Variation on a Million Bucks, Part 1 Recap

In Lisbon in a hotel, a Russian named Max Stein counts out a million dollars for his guest., a Russian agent named Bert. As Max prepares to take it to a vault, Bert informs him that he’s under arrest and draws a gun. He explains that Max stole official funds, and orders him to hand over the satchel with the money. Max jumps him and knocks him out, then grabs the satchel and leaves.

Later at the Banco Continental, Max transfers the money to a box and puts an envelope in with it, and then locks the box in a safe deposit vault.

Later in London, Max is with McGill attending a theater show. As they come out for intermission, McGill notices a model, Taiko, in the crowd. Taiko notices McGill as he approaches her, and goes to meet him. She complains that he missed their appointment, and McGill says that he couldn’t. McGill assures her that he never forgot her, and Taiko says that she is a popular model. She figures that nothing has changed since the last time she knew him, and McGill invites her to spend some time with him. Taiko says that she cursed him for cheating them and tells him not to try and find her. McGill gives her his hotel address and she walks away.

McGill returns to Max and they go to a club to play chess. The Russian realizes that McGill is distracted, and suggests that he send Taiko a single flower each night. McGill tells him to shut up and puts him in check.

Later, McGill is at his hotel room drinking and starts when the bell rings. It’s Taiko at his door, and they kiss.

Two weeks later, American intelligence watch surveillance photos of McGill and Taiko together. They confirm that he currently has money Max is in many of the photos as well, and the leader Michaels tells his men t o make sure that McGill doesn’t leave the country.

The trio is at McGill’s room drinking and a tipsy Max finally excuses himself so they can be alone. He kisses Taiko on the cheek first and tells McGill to make it work. He jokingly says that he could give McGill a million dollars but won’t because they’re friends. Once the Russian leaves, Taiko says that he was different and wonders where he lives. She then describes her dream of marrying McGill and they kiss.

On the street below, one of Michaels’ men watches McGill’s window.

Later, Max is hitting up a girl in a café when McGill finds him. He takes him off and asks what’s going on, well aware that both of them are being followed. Max figures that their Russian security men, and McGill reminds his friend that they met when he tracked him down because of rumors that Max stole a million dollars from his superiors. He admits that he tracked Max down because he wanted the million, and figures that Max is setting him up for something. Max denies everything and as McGill drops him off, reminds him about his party the next night.

The next night at the hotel, Taiko finds McGill looking out the window. He figures that Max would show up, and assures Taiko that he’s there with her.

At the café, one of Michaels’ agents enters the café as Max reads a paper. The killer sits down with Max and says that they want the key, and he has orders to obtain it. Max insists that there’s no key, and the killer warns that Max won’t be asked again. He pays for his coffee and leaves, and the café owner--Kenneth--advises him to stay and they can share a drink. Max says that he has something to do and leaves. He takes out a gun and walks away, and the killer emerges from a car and shoots Max down. He comes over to check Max’s body, but Max is still alive and shoots him.

After the party is over, Taiko thanks McGill for helping with the party. They kiss and she excuses herself, saying that she has a modeling studio date in the morning. McGill invites her to move in but Taiko refuses, saying that she needs her own place. She explains that she wants the next arrangement of man and time to be perfect, and McGill says that he’s trying. Max calls out from the street and McGill looks down... and sees that he’s wounded. He runs down and catches Max as he collapses. As a crowd gathers, McGill tells one of them to get a doctor. Max says that Kurgenov tried to frame him, and he took the money and put in away in the “Black Queen” at the bank in international. The Russian tells McGill to look after Taiko and dies. As Taiko arrives, McGill tells the crowd to leave and then covers his friend’s face.

Later, McGill contemplates the chessboard he and Max used, and checks the black queen. It’s hollow and there’s a safe deposit key inside. He then goes to the police to help with their inquiry. Det. Sgt. Peters figures that there was something more going on. He shows McGill the killer’s body and explains that they confirmed the man shot Max and then Max killed him. McGill denies that Max told him anything as he died and leaves. Taiko is waiting outside and as they go off, Bert watches them go.

Back at McGill’s room, McGill reminisces about his friend. He goes to the café and talks to Kenneth, who confirms that Max was sitting at his usual table when the killer talked to him. Kenneth confirms that the killer left first and Max said that he had something to do. McGill asks for Kenneth to help arrange a trip for him using his contacts. Kenneth agrees and the two of them go in the back to inspect the kitchen. Bert, who has been sitting at a table, leave an envelope for McGill on the counter and leaves.

When McGill and Kenneth come out, they find the envelope. Inside is an unsigned message, “See me about the key,” and a ticket to Royal Albert Hall. Kenneth advises McGill not to go, figuring it’s a trap, but McGill figures that they can’t kill him until they get the key.

Later, McGill arrives at the Hall. Meanwhile, Michaels’ men tear apart McGill’s room looking for the key.

Bert comes up to McGill in the hall and introduces himself. He offers McGill $50,000 for the key and claims the story about the million dollars isn’t true. McGill wonders if he had Max killed, and Bert assures him that killing Max would have made the key harder to find. The man following McGill arrives and Bert says that he’ll have to make sure about McGill before walking away.

When McGill returns to his room, the thugs ambush him and search him for the key. They find nothing and leave as McGill wakes up. He confirms that the key is still in the chess piece before passing out. Later, Taiko returns and takes care of McGill. She realizes that he won’t call the police because the break-in has to do with Max, and McGill promises that he’ll never let anyone hurt her again... including himself.

Later, McGill is packing when Kenneth and his assistant Lionel arrive. Kenneth gives him the details on a Panamanian freighter leaving for Libya, and papers identifying him as Max. McGill pays and the two men leave. Once he’s alone, McGill spots the man watching him take off after Kenneth and Lionel. As he leaves, one of McGill’s American former associates, Johnson, holds him at gunpoint in the hallway. Johnson takes him to the CIA headquarters and they search McGill’s suitcase. There’s no sign of the key, and Michaels insists that there’s no million dollars. He offers him $30,00 for the key, and McGill refuses. Michael then explains that Max had to leave the million dollars behind when he received asylum. He wants the key for something other than the money, but warns McGill that other people think it exists and will kill for it. McGill isn’t impressed, and Michaels warns that they’ll stop him any way that they have to.

McGill returns to his hotel room and bandages the key to his side. Taiko arrives and he tells her that he has a job but refuses to give details. McGill promises that he’ll be back in a week, and assures her that they won’t kill him. He insists that the money doesn’t belong to anyone, and Taiko accuses him of abandoning her just like he did four years ago in Tokyo. McGill says that he has to try it and promises that he’ll come back to her.

Michaels’ men hear gunshots from McGill’s room and run to investigate. They break in only to discover that McGill took the elevator down, leaving Taiko behind. As they go, Bert watches them from hiding.

McGill goes to Kenneth’s café and the man lets him in. He collects his papers and goes out the kitchen window to a waiting car. At the docks, McGill boards the freighter as Johnson and the others arrive and watch the freighter pulls out.

Bert calls someone and says that he knows how Max did it, because Max wanted him to know.. In his hands is the open chess piece.

Written by Gadfly on Oct 3, 2015