Writer: Christopher Nolan – Revisions by Michael Stokes (novel by Ruth Rendell)

I really hated this script. Like hated it. For the record, I’m one of the few people who thought The Dark Knight wasn’t very good. My problems with it were at the script stage. I felt there were way too many characters, way too many storylines, and the structure was clumsily executed. Although I don’t love Batman Begins, I think it’s superior to The Dark Knight (for the record, comic book movies are my least favorite genre – so take my opinion with a grain of salt).

The reason I bring this up is because I, like I often do, pulled “The Keys To The Street” out of the pile blindly. Imagine my surprise after I read it to discover that noneother than Christopher Nolan wrote it! Part of me said, “Okay, this was the same man who wrote The Dark Knight. So it makes sense.” But the more forgiving part of me saw that he adapted this from a book all the way back in 2000. Therefore it was probably a job. So for all I know he didn’t even like the material. But that’s the last time I’m excusing him in this review cause this script was a big waste of fucking time.

The story centers around Mary, a woman who runs a Sherlock Holmes “museum” that contains bookshelves and furniture from throughout Holmes’ life. Of course Sherlock Holmes isn’t real so the fact that there’s a museum with any of his things in it is complete nonsense. At this point I was intrigued. Having no idea where the story would go I thought maybe this would be about a bridge between the real and made-up world. I’m no Sherlock Holmes freak but I thought that would’ve been cool.

Unfortunately it doesn’t play into the story at all, except maybe to warn the reader that nothing is as it seems. This would be a recurring theme throughout the script. Opportunities to find interesting storylines passed up in favor of more mundane uninteresting ones. Frown.

Mary has recently donated her bone marrow to a man with leukemia. The donation has stirred up some anger in her possessive boyfriend, Allistaire, and convinced her that it’s time to end the relationship. She decides to meet the mysterious man and the two begin a relationship. Yawn. So far, so boring. For the record, I’m not a big fan of this whole putting something in you of mine – making us “connected” in a way that nothing else can – kind of thing. The “intimacy” of it feels forced and stale these days. Wasn’t there a David Duchovny movie about this like 20 years ago? And we’re still mining this lame idea? Even in 2000?

So Mary quickly learns that the man she’s helped, Leo, has a little bit of a shady past. His brother, Carl, apparently sold drugs and prostituted himself in order to pay for Leo’s treatment (one of the weaknesses of the script is the lack of clarity in key details such as this. It’s just as possible that he did this for himself – to pay for his expensive drug habit). Not only that, but Carl may *still* being doing it. In the meantime, Mary’s grandmother has just passed away and left her a huge amount of money. Like 10 million dollars or something. Mary’s clingy ex-boyfriend Allistaire is convinced that Leo is after the money and warns her as much. Although there’s an implication that Allistaire (who knew a big will was coming Mary’s way) may be doing the same. All this sounds interesting but I promise you it’s told in such a clumsy uninvolving way that we really don’t care.

So then the big “twist” comes and boy is it a doozy. Leo is actually DEAD. Carl has been impersonating Leo! Oh my gosh! What does that mean? No, I’m serious. What does that mean? I have no idea. Does that mean Carl targeted Mary for her money and this is strictly a con? See apparently Carl has fallen ill with the same disease his brother Leo did (the other Leo – I mean the original Leo). So wouldn’t that make his targeting of Mary’s money worthless? If he’s at death’s doorstep, what is he going to do with the money? Unless of course he’s faking his illness. But we don’t know that because the true nature of his intentions are kept from us. Also, what does Leo being dead mean? Does it mean that Leo was actually the one doing all the dealing and prostituting? Or is it Carl, the one Mary’s with now, the one who’s been pretending to be Leo? Can I get a what-what for shitty storytelling??

But wait. It gets better! If by better I mean worse. In some random nonsensical storyline, Allistaire is killed by a bum. The killing was apparently planned. Why? Good question. Don’t ask me. And Leo (now Carl) finds out that he actually doesn’t have the same disease as his brother. But that Mary’s been POISONING him with a drug that gives him the same symptoms as the kind his brother had. Hold on. Give me a second. —Did I just read that right? — How fucking ridiculous and stupid do I have to be to buy that? Seriously. At least this solves the question of whether Leo (now Carl) was faking his illness. Of course, since we never knew if he was faking or not, this big “twist” has no impact.

The Keys to the Street is apparently a reference to the block’s dogwalker, who may or may not be the puppeteer behind all of this. But if he was, I was so far checked out by the time they made it clear that it didn’t matter.

I think the biggest problem with The Keys To The Street goes back to one of the first things you learn in screenwriting class. Give us a main character we want to root for. I never liked Mary. I didn’t know her. I thought she was weak. I thought she was stupid. I thought she was spineless. I could care less if she was taken advantage of because I thought she deserved it. I wanted people to fuck her over. If that’s how I feel about your main character, you could write Citizen Fucking Kane and it wouldn’t matter.

What I learned from Keys To The City: Take care of your main character. Make the audience want to root for her.