Plot Holes Plugged
Don't say a word about serendipitous last castles.
As regular Slate readers no doubt know, Plot Holes is the feature where we hold new movies up to the light, examine them from many angles, and explain what—if anything—fails to make sense in them. But, upon examining this fall's movies, we've decided to do more than simply analyze their shortcomings as a service to filmmakers; we're going to suggest solutions. Now, we know that, in most cases, these movies cannot be seriously repaired: The sets have been torn down, the casts have moved on to new projects, the prints have been shipped to thousands of theaters. So we've aimed for practicality and cost-effectiveness; in most of these cases, the fixes will take, at the very most, a few hours in the editing bay and will entail making small repairs to only one reel of the film. We think you'll agree that our suggestions will be well worth the trouble. (Spoiler alert: Don't read this if you're still planning on seeing one of these films.)
Training Day Problem: The life of Jake Hoyt (Ethan Hawke) is spared by a crew of thugs when they discover that, coincidentally, that very same day, he rescued one of the thugs' cousins from a rapist. In a city the size of Los Angeles, the odds against this happening seem to be quite high. Solution: Add a title card to the beginning of the film that reads, "This film is set in a near-future Los Angeles, which has only eight inhabitants."
The Last Castle Problem: In the final third of the film, the prisoners revolt, suddenly producing a wide range of sophisticated weaponry fashioned from common household objects. It is unclear how the prisoners managed to cobble together large slingshots, cantilevered rock-hurling devices, and a makeshift rocket launcher from scratch or how they were able to be certain that these weapons would work when they were needed. Solution: Into several of the crowd scenes of prisoners, digitally insert Richard Dean Anderson, better known as TV's "MacGyver."
Don't Say a Word Problem: After a prologue depicting a 1991 jewel heist, we flash forward to the present day, when Dr. Nathan Conrad (Michael Douglas) is menaced by the gang of jewel thieves, led by Patrick Koster (Sean Bean). The thieves spy on Conrad, his family, and a mental patient (Brittany Murphy) through an elaborate surveillance system of hidden cameras, wiretaps, computers, and cell phones. All of this requires a remarkable level of cutting-edge electronics expertise, and yet the criminals seem entirely at ease with their tools. However, midway through the film, we learn that Patrick has been in prison for the past decade. Given that most of these technologies weren't around when Patrick was incarcerated, how did he have the chance to become so familiar with them? Solution: Simply push the time frame of the movie forward 10 years. The jewel heist takes place in the present day; the menacing-of-Michael-Douglas portion takes place in 2011. This conveniently explains how Patrick had the opportunity to become conversant with circa-2001 surveillance technology before his decade-long prison term began. (This solution has the added benefit of explaining why, during one of the scenes ostensibly set in 1991, a billboard for StoreRunner.com is prominently visible.)
Problem: As the movie opens, Jonathan (John Cusack) and Sara (Kate Beckinsale) meet and become smitten with one another. Rather than acting on this impulse, Sara insists that they separate and contrives an elaborate scheme to allow fate to decide whether they should be reunited, the details of which are too tedious to recount. Suffice it to say that, a few years later, they are both engaged to marry other people, and Sara's scheme kicks in. They throw over their respective fiance(e)s and marry one another, proving once and for all that, thanks to the magic power of fate, you can be deserted at the altar and humiliated in front of your friends and family. On the basis of the evidence presented in this movie, Jonathan and Sara are cruel, misguided, hateful people who blithely wreck the lives of others to serve their twisted notion of caprice. Solution: In the scene where Cusack and Beckinsale are just about to part—and just before Beckinsale gets her brainstorm about allowing fate to bring them back together—digitally insert a brick that falls onto Beckinsale's head. Then insert a second one, which falls onto Cusack's. The two have therefore suffered undiagnosed head injuries, to which all their subsequent irrational behavior can be ascribed. Through the magic of digital technology, they are no longer selfish boors; they're ill and untreated, and their ability to locate one another by the end of the film is transmuted from a loathsome, selfish act into a triumph of the human spirit.
Tim Carvell is a senior writer at Entertainment Weekly.
Stills from: Training Day © 2001 Warner Bros.; The Last Castle by Elliott Marks/TM © 2001 Dreamworks LLC; Don't Say a Word by Ava Gerlitz © 2001 Regency Entertainment. All rights reserved.