Scene 18: The imperfect heist, part 2--getting out with the girl
Well, of course, when Cosmo takes Liz hostage, Marty is going to do the gentlemanly thing and try to save the girl. (Though let’s zoom out: say Marty saves Liz and Cosmo uses the black box to destroy the world’s financial and other systems--how safe would Liz be then?)
But that low point is why I break this heist up into two scenes. In its own way, this (long) third act can be broken down into its own three act structure.
Using David Mamet’s form, we could get something like this: “Once upon a time (Act 1), there was a hopeless Marty. Then one day (Act II), his team rallied around him and helped him plan a heist, which went off perfectly, until Cosmo captured Marty’s girl and then Marty.”
Rather than a single bad moment, the low point of this heist is a rolling series of disasters: the plans Carl got from city hall on PlayTronics aren’t entirely accurate so Mother and Crease argue; a guard finds the surveillance tap Mother and Crease were using to spy on the building; Mother and Crease get detained by two security guards, one of whom calls Crease “Midnight,” which elicits another excellent look from Sidney Poitier, the kind of look that says, “I did not get invited here for dinner for this”; Buddy Wallace starts shooting at the ceiling where Marty is hiding, given away by the anomalously loud talking of his earpiece (which didn’t seem to bother Elena when Marty was using it in Janek’s office, but, you know, technology); and finally, Cosmo blackmails Marty into giving himself up because Liz is a hostage.
Oh, and that whole “I’ll let you go free” offer of Cosmo’s was b.s., leading to one of the best lines of the film: Cosmo: “I cannot kill my friend. [To Eddie Jones and Timothy Busfield] Kill my friend.” Then, in classic mastermind fashion, Cosmo leaves the room before his enemies are killed. (No computer nerd today would be so genre-unsavvy, but the 90s were a different time.)
Now that’s a low point. Not only are Marty and Liz held at gunpoint, with death looming, but the rest of the team is likewise incapacitated, right?
Well, no: Carl, in the ceiling of Cosmo’s office, jumps down on a goon, allowing Marty and Liz to overpower them, and giving Marty the chance to get back at Buddy. And Whistler, in the back of the van, gets instructed by Marty (now on the roof of the PlayTronics building) to drive to come rescue them, which startles the guards holding Mother and Crease at gunpoint, giving these two the chance to overpower those guards, especially the guy who called Crease “Midnight.” (Yay, righteous revenge for everyone. And though I’m being a little jokey here, I also mean it--we as an audience love to see a little comeuppance. Especially after all the little disasters that have befallen the team.)
Before Marty can get away, Cosmo confronts him on the roof and gets the black box back at gunpoint. Cosmo’s demeanor here is a little confusing: after all the times he tried to kill or ruin Marty, now he pleads with him to stay. And he makes some good, prescient points here, about how the world is run by data and how the data controllers have all the power. All Cosmo wants to do is have his friend with him as they destroy civilization. After all, they started this journey together.
But Marty’s all grown up now and he tells Cosmo that they were just pulling pranks, not really saving the world. The subtheme here is that Cosmo needs to accept responsibility for their actions, which is directly expressed in Marty’s comment that Cosmo will need to pull the trigger himself if he wants to stop Marty from leaving. And let me tell you, it’s hard to take a lecture on responsibility from Marty, especially with that backpack he’s been carrying. (When they stole from Janek, he had a briefcase, but for confronting his childhood friend, Marty uses a backpack.)
Of course, Cosmo doesn’t shoot and Marty escapes; and, double of course, the box that Marty gave Cosmo is just the empty shell, not the code-breaker. So, once again, as in the first scene, Marty runs off into the night (his VW bus replaced by his business’s van), leaving Cosmo all alone, with nothing but his weird accent.
And if you’re asking yourself, “Wait, there were lots of security guards in this building before, where are they all know?,” then the soundtrack is here to tell you that you’re missing the point of this wistful scene about a guy being left alone.