Saturday, March 28, 2009
I have never met Daniel Kunka. But that barely mattered Friday night when my 15-year-old son, Eric, myself, and about 50 of his closer relatives crowded the Loews Woodridge theater lobby for champagne, photos and laughs to celebrate the release of the movie “12 Rounds,” which Kunka wrote. By the time the evening was over, I felt pretty close to him.
Kunka’s story is one you can’t help but root for – a 30-year-old South Sider’s first screenplay, a WWE fan whose film stars WWE star John Cena, a humble guy whose father describes the thrill he felt at having his film debut at Mann’s Chinese Theater in Hollywood.
Friday night was all about supporting Daniel from halfway across the country – and it started early. From my desk I had to laugh as I read the Facebook updates from “Cousin O’Kunka,” but I was admittedly a bit concerned about the planned tailgate. A tailgate at a movie theater? It sounded a little dangerous, but also fitting for a WWE movie, to be honest. It went off without a hitch; they even played bags.
When my aunt arrived with a bottle of champagne, I thought, “this is it, they’ve gone too far,” but she promptly charmed the burly manager, and soon the adults were sipping champagne from tiny plastic medicine cups.
But we weren’t there just to drink and play bags. There was a movie to see.
As a writer I got my own little personal joy from clapping when the writer’s name came up in the opening credits. This should definitely happen more often.
Daniel’s father had patiently and meticulously explained over and over the scene that the parents appear in (many of us still managed to miss it, maybe it was the eyedropper of champagne?) and held court in the lobby, beaming with the kind of pride that only the proudest of parents can feel. His mother was quieter, and let Dad do the talking. When their big moment on screen arrived, he whispered afterward in awe “that was it.”
The movie itself was a thriller, a story about a decent policeman who is haunted with guilt after accidentally killing a criminal’s girl while arresting him. Still, when the bad guy breaks out of prison, all he wants is revenge. It is one of those films that keeps putting the good guy in impossible situations, and just when you think he is going to be all right, something happens to mess things up for him. You really want him to win, especially since the bad guy is going to kill the hero’s pretty wife.
During the movie, I started thinking about box office and business, and what Daniel’s future may hold. Occupational hazard, I guess (I’m an entertainment editor by trade). Renny Harlin is a big-time director, and the WWE seems like a prosperous company to hitch one’s wagon to, but there had been no advance screening. Still, there were a lot of commercials, which means there was a big marketing push. He’s probably got a pretty good chance at a decent career.
The evening ended with a group photo, and I was astounded as to how many people were in it. I knew we took over the theater, I just didn’t realize to what extent. I found myself thinking of another movie line, one focusing on one of the more important things in life. “To Daniel Kunka, the richest man in town!”