Writing Movie “WRONGS”
By Jim West
Directed by Pierre Morel
Written by Chad St John
This idea of a female out for revenge is not a new one. It was done before by Uma Thurman in the Kill Bill films, and many other films explore this concept as well. Now given the idea of a woman losing her family to a drug cartel drive by is a decent idea to setup a revenge film. The director previously did Taken which reignited Liam Neeson’s career into action films, and he also directed the wonderfully fantastic film From Paris With Love. Yet this film seems to try to invoke a sense of a much better film; John Wick. The writer on this has also turned out solid film with London Has Fallen and a short film The Punisher Dirty Laundry (which you get to see another run down van again in this film). Jennifer Garner has some action chops under her belt with her earlier career work on the TV series Alias. She manages the action sequences pretty well for the most part, and handles the drama parts well given her ability as an actress. This film suffers largely from plot holes and weak story writing. Easily a film that could have been on the same level as John Wick if not even better.
Here comes the spoilers.
Riley North is a busy mother trying to help her daughter sell girl scout cookies and throw her a birthday party which gets railroaded by another mean mother who deserves to get punched in the face (foreshadow!). When none of her daughter’s classmates shows up to her birthday party, Riley and her husband take their daughter to the amusement park to show her a great time. The montage here is well executed to establish a happy family and a decent husband, who earlier was propositioned by a friend to rip up a drug dealer. He eventually refuses but it is too late as his name is given as an accomplice even though he had nothing to do with it. The drug dealer orders a hit, and Riley gets to see her husband and daughter gunned down in front of her. She eventually identifies the shooters, but finds out in court that justice is not going to be served for her family’s deaths.
Fast forward five years to present day, we see police coming to a crime scene at the same amusement park where the three shooters are strung up by rope upside down off a ferris wheel. Then reports come in that the DA was found dead. The FBI then informs the LAPD detectives that Riley North was spotted as a stowaway entering Los Angeles Port three months prior. They quickly put together she is on a killing spree after all those who wronged her. This is the first plot hole they left open to our imagination. Where was Riley all those years? Where did she get her training? Hello Montage! Why is it that the writer and director staged a solid montage of the family at the amusement park, but fail to offer one of Riley getting martial arts training, weapons training, and explosives training? Having a montage of many mercenaries training her in martial arts, shooting, etc would have fixed a huge plot hole for her characters backstory. This also could show emotional depth to have shown the lengths she went through to reach the level she is at to avenge her family. Finally this montage also would have given a better ending as you will read later.
The LAPD and FBI sit in a conference room while they get the call that the judge from her case got blown up and now they resort to a news release in hopes someone will turn her in. The drug dealer who was responsible for ordering the hit has problems all around him. He had two shipments go missing and his operations seems to be getting disrupted lately. They hear the news of Riley North is back to avenge her families murders and they start to take measures to kill her. Social media is trending her killing spree and the debate online of is this justice or murder is breezed over several times during the film.
Riley goes to a warehouse to kill people, but instead finds they rigged the warehouse with explosives to kill her. Okay. Why not snipe her? Why not send a crew in after her? I think sometimes the idea of having explosions for sake of explosions is just silly. Why would a drug dealer destroy a property just to kill what he still perceives as one woman? Yet okay she managed to find a sewer drain and escapes the blast…but wait…she emerges from the street in time to see a black SUV drive away? Somehow she manages to know that SUV is the hitmen and then chases after them? This is where this sequence could have been made much better. Why would Riley run when she saw the wire? Why not go back the way she came in? It was a closer exit to where she had JUST entered the building. I get that action movies are usually not the best at continuity or logic, but the sequence here should have had the hitmen first try to snipe her in order to preserve the building, but as a last resort blow it up. Riley could’ve disabled the explosive and managed to fend off the snipers then followed them as they tried to escape. This would setup an action car chase scene, and you then continue as the film runs.
Then the climax. Earlier I mentioned the need for a training montage to show how Riley got her skills. When the drug dealer has her come out and they are about to fight, have a sniper and assault team swoop in killing all the gunmen that are with the drug dealer and leave him alone alive. A man from the assault team unmasks himself to reveal to Riley he is the main one who mentored her all these years. Show a flashback of their last exchange where she says goodbye to him and he doesn’t know where she is going. They call her Peppermint as that was the codename she used with them. He and his team saw the news on social media and came to help a former team member. As he notices her wound on her side he takes a small knife and stabs the dealer in his side, but leaves the knife in the wound. He then turns to Riley and says “This is your fight now. Now it is even”. The drug dealer takes out the knife from his wound and starts to slash at Riley. She recalls her training where her mentor was always stronger than she was, but his lessons was always about using speed and deception. She limped out to the dealer, but now she stands without a limp. She is ready to take him on. They fight and she disarms and stabs him in the neck, but takes a gun from a team member and says “I told you I was going to shoot you in the face”. The team and Riley leave the area and he asks her to come with them as they are heading to the airport. She declines and they say goodbye again. The LAPD can show up to the skid row scene and the detective can still find Riley at the gravesite and the film can continue as it does.
With a montage, flashback, and two scenes rewritten you end up with a film that has real depth of character, history, and now more possibilities as there is a team of mercenaries for good out in the world. Much akin to the world of assassins in John Wick, but perhaps even more intriguing. This film could have easily been better with better writing and been a surefire guarantee for sequels. Can these issues be fixed in a sequel? Sure. Yet the lift against suspensions of disbelief is far heavier, and with a potentially poor showing at the box office can kill any future films for this character simply because they didn’t establish the character well enough the first time. Sometimes you only get one chance to make a first impression.
Thanks for reading ‘Writing Movie ‘WRONGS’.