Aging hacker gets out of prison and plots an act of sabotage to impress a Dutch hacker chick and reclaim his status as the terror of the Internet.
JOSH LEOPOLD is a "Kevin Mitnick"-style twisted genius who did 6 years in prison for his now-legendary attacks on U.S. government systems, major corporations and global financial institutions. Josh even spent a year in solitary because of fears that he could use a pay phone or any communications device to wreak havoc. Josh's nickname was Grizzly because of a rumor that he had planted hibernating viruses within defense and military systems that he would one day awaken.
Josh, now older and "rehabilitated," discovers that he is largely forgotten except as "where are they now?" trivia. His mother had died of cancer while he was in prison and his father blames Josh for shortening her life. Penniless, Josh has to live with his father and his brilliant idealistic, sister Jonquil a fierce partisan who still believes in Josh's genius. Meanwhile, in a messy dropout hovel apartment in Amsterdam, a group of nerdy/hip hackers are ardent “worshippers” of Josh Leopold and keepers of his flame. They send Josh hokey fan mail and the girls send mash notes, all of which Josh, with his literal mind, takes very seriously.
One of the girls, SOPHIE, catches the eye of Josh with her over-the-top flirting and sexy come-ons. They begin a “romance” via texting, email and webcam, and Josh becomes obsessed with her. Sophie is pretty, careless and promiscuous. She tries to get money out of him and get to America. When Josh discovers she is screwing a young hacker, REX, he decides to impress her with an act of sweeping, headline-grabbing cyber-terrorism that cannot fail to win her over.
Seething with frustrated ambition and the need to prove himsel, Josh is disgruntled that other hackers are grabbing the limelight --- and getting rich from complex phishing scams. He feels he gets no respect. When he learns that his father had manipulated a low-level job for him with a friend, he loses all self-respect. He is desperate to show that he is still the most brilliant and dangerous threat actor out there.
Josh has retained in his prodigious memory, key U.S. defense department computer vulnerabilities. He decides to use the information to hijack the systems of a U.S. nuclear sub and bring it to the point of launching a warhead into Mecca—then he would step up and halt the process just in time and deliver his “peace manifesto”—all the while covering his tracks deftly. In his distorted rationale, Josh believes he is actually a patriot.
Meanwhile, one of the cops who pursued Josh for years and finally arrested him, is not so sure that Josh has "reformed." GUS DUNCAN, although he is now retired, insists on shadowing and keeping tabs on Josh.
Gus takes a lot of ribbing for this, and friends remind him that he should be playing golf and relaxing, but Gus is convinced that he knows Josh better than anybody in the world, and he suspects that Josh is going to do something extremely dangerous one of these days...
In a terrible confrontation, the detective is murdered by Josh but Josh is injured in the brawl and unable to call for help for himself. Ironically, the very electronic equipment he knows so well fails him. By the time help arrives, Josh is in a coma with permanent brain damage. The secret of how to disable the plot is now locked in his useless head. Meanwhile, nobody has a clue as to what Josh has concocted—except Sophie. Josh had been unable to resist boasting and hinting grandiosely at what was to come. Now although Sophie tries to contact the U.S. government through the consulate, she is not taken seriously.
The nest of hackers finally realize what Josh has set in motion. Josh had nicknamed the plot “Kodiak” because it used a hibernating program that awakens only under a signal from him. After some edgy brainstorming, the young Dutch hackers ultimately prove themselves equal to Josh, using their knowledge of his favorite tactics. A quickly assembled Grizzly-hunting program barely thwarts the act of terrorism at the last minute and saves the day.
Later, at a local cafe in Amsterdam, the hackers celebrate. But even as everyone is laughing and toasting one another— the last shot of a mighty Kodiak bear shifting ominously in his slumber
I wrote the feature film, Murder in Fashion, about the killing of designer Gianni Versace by serial killer Andrew Cunanan. The film played at theatres and festivals and was reviewed in the NY Times: https://www.nytimes.com/2010/01/22/movies/22murder.html?_r=0
I collaborated with producer Don Murphy (Transformers, Natural Born Killers) on the script "Fast Fade" on the life of tragic film noir actress Barbra Payton.