The villain plot: What does Cosmo want?
Here’s a fun thing to do on a rainy day: take a film you like, try to plot out the structure from the anatagonist’s POV, and watch it fall apart.
For instance, here’s Cosmo’s plot:
(1) Pull pranks, go to jail, hook up with Mafia, “die”
(2) Start second life as computer support for Mafia, recruit bad NSA agents
(3) Decide to use Marty to get Janek’s box (perhaps because he wants to screw with Marty, because, hello, Cosmo has a big organization that could probably pull this job off)
(4) Kill Janek, get box from Marty, and pay him back--whatever that means (seriously, when Buddy Wallace reaches into his briefcase for Marty’s payment, is he going for a gun or for a check? Does Cosmo want Marty killed at this stage?)
(5) Prevent Marty from talking to the Russians to prevent them from talking to the FBI... and then put Marty’s name into the system so the authorities will pick him up (because Marty won’t tell them all about Cosmo at this point if he’s caught? Sure, they might not believe him, but what if they do? Why would Cosmo take this chance?)
(6) Get the powerful black box and wait around for a while without using it
(7) Go to his office building but don’t go into his office for a whole day
(8) Discover the theft, promise to let Marty go, go back on his promise and tell the goons to kill Marty
(9) Track Marty down himself and beg Marty to stay and be friends again
So there’s a lot there that doesn’t make sense from a rational actor POV--but once we remember that Cosmo is a trickster and a game player, some of his actions do make more sense:
(3) Why involve Marty when he could just use his own goons to get Janek’s box? Because he likes manipulating and tricking Marty specifically.
(5) Why run the risk of Marty being picked up by the authorities and pointing to Cosmo? Because Cosmo knows that Marty’s worst fear is the system.
The only part that still gives me trouble is Cosmo’s on-again-off-again relationship with the idea of killing Marty. We can explain this away by saying that Cosmo himself is conflicted; and since we get this story from Marty, we don’t get to see Cosmo’s conflict up close. But still, there are ways to get this across, and “I can’t kill my friend. Kill my friend” doesn’t quite get at the nuance of this emotion.
So what is motivating Cosmo? Once you break down his plot like this, it seems like revenge is the top motivation for him, revenge and besting Marty. (Which also explains why he reveals himself to Marty: he wants Marty to know that he beat him.) Because otherwise, the whole “having the box and not using it AND not putting it away in your hidden safe” part starts to bug me. Which puts Cosmo in a long line of people who say they have grand plans to destroy the system, but really are just motivated by silly personal issues.
(Which, come to think of it, is entirely the motivation of Janus/006 in GoldenEye: he has a plan to destroy financial records to create some awesome dark age, but really, it’s just money and revenge he wants. Welcome to the end of the Cold War folks, where no one is motivated by any ideology other than capitalism and competition.)