Great Scene: “Boogie Nights”

A drug deal goes south to the strains of "Jessie's Girl".

A few weeks back, I put the call out on Twitter for some suggestions for the Great Scene series. Got a LOT of responses. Here's another excellent recommendation from @tylerb536.

Movie: Boogie Nights (1997), written and directed by Paul Thomas Anderson.

IMDb plot summary: The story of a young man's adventures in the Californian pornography industry of the late 1970s and early 1980s.

Scene Setup: Dirk (Mark Wahlberg), Reed (John C. Reilly), and Todd (Thomas Jane) are trying to pull a scam deal on Rahad (Alfred Molina), trying to sell a half-kilogram of baking soda disguised as cocaine for $ 5,000.

Here's the scene from the movie:

Check out this script excerpt:

REO SPEEDWAGON, "CAN'T FIGHT THIS FEELING," begins to play.

RAHAD

I CAN'T FIGHT THIS FEELING ANY LONGER

AND YET I'M STILL AFRAID TO LET IT FLOW.

WHAT STARTED OUT AS FRIENDSHIP HAS GROWN

STRONGER -- I ONLY WISH I HAD THE STRENGTH

TO LET IT SHOW --

DIRK

Well . . . I think maybe . . . we better get going --

RAHAD

No, stay. Hang out. We'll party.

DIRK

No, we really gotta split.

We have to be so mewhere and we --

Dirk and Rahad continue to haggle about leaving/not leaving. CAMERA BEGINS A SLOW DOLLY INTO A CU ON TODD.

TODD

We're Not Leaving Yet.

Dirk and Reed look at Todd. He stands up.

TODD

We're here now and we want something else.

Hey -- Hey. We Want Something Else From You.

RAHAD

What?

DIRK

Todd -- what the hell are you doing?

TODD

In the master bedroom, under the bed,

in a floor safe . . . You understand?

The Bodyguard turns his head. Dirk and Reed are confused;

DIRK

Todd . . . what the fuck, man, c'mon --

TODD

Shut up, Dirk. I told you I got a plan.

I got a good plan.

RAHAD

Are you kiddin' me kittie?

TODD

No I'm not. I'm not kidding. We want

what's in the safe. We want what's in

the safe in the floor under the bed in

the master bedroom.

DIRK

Todd -- don't be crazy.

(to Raha d)

Sir -- we don't know anything about this.

This is not the thing that we wanted.

TODD

SHUT THE FUCK UP, DIRK.

The BODYGUARD reaches into his coat . . .

. . . Todd pulls his REVOLVER quickly and AIMS at the Bodyguard.

TODD

Don't reach for your gun.

. . . Rahad reacts by AIMING HIS GUN AT TODD . . .

RAHAD

You don't wanna do this, friendly.

TODD

You've only got one bullet.

Rahad PULLS THE TRIGGER . . . a bullet FIRES from the gun and strikes Todd in the SHOULDER . . . the gun in his hand falls to the floor and he stumbles back . . .

. . . The Bodyguard takes this moment to GRAB HIS OWN GUN from the holster and FIRE off shots at Dirk and Reed . . .

. . . Bullets graze past them and they DUCK FOR COVER . . .

. . . The GIRLS in the bedroom SCREAM and SHOUT at the gunfire . . .

. . . A STRAY BULLET HITS the ASIAN KID in the heart, but he doesn't fall . . .

. . . TODD reaches hold of his gun, crouches for cover and FIRES a bullet STRAIGHT INTO the Bodyguard . . . who falls back DEAD . . . Todd looks right and sees:

RAHAD scuttles into the bedroom with the women . . . Todd looks over his shoulder to Dirk and Reed;

DIRK

WHAT THE FUCK ARE YOU DOING, TODD?

TODD

He went in the bedroom.

DIRK

ARE YOU CRAZY? WHEN DID YOU GO CRAZY?

TODD

He's got cash and coke in the safe

under the bed -- if we leave here

without it we're fools.

REED

Let's just split, let's just split

right now, Todd. Don't be stupid.

This wasn't part of the deal.

TODD

I'm goin' in that bedroom and get what's

in that safe. Are you coming?

DIRK

Fuck no. Todd. Don't. Don't do it.

Todd gets up and heads fo r the bedroom with his revolver at the ready . . . he inches closer to the door and twists the door knob, then KICKS THE DOOR OPEN;

. . . Rahad is standing right there, holding a SAWED OFF SHOTGUN. He pulls the trigger . . . Todd blinks . . .

. . . Rahad's SHOTGUN BLAST blows Todd BACK and UP in the air about fifteen feet . . . he FALLS to the ground with a HOLE in his STOMACH about the size of a basketball . . . Rahad calls out to Dirk and Reed;

RAHAD

C'mon out, little puppies. You want to

come and see, come and see, to get what

is coming down. Coming down.

Rahad peers out from his bedroom, sees a sliver of Dirk behind the wall. Rahad FIRES HIS SHOTGUN . . . which cuts right past Dirk's head and SHREDS the wall near him . . .

Reed and Dirk make a DASH for the front door . . .

. . . Rahad FIRES another shot . . .

. . . a BLAST BREEZES PAST THEIR HEADS . . .

Dirk and Reed make it OUTSIDE . . . Rahad chases after them . . .

CUT TO:

EXT. RAHAD'S HOUSE - THAT MOMENT

Reed and Dirk make a dash for the Corvette -- they're steps away when a SHOTGUN BLAST BLOWS INTO THE PASSENGER'S SIDE DOOR --

Reed heads away from the car -- makes a run diagonally across the street for shelter behind some SHRUBS and TREES -- (he gets lost from CAMERA)

Dirk gets around to the driver's side of the Corvette, shielded and
crouched -- he opens the door and starts to get in --

ANOTHER SHOT BLOWS THE PASSENGER'S SIDE WINDOW OUT.

GLASS SPRAYS IN HIS EYES AND HIS HAND SLIPS DOWN, RELEASING THE EMERGENCY BRAKE OF THE CAR -- WHICH BEGINS TO ROLL DOWN THE STREET--

Dirk stumbles back from the car. He looks to the house:

Rahad is about to FIRE the shotgun again . . .

. . . he looks down the street: the Corvette is ROLLING away and picking up speed as it goes down the hill --

Dirk gets on his feet and makes a run for the car, Rahad FIRES . . .

. . . Dirk catches up with the car, hops in -- gets the key in the ignition and starts it up, peels off down the street --

Generally shot as written with two big exceptions:

  • The song is changed from REO Speedwagon "Can't Fight This Feeling" to Rick Springfield's "Jessie's Girl". Presumably a rights issue. I like "Jessie's Girl" better, makes the scene even more inane.
  • Check out the scene from 0:51–1:40. The camera stays on Dirk's character and his face goes through a series of expression changes. That is not indicated in the script. Makes one wonder what PTA was thinking. My guess is he wanted to use this sequence to really drive home its impact on Dirk. Yes, Todd going crazy and the ensuing shootout certainly had an impact on Dirk. But this little moment of screen times suggests the decision Dirk makes the next day is already being set into motion, that he's beginning to see with more clarity the absolute shit he is getting himself into. The next day, he goes back to Jack and returns to work as a porn star.

What a crazy scene. Love the guy blowing up firecrackers, really adds to the cockeyed ambience. Any comments on the scene, click on RESPONSES and share your thoughts.

If you have a suggestion for a Great Scene, don't be shy, let me hear from you.

For more in the Great Scene series, go here.


Great Scene: "Boogie Nights" was originally published in Go Into The Story on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

Go Into The Story – Medium

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