the floor amidst his discarded clothes. A straight-edged razor was seen on the edge of a bloody and muddy sink. Her charm bracelet hung on the faucet.
  • She screamed "No!" at him, when he removed the washcloth, and then she slipped away - she disintegrated into thin air

The film went on to portray how she dealt with understanding her own death in another afterlife dimension - the "in-between" located between heaven and Earth:

"Life was leaving me. But I wasn't afraid...I was in the blue horizon, between heaven and Earth."

It was visualized with imaginative CGI special effects that paid homage to What Dreams May Come (1998), as she watched her grieving family from above.

She was counseled by her own afterlife guide-friend Holly Golightly (Nikki SooHoo), with a borrowed name - who advised her to proceed onward to Heaven, rather than looking back and not letting go: "You're not supposed to look back. You're supposed to keep going." Holly added: "This isn't heaven. You're not there yet."

Susie admitted she wasn't ready for heaven, and had to go home first to seek retribution - to help provide clues that would solve her case and lead to the apprehension of her murderer: "But I wasn't looking beyond yet. I was still looking back."

Susie saw evidence of the killer's previous six female victims over many years (from 1960 to 1971), including:

  1. Sophie Cichetti, a half-buried landlady, in 1960 in Pennsylvania
  2. Jackie Meyer, a 13 year-old girl, mostly buried in a drainage ditch, in 1967 in Delaware
  3. Leah Fox, a dead girl floating underwater after being dumped in the river, in 1969 in Delaware
  4. Lana Johnson, a six year-old, killed after being lured into a shack, in 1960 in Bucks County Pennsylvania
  5. Flora Hernandez, killed in 1963 in Delaware
  6. 13 year-old Denise Lee Ang (who sometimes liked to be called Holly!), a 13 year old, in 1971 in Connecticut

Susie, the 7th victim, saw that Harvey had stuffed her own body in a blood-soaked bag into a safe in his home's muddy basement.

Susie's younger teenaged sister Lindsey (Rose McIver) - now grown up and the class of 1977-78's senior class valedictorian, was Harvey's next target when the need rose in him to kill again. The suspicious Lindsey, determined to find evidence to implicate her neighbor, snuck into Harvey's house in a highly-suspenseful scene. After kicking in a window in the basement and entering, she went upstairs where she found a notebook under the bedroom floorboard containing notations about the murdered Susie Salmon, a sketch of the location of the den in the cornfield and its dimensions, and a picture of Susie and a lock of her hair.

Lindsey barely escaped (with the notebook) from Harvey who had returned home, after fleeing through an upstairs bedroom window and racing away. Harvey fled town, taking with him the heavy safe to dispose of it in the Connors' sinkhole dump site.

Time had passed, and Susie saw that her family was healing after her long absence, as she reflected:

"These were the lovely bones that had grown around my absence. The connections, sometimes tenuous, sometimes made at great cost, but often magnificent, that happened after I was gone. And I began to see things in a way that let me hold the world without me in it."

The film concluded with a strange coda of divine retribution. In a family restaurant's parking lot, as Harvey spoke to a young girl smoking a cigarette and volunteered to give her a ride, a magical white glow caused a large icicle to fall from an overhead branch. It hit him on the shoulder, causing him to lose his balance on the ice and fall backwards over a cliff ledge to his death.

Susie finally was ready to enter Heaven, with her last voice-over, as her mother entered her bedroom and spoke the words: "I love you, Susie":

"Nobody notices when we leave. I mean, the moment when we really choose to go. At best, you might feel a whisper, or the wave of a whisper, undulating down. My name is Salmon, like the fish. First name, Susie. I was 14 years old when I was murdered on December 6, 1973. I was here for a moment and then I was gone. I wish you all a long and happy life."

Young Susie With SnowGlobe

Susie Salmon (Saoirse Ronan) - Coming of Age

School Principal Caden

Mr. Harvey (Stanley Tucci)

Susie Lured to Clubhouse

Haunting Images

In the Afterlife

The Next Target; Lindsey (Rose McIver) Fleeing from Mr. Harvey

Divine Retribution for Mr. Harvey

Lucky Number Slevin (2006)

Everything That Happened in the Film Was a Vengeful Setup, Planned by the Partner-Team of Henry/Slevin (Josh Harnett) and Hitman Smith/Mr. Goodkat (Bruce Willis). Henry/Slevin Deliberately Impersonated Indebted Gambler Nick Fisher to Set Their Plot in Motion, While Smith/Goodkat Was Simultaneously Hired by Two Opposing Crime-Lords - Their Targets. The Team of Slevin/Goodkat Were Seeking Revenge on The Two Rival Gangsters (and a Detective) Who Were Responsible for Murdering Henry's Parents 20 Years Earlier

This semi-hard-boiled, clever pulp thriller from director Paul McGuigan, a visually-stylistic caper-crime film basically, was filled with numerous convoluted twists and turns and secrets underlying the action, two-named characters, and a slightly cheating ending/revelation. Its overall atmosphere was an earnest and witty, yet derivative, combination of Pulp Fiction (1994) and The Usual Suspects (1995).

The needlessly tangled and contrived, overly-complex plot was only revealed and explained much later in the proceedings. The taglines were:

Luck Has Nothing to Do With It.
Wrong Time. Wrong Place. Wrong Number.

The brief prologue (during the opening credits) was completely confusing until explained later. There were two bloody crime scenes, set in the present day:

Two Rival Bookies
Crime Lord Affiliation of the Victim(s)
Unseen Hitman
A parking garage
NY bookmaker Slim Hopkins (Darren Marsman)
The Boss (Morgan Freeman)
Smith (Bruce Willis)
A bookie's office
Jewish bookie Benny Begin (and his two goons)
The Rabbi (Sir Ben Kingsley)
Slevin (Josh Hartnett)

In both cases, information had been stolen from the two rival bookies - the records of their transactions. [Later, it was revealed that found in both sets of cross-referenced books was the name of indebted gambler Nick Fisher, who owed money to two big-time feuding rival crooks.]

The film really began, in a non-descript, antiseptic waiting room of a depot, where traveler Nick Fisher (Sam Jaeger) was approached by an out-of-town wheelchair-bound stranger (Bruce Willis) who claimed his name was Smith. He said he was in town because of a "Kansas City Shuffle." He explained the hoodwink:

Kansas City Shuffle is when everybody looks right, and you go left.

He said it had been over 20 years in the making, and had required a lot of planning and involved a lot of people. He related a backstory from 1979, told with lengthy flashbacks, about a fixed horse-race that led to failed bets, debt, and murders:

"It all starts with a horse."

At the Aqueduct Racetrack in New York in 1979, a horse named Lucky Number Slevin was injected by Doc (Nicholas Rice) with a drug to insure victory ("a sure thing"). The news about the predicted winning horse (Lucky Number Slevin) was relayed from person to person:

  • Doc's blonde sex partner Gloria (Janet Lane): "The fix is in at Aqueduct. 7 horse, tenth race" - to crime kingpin Abe (Howard Jerome)
  • The fix details were overheard by a restaurant waiter
  • The waiter called his nephew Max (Scott Gibson)

Max bet $20 grand (borrowed from the mob's Boss) on the drugged horse with the Boss' bookie Roth (Danny Aiello). He then went to the track to watch the 10th race. Max's young 7 year-old son Henry (Oliver Davis) remained in the parked car. Unexpectedly with bad luck, the horse fell during the final stretch and Max lost the bet. In the parking lot when he returned there, his car was missing, and Max was grabbed by two thugs. Max's bookie Roth was murdered, Max was asphyxiated with a plastic bag by the Boss' two thugs, and his wife was also killed. An unidentified hitman held a gun to the back of Henry's head. The retaliatory Boss didn't like anyone betting on a fixed horse-race, losing, and then owing thousands of dollars.

Smith claimed that his story was the "inciting incident" or "the catalyst" - and then tricked Nick. He disappeared from his wheelchair, told Nick from behind that "This is a Kansas City Shuffle" and snapped Nick's neck. Nick's body was wheeled into the back of a truck. Smith said that Nick's body was required for the present-day scam: "You can't have a Kansas City Shuffle without a body."

What was Smith's association with the aftermath of the failed fixed horse-race, and how was indebted gambler Nick related?

In the present day, 'Slevin' Kelevra (Josh Hartnett) (not yet revealed to be the grown-up Henry) was visiting the NYC apartment of his alleged deadbeat, gambling 'friend' Nick Fisher. He was claiming he had suffered a broken nose after being mugged (and now had no proof of identity). He also alleged that he had just lost his job, found his apartment was condemned due to termites, and had broken up with his unfaithful girlfriend Kelly Perkins (Jennifer Miller).

[Revelations: Both flashbacks of his mugging and cheating girlfriend didn't really happen. And 'Slevin' didn't know Nick at all. He only found his name in the stolen bookies' books, as a heavy-in-debt gambler - seen in the film's opening prologue.]

Then, there were two cases of mistaken identity - Slevin was twice seized in Nick Fisher's apartment, and believed to be the debt-ridden gambler by both opposing mobster groups (led by The Boss and the Rabbi).

[Note: The Boss lived in a stunning penthouse apartment, directly across the street from his despised rival, the Rabbi (or Schmo), who had ordered a sniper to murder the Boss' son.]

Nick owed $96K to the Boss, and $33K to the Rabbi. The two criminal groups were engaged in lex talionis ("the law of retaliation"), and had both hired Smith/Goodkat. Hitman Smith/Goodkat agreed to both kill the Fairy (for the Boss) and protect The Fairy (for the Rabbi) - on the condition that they call in Nick Fisher's debts. In both cases of mistaken identity when 'Slevin' (believed to be Nick) was seized, the crime bosses called in Nick's debts:

  • Two black thugs took 'Slevin' to their employer, The Boss, who proposed canceling Nick's debt in exchange for a small favor - the murder within three days of Yitzchok the Fairy, the gay son of his business rival-nemesis The Rabbi (The Boss: "My son was murdered so The Rabbi's son must share the same fate")
  • 'Slevin' was again mistakenly seized by two of the Rabbi's Hasidic henchmen and taken to see the second crime lord. The Rabbi told him he had only 48 hours to pay back his debt of $33K. After 'Slevin' left, hired hitman Smith/Goodkat emerged from the shadows, and agreed with the Rabbi that his intuition was accurate - "That's not Nick Fisher." It appeared that Goodkat planned to kill 'Slevin' after the Fairy was taken care of.

Also helping Slevin was Nick's chirpy, chatty and inquisitive neighbor Lindsey (Lucy Liu), a morgue pathologist/coroner who was interested in sorting things out. Sleuthing, she took a cellphone picture of Smith in a hotel elevator to try and identify him.

[Revelations: In 1979, young Henry (later calling himself Slevin, the name of the race-horse) was targeted to be killed along with his parents (Max and his wife). Specialist-hitman Smith/Mr. Goodkat (Bruce Willis) was hired to murder Max and his entire family after the bad debt-track incident. He held a gun to the back of Henry's head, but he was spared. Afterwards, Henry was presumably adopted and raised by Smith, and they planned their revenge for 20 years later.

Killer Smith had been called in by two rival mobsters who were setting up shop in the city: the Boss and the Rabbi.

Detective Brikowski (Stanley Tucci) was actually the one who killed Henry's mother, not Smith. It was implied that Brikowski owed money to the Rabbi's bookie Benny Begin, and had to perform a favor for him.]

All that was left was for the deadly setup to play out:

  • The Rabbi's two Hasidic thugs were gunned down by Goodkat outside Nick's apartment.

  • After a date was set up to meet in the Fairy's apartment, Slevin shot and seriously wounded the Rabbi's son Yitzchok (The Fairy). Goodkat arrived, not to kill Slevin, but to finish off Yitzchok (who was still alive). Goodkat also defended against and killed the Fairy's two Israeli bodyguards in an adjoining room.

    [Note: This was the first point, at 70 minutes into the film, revealing that Slevin and Goodkat were working together. Goodkat knew the real identity of 'Slevin' all along - that he was Max's young son Henry.]

    Together, they dragged in Nick Fisher's body (from the opening scene), switched watches to make Fisher look like Slevin, and left his body next to Yitzchok's. Their goal was to fake Slevin's death. Then, they exploded the apartment.

  • Goodkat killed The Boss' two black thugs.
  • Slevin brought an empty case to the Rabbi, claiming it had the $33K, then knocked him out.
  • Both the Rabbi and the Boss were kidnapped by Goodkat and Slevin. The two crime lords found themselves bound, back-to-back, in the Boss' penthouse.
  • After revealing he was the young boy Henry (who was spared by hitman Smith), Slevin tied plastic bags over the heads of The Boss and The Rabbi to asphyxiate them - the same manner in which his father was killed. (Slevin: "The two of you killed everything I ever loved. F--k you both.")
  • Slevin also shot Detective Brikowski in the back of the head, after explaining the meaning of his manufactured last name (Kelevra = "Bad Dog").
  • To protect his identity, Goodkat shot Lindsey because she had taken his picture with a cellphone, but Slevin had warned her and she saved herself by wearing a vest and using fake blood.
  • Goodkat found the two reconciled and hugging at the depot/terminal, but he spared her, like he had spared Henry as a boy.

First Murder - In Parking Garage

Second Murder - in Bookie's Office
Important Flashback:

Hit-man Smith/Goodkat (Bruce Willis) Hesitating to Kill Young Henry

Out-of-Town Stranger Smith (Bruce Willis)

Nick Fisher's Neck Snapped by Smith

Max (Scott Gibson) with Son Henry at Racetrack

'Slevin' Kelevra (Josh Hartnett) (Young Henry Grown Up)

Slevin with Nick's Neighbor Lindsey (Lucy Liu)

'Slevin's' Cheating Girlfriend Kelly

The Boss (Morgan Freeman)

Picture of The Boss With His Son, Who Was Murdered by the Rabbi's Sniper

The Rabbi (Sir Ben Kingsley)

Hitman Goodkat

Detective Brikowski (Stanley Tucci)

Fisher's Body Put in Yitzchok's Apartment

The Boss and Rabbi Bound Back to Back

Lindsey Shot - But Saved With Vest

Slevin with the Two Opposing Criminal Leaders

Slevin Murdering Detective Brikowski

Greatest Movie Plot Twists, Spoilers and Surprise Endings

(alphabetical by film title)
Intro | A1 | A2 | B1 | B2 | B3 | B4 | B5 | C1 | C2 | C3 | D1 | D2 | D3 | E1 | E2 | F1 | F2 | G | H1 | H2 | H3 | I | J-K | L1 | L2
M1 | M2 | M3 | M4 | M5 | N | O | P1 | P2 | Q-R1 | R2 | S1 | S2 | S3 | S4 | S5 | S6 | T1 | T2 | T3 | U-V | W1 | W2 | W3 | X-Z

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