THE KOI KEEPER
Felice Bassuk & Richard F. Russell
Logline: A kidnapped American girl falls in love with her mysterious rescuer and marries him,
only to discover he was the underworld kingpin who kidnapped her.
Bangkok, Thailand. KIMBERLY HARRINGTON, late 30s, stunning blonde in negligee, reclines on her bed in a stupor. CLAY HARRINGTON, Kimberly’s cuckold husband, labors in the American Embassy. SYBIL, their 16-year-old daughter, uncovers the pipe that incites a nasty argument between her parents.
Addicted to the drugs her lover TOSHIRO supplies, Kimberly plans to run away with him. But on the appointed day, drug-sick and irresolute, Kimberly calls it off.
Toshiro is quietly enraged, and his jilting ignites this tale of desire, love, and survival.
Clay returns home to find Kimberly lifeless, pills strewn about her bed. At her memorial, unobserved, Toshiro studies Sybil. The following day, Sybil is attacked in the street. Her bodyguard resists in a highly charged martial arts battle – but she is killed, and Sybil is thrown into a van.
Locked in a cold cell, abused, starving, Sybil is on the verge of dying. Suddenly, she is taken to a large estate with walls and guards and gates. To her astonishment, she’s settled in a lush bedroom with a private bath. She eats with other captives who obey a strict pecking order. At the head of the table is GOLDEN GIRL, a blonde Thai, the slave-master. She is tough, aggressive, and hates Sybil’s ‘privileged’ attitude. RATANA, a practical Cambodian girl, briefs Sybil on the rules, and they quickly bond as “sisters.”
Sybil has her first meeting with Toshiro. He grants her request to call her father, but she fails to reach him…anywhere. Toshiro invites her to consider the compound her new home and promises to keep trying to contact her father. Finally, he informs her that her father has left the country without a trace. Sybil settles into this strange, new life at the compound – a mix of luxury, iron-clad rules, and martial arts.
Toshiro leads Sybil to a garden where men and women trainees spar with Golden Girl. Upon Toshiro’s signal, one after another, Golden Girl levels each one with ease and grace. On another occasion, the trainees challenge each other. Winners stay for further training; losers are evicted. Sybil watches in awe.
At a glistening koi pond, Toshiro draws philosophic and moral lessons from the multi-colored fish. He tells Sybil that koi seek perfection; if they fall short, they are released from a flawed life. Sybil is increasingly fascinated by Toshiro, who personifies the wisdom and resilience of koi. But is he her protector or her captor?
Devastated by his double tragedy and with no inkling of his daughter’s whereabouts, Clay hires a Private Investigator who rips him off, a comely Journalist who enshrines Sybil’s disappearance online, and finally a Gang of criminals. But when Clay interferes with a drug bust involving his gang, he becomes persona non grata to the Thai authorities. The American Ambassador orders him to leave Thailand.
Clay departs but secretly returns. He installs himself in a run-down boarding house to continue his search for Sybil.
Having lost her fight at the compound, an ex-trainee plots to kidnap Sybil and claim the reward offered for Sybil’s return. She leads a posse of “businessmen” into Toshiro’s compound. They grab Sybil, but Golden Girl and Toshiro appear in time to demolish the invaders. Toshiro tells Sybil she will commence fight training the next day.
Golden Girl, the keeper of the koi, observes Toshiro’s growing interest in Sybil and twitches with jealousy. She reluctantly trains Sybil, whose skills improve rapidly.
Nevertheless, Sybil longs to escape. When Ratana falls ill, Sybil decides they must flee the compound to obtain medicine. They sneak away and hide in the back of a wagon bound for Bangkok. They reach a hospital, but too late to save Ratana. She succumbs that night.
The next morning, as Sybil approaches the gates of the US Embassy, a van screeches to a halt before her. Glimpsing Toshiro’s guards, Sybil takes off, jumping into the back of a tuk-tuk. The small vehicle squirms through the dense traffic, but ultimately Sybil is grabbed and returned to the compound.
Trapped again, with nowhere to go, Sybil focuses on the koi and grows to love them. She learns to identify the different types and how to care for them. With Ratana gone, they are her only friends. Toshiro appoints Sybil his Koi Keeper – replacing Golden Girl, who can barely conceal her rage.
Toshiro visits a Thai Official, WONGSAWAT, seeking permission to acquire a piece of property to expand his business. Wongsawat is suspicious and refuses.
On TV, the Journalist presents a follow-up report about kidnapping and human trafficking. Rumors about Toshiro figure prominently. Wongsawat sees the report, and his anger grows. At home, he is brutally attacked. But the attacker dies without revealing who was behind the assault.
Stockholm syndrome: Sybil becomes deeply enamored of Toshiro. She’s been seduced by his looks, his mysticism, his power, and the drugs he offers. Her moxie, her fighting ability, and her care of the koi have impressed him. He buys her new clothes, wines and dines her, and they make love for the first time.
Then the koi are massacred. Sybil claims responsibility, but Toshiro suspects Golden Girl. In a stunning motion, he slashes her throat.
Sybil accompanies Toshiro on a koi-buying trip. After, he shows her where he grew up and shares his tortured memories of being abandoned by his family. He convinces her they are joined by their common abandonment. They marry in an elegant Shinto ceremony and spend their honeymoon in a hotel.
The Gang Leader learns where Sybil lives, and Clay joins the gang to attack Toshiro’s compound. A gun battle rages between Clay’s gang and Toshiro’s guards, and Clay kills a guard. But Sybil is nowhere to be found. She and Toshiro are still at the honeymoon hotel. Thai police arrive, and Clay is arrested. Incarcerated, Clay’s beard grows wild as he wastes away, unaware that Sybil rejoices in her love for Toshiro.
But love, like Sybil’s story, takes many twists and turns. Sybil finds evidence of Toshiro’s affair with her mother and her father’s banishment from Thailand. She confronts Toshiro, who simply says: “Koi deal with surprise. Koi overcome.” He does not understand – Sybil is not a fish.
Clay’s friends at the Embassy hear of his arrest and concoct a scheme to break him out of jail. They convince Wongsawat that Toshiro has Sybil. Wongsawat plans a raid.
Under a full moon, Sybil joins Toshiro at the koi pond. He turns to admire the fish. He turns back, and she buries a knife in his chest. “You seek release?” she asks. “Release yourself,” she whispers, and flees.
Wongsawat and the troops arrive, and a battle erupts at the gate. Sybil hides in the bushes. As the troops enter the compound, Toshiro sinks to his knees, his blood turning the pond water crimson. Wongsawat orders his men to fish out the barely alive Toshiro.
Free at last, Sybil dashes through the gate – and freezes. Walking toward her, scraggly and bearded, is Clay. He stops, exhausted but overcome with joy. She can barely breathe as tears run down her cheeks…