Yesterday I put up "Tweeter and the Monkeyman," a song by the Traveling Willburys. Not only is it a good song but really when I hear it the movie that it could be springs into mind. It's amazing really how somethings are so clear. You can be walking down the street see a cloud and think to yourself, "I could paint that." It is this ability to translate that essential something we see to another medium that is the bones of art.
What I saw in this song was a throw back to something I dearly love. Seventies action films. From blackspoiltation to serpico, there was something very special and gritty about the seventies that's very hard to recapture. Even the look and lighting of these films (all done by different artists, sometimes very indifferent artists) creates this special identity. Generally I can spot a seventies films as easily as I could say a film from the forties. The song clearly takes place post vietnam and in new jersey which makes it a double winner for seventies grime and gritty in my book (sorry Jersey people, I hear your state has gotten better.)
What really draws me though is the relationships penciled into the song. It's a four way "triangle" of relationships. You have the Monkey Man who is the center of problem. We don't know much about him on a personal level. We know he has no problem with crime. We know he and Tweeter are at least partners. We know the Undercover Man hates the Monkey Man. We know know that the Undercover Man's sister Jan loves the Monkey Man. This suggests that the Monkey Man has some charisma at least, if not morals. I could easily see a young James Woods being the monkey man. He's the type you know you shouldn't trust but you wind up doing so.
The Undercover Man is also something of a cypher. We gather that he is probably corrupt on some level. He tells his sister "Everything in Jersey is legal as long as you don't get caught." We know he hates the Monkey Man, and we are pretty sure he knows his sister is married to a mobster. Makes you wonder, who is he chasing the Monkey Man for really? To bust him, or maybe to do a hit. He hates the Monkey Man even when they were kids, so I could see in the story where Jan's husband makes an offer.
Tweeter is the most interesting character of the song. Once a boy scout till vietnam. Now he is a she, a real jersey girl. Now of course being a song it doesn't go into great detail, maybe tweeter's just wearing a dress. I, however, like the idea that Tweeter would go all the way. A vet wouldn't do things by half measures. The question would be why? I would like to think that Tweeter's vietnam experiences were so bad that he no longer wanted to be who he was. Nothing more revolutionary than changing your gender. So, I would love to protray Tweeter as a slightly crazed, take no prisoner, very capable woman in the seventies mode. Then one can reveal Tweeter's pass and as one song lyric says "mess up some minds."
Jan is given more of a voice than anyone else in the song. She comes off as someone who is also very no nonsense. She knows everyone is playing games, but can't help how her relationships entangle her. She is married to a mobster (since she was 14!), she loves the Monkey Man and is sister to the Undercover Man. It's clear from the song that she's talking with all sides, and is trying to maintain some "peace." When it finally all breaks down though she's not afraid to grab a gun and hold off the Monkey Man on the bridge.
The song itself gives some good beats for the movie and how it progresses. It starts with the problem that Tweeter and the Monkey Man need some cash and have been dealing drugs. It's obvious the Undercover Man is going to bust them so they go on the lamb. Twice more they encounter the Undercover Man, the first time they leave him tied up after messing up his mind, the second time he's face down in a ditch. That's when Jan grabs her gun, tells her mobster husband he doesn't want to know what is going to happen and has the show down on the bridge with the MonkeyMan using Tweeter as a shield. The song ends probably years later as the narrator says he can't help thinking about them all.
Ok that's a good start it obviously needs more. It helps a lot that the song mentions that they knew each other since they were kids. We have a layer of flashbacks we can work off of so that even when the characters are separated we can still have earlier memories to bridge between them and the action.
What I would do is start with a fragile hold. The Monkey Man is under the protection of Jan's husband, so even though the Undercover Man wants to bust him, he can't. But the Monkey Man gets closer to Jan, rekindling their earlier relationship. The Undercover Man learns of it, maybe from Tweeter (is Tweeter jealous?), and tells Jan's husband. Without protection and with no cash our pair has to flee with the Undercover Man following with the full force of the law and the mob. Jan is still trying to be peace maker, talking to both as they take off across the state. This is also where she can have some flashbacks to help fill in the gaps. Finally, the Monkey Man goes too far and kills her brother. She goes to take revenge and there they are on the bridge. Tweeter being held as a shield as ex lovers square off. Guns fire, and then black, then to a seeming dive. To our narrator, an old man with a limp. I'd make that man Tweeter, having gone back from being a she. I think that would work.
Anyway, that's how the muse hit me on the head with a baseball bat yesterday.