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Article: The Gauntlet (Story Structure/Breakdown)

The Gauntlet Story Structure Breakdown Beat Sheet - Image of Movie Poster

The Gauntlet (Story Structure/Breakdown)

Screenplay written by Michael Butler and Dennis Shryack
Film directed by Clint Eastwood

Point of Attack | Opening Image

Panoramic of the Phoenix skyline at sunrise. Detective Ben Shockley exits a cocktail lounge and drives to City Hall. A near-empty bottle of Jack Daniels falls from the vehicle when he opens the door. This establishes Shockley's on-the-ropes character and sets the tone of the movie.

Inciting Incident | Catalyst

Shockley is assigned by Police Department Commissioner Blakelock to escort a "nothing witness" - a prostitute named Augustine "Gus" Mally - from Las Vegas to Phoenix to testify at a "nothing trial".

Call to Action (and Debate)

In Las Vegas, Mally resists going with Shockley, telling him "You're a dead man, Shockley. They're going to kill me, and if you're with me, you're going to get killed, too. It's 50-to-1 we don't make it. Ask any bookie." While waiting for Mally's paperwork to be processed, Shockley learns there is a bet on a racehorse named "Mally No Show". Mally reiterates the danger involved in extraditing her. Shockley tells her, "If what you're saying is true, then they're betting I can't do my job."

First Turning Point | Plot Point 1

Though not convinced they are in danger, Shockley arranges for a rental car to be left near the airport and uses an ambulance to secretly move Mally out of the jail. While Shockley attempts to get Mally out of the ambulance and into the waiting vehicle, the transport car explodes.

SUCCESS & FAILURE - Shockley and Mally speed off in the ambulance, and are chased and shot at by another vehicle. Shockley gives Mally a gun to shoot back, and they lose the "bad guys" when Mally hits their car, and it veers into a ditch. The two drive to Mally's house where Shockley calls Blakelock, and tells him he needs backup. When the Las Vegas police arrive, they open fire on the house. Shockley and Mally slip out via a hidden passageway as the house is destroyed. They kidnap a local Constable in his car, and order him to drive them out of town. Shockley learns from the Constable that it was mob guys in the car that shot at them. Stopping at a payphone, Shockley calls Blakelock and tells him he was set up, and both the cops and mob are trying to kill them. Blakelock agrees to provide an escort from the Arizona border to Phoenix.


Fearing they will be killed by the escort, Mally convinces Shockley to get out of the cop car just prior to reaching the border. Shockley and Mally hike to a vantage point and watch as the Constable is killed in an ambush meant for the two of them.

B STORYLINE - Shockley and Mally's relationship evolves into love as they share stories of their past, and develop a deeper understanding of one another.

DESCENT - Shockley and Mally spend the night in a cave. Mally reveals she's the key to tying mob activities and police corruption together. Shockley realizes Blakelock is involved. A group of motorcycle bikers arrive outside the cave, and Shockley bluffs his way into stealing a motorcycle from three of the bikers. Shockley and Mally ride into a town, where Shockley calls his friend and ex-partner Detective Josephson (who now works a desk at City Hall), and tells him that Blakelock is corrupt. Shockley and Mally are pursued by a helicopter with a marksman who shoots at them as they ride through the desert. They outmaneuver the helicopter, which ultimately gets tangled in power lines and crashes.

Crisis Point | Second Turning Point | Plot Point 2

Shockley and Mally jump a train and are attacked by the three bikers from whom they previously stole the motorcycle. Shockley is badly beaten and tied up. Shockley gets loose from his restraints while the three bikers are assaulting Mally, and kicks/throws them off the train.

REFLECTION & ENLIGHTENMENT - Shockley realizes that, to prove their innocence, he must deliver Mally to Phoenix to testify. They walk to a small town, where Shockley calls Josephson and reveals his plans to drive to City Hall. Shockley details his exact route, and asks Josephson to tell Blakelock that he's coming for him.

RUN UP TO THE CLIMAX - Shockley and Mally commandeer a bus and fit it with scrap metal armor. Josephson approaches District Attorney Federspiel about Blakelock. The corrupt D.A. then tells Blakelock, who orders Federspiel to stop Shockley. The D.A. suggests using Shockley's friend Josephson and creating an impassable gauntlet with officers stationed along the route to shoot and kill Shockley and Mally. As Shockley and Mally drive the bus into the city, Josephson flags down Shockley and tells him it's suicide to drive the route. He convinces them that they can trust the D.A. who promises to smuggle them into City Hall so Mally can testify. As the three of them walk to Josephson's squad car, snipers shoot and kill Josephson, and Shockley is struck in the leg. Mally and Shockley escape back into the bus. Realizing D.A. Federspiel is also corrupt, Shockley navigates the bus through the gauntlet as the vehicle is hit with a hail of gunfire from armed officers lining both sides of the road.

Climax | Final Confrontation

The badly damaged bus gives out at the steps of City Hall. Shockley exits the bus and officers lower their weapons when Mally steps out. The assembled law enforcement allow Shockley and Mally to walk toward the entrance of City Hall. Blakelock and Federspiel run out of the building. Blakelock orders officers to shoot Shockley and Mally, but Shockley grabs Federspiel and forces the D.A. to confess to his and Blakelock's crimes. Blacklock grabs an officer's gun and shoots Federspiel and Shockley. Federspiel is killed, and Shockley falls to the ground wounded. Mally then shoots Blakelock dead.

Resolution | Denouement | Final Image

Shockley gets up off the ground, and he and Mally walk away from City Hall.

Get the Movie: Digital Film (AppleTV)