Earlier this year, the rap collective the Wu-Tang Clan carried out a bold experiment in exclusivity with the sale of Once Upon a Time in Shaolin, a one-of-a-kind album that will not be available for commercial consumption for at least another 88 years. Though the purchase was finalized months ago, we didn’t learn the identity of the buyer until this week. Unfortunately, that buyer turned out to be Martin Shkreli, the pharmaceutical, um, executive (read: callous douchebag) who raised the price of a drug used to treat AIDS by more than 5,000 percent and then displayed such a complete lack of human compassion that he seemed genuinely puzzled when people rightly called him an asshole instead of praising his robotic business savvy.
The news is highly disappointing for a variety of reasons, not the least of which is that the world is probably in a worse place if a man like Martin Shkreli is happy. But that’s not what I’m here to talk about. Amidst the flurry of stories about the sale, Shkreli, and his motivations – Shkreli says he hasn’t even bothered to listen to the damn album, which he seems to have purchased solely to demonstrate how rich he is – one crucial tidbit emerged. The sale contract apparently has a clause that stipulates that the Wu-Tang Clan:
“May legally plan and attempt to execute one (1) heist or caper to steal back Once Upon A Time in Shaolin, which, if successful, would return all ownership rights to the seller. Said heist or caper can only be undertaken by currently active members of the Wu-Tang Clan and/or actor Bill Murray, with no legal repercussions.”
Let me say that again. The Wu-Tang Clan can regain full control of the album if (and only if) they successfully execute a fucking heist alongside Bill Motherfucking Murray, and they have a fucking get out of jail free card should they do so! Just for a moment, let’s forget about the unfortunate involvement of Martin Shkreli. That’s the best movie pitch I didn’t know I needed, and I want to know why it wasn’t in production yesterday.
Besides, it’s a lot more fun to assume that everything is accurate. If the Wu-Tang Clan successfully pulls off the caper, then Hollywood will go ahead and green light the movie before U-God pulls up to Bill Murray’s house in the getaway car and it will immediately become the best ‘based on a true story’ movie ever created. Martin Shkreli is such a perfectly detestable villain that we’d all be able to feel good about it when he finally gets robbed, and I can’t wait to see the look on Miles Teller’s face (dream casting) when he opens his diamond-encrusted vault and finds that his money is there and his Wu-Tang record isn’t.
But even if the caper never materializes, the movie still needs to happen, because the truth is that I would watch any heist movie in which Bill Murray teams up with the Wu-Tang Clan. The odd couple opportunities for verbal banter about the intricacies of chess boxing are virtually limitless, while many elements of the Wu-Tang mythos already lend themselves to action cinema. That’s before you get to all of the personalities within the Clan itself. GZA can plan the heist while RZA handles tech and Masta Killa makes sandwich runs. If there’s a scene where they have to torture someone for information, then Method Man can handle that.
The possibilities get even wackier if we decide that the movie doesn’t have to be realistic. There’s definitely a version of the film in which a kaiju steals the Statue of Liberty and the Clan has to build a work Voltron to steal it back. However, the Wu-Tang Clan has far more charisma than the cast of Ocean’s Eleven (in this analogy, Bill Murray is the Carl Reiner character who has to get close to Shkreli until he lets his guard down), and we wouldn’t want to lose that charm behind a wall of special effects.
In any case, those are all backup scenarios. Though I’d watch Bill Murray and the Wu-Tang Clan steal anything (cash, jewels, a large colony of killer bees), it would be ideal if the real heist tags Martin Shkreli, if only because it gives the film a certain poetic momentum. The Wu-Tang Clan would have to steal the album to preserve their art, taking advantage of the one option available to them to rescue their album from selfish elites in order to share it with the appreciative people. Hollywood usually has to invent that kind of unambiguous good-v-evil thematic dichotomy, so we’d be foolish not to take advantage of it when it occurs naturally.
The significance of Once Upon a Time in Shaolin is obviously lost upon its current owner, who only seems to enjoy things as long as he can take them away from others. That can only be described as a crime against sonic communication. However, if we can’t listen to the album, a Wu-Tang/Bill Murray heist picture is a pretty amazing consolation prize. I’d pay good money to see that movie, and anybody who tells you otherwise is lying.