Synopsis:Jerome Baxter is a ticking time bomb waiting to explode. When we first meet him, as a young filmmaker at a film festival, he's in a parking lot fistfight with the director of the winning film. Dozens of cameras capture Jerome's mad outburst – his film career is ruined in an instant.
Five years later, Jerome struggles to make a living installing security cameras and filming weddings and peewee football games. His days are an endless loop of tedious work, frustrating commutes, microwave dinners, and nights getting drunk in his crappy apartment. He still sends his old screenplays to agents and contests, but without hope or success. He is too miserable to even notice the man in the truck who's been following him around.
Everything changes when Jerome meets Genevieve Rijkdom, a young, slinky housewife. She's bored with her marriage, bored with her life, bored, bored, bored. Never pretending to respect or even like her, he joins her in a tawdry affair of cheap booze and sleazy motels.
Genevieve hints that she quit school to run away with a penniless writer, then worked at Wal-mart until she was "rescued" by her future husband, Onslow Rijkdom, the heir of the Rijkdom fortune. Genevieve brings Jerome to the mansion on the pretense of wanting an estimate on security cameras. Jerome watches Onslow slap and humiliate Genevieve just to amuse his idiot friends. The pig may have rescued her, but he's never going to let her live it down.
While Onslow and his friends play video games, Genevieve whispers to Jerome that, if they were to murder Onslow, Jerome could have the $100,000 he keeps in his safe, while she could have the house. Jerome shrugs off the idea at first – until he looks over an old screenplay that he budgets at $94,000.
The lovers plan what they hope will be the perfect crime. While Onslow is away at a poker game and Genevieve is out with friends, Jerome sets up security cameras throughout the mansion. He hides inside the mansion, activates the cameras by remote, and waits all night for Onslow to come home.
Just before Onslow enters the mansion late that night, Jerome turns the cameras off again. Jerome springs from the shadows and knocks Onslow out with chloroform. Jerome uses his laptop to doctor the security footage so it looks like Onslow was never home. Then he cleans the $100,000 out the safe and sends Onslow's car off a cliff – with Onslow in it.
Things start to fall apart for the killers the very next morning. On the pretense of helping Genevieve watch security footage from the night before, Jerome comes over to the mansion, where the police are waiting. They are led by Inspector Welsh, the father of Jerome's old girlfriend, and among those present at Jerome's film fest brawl.
The old man's feelings for Jerome are ambiguous – at various times he treats Jerome like a son, a suspect, a specimen under a microscope, and even like a former lover. Welsh tells Genevieve what they expected he would say: that Onslow got drunk and died in a car accident.
After the police leave, Genevieve and Jerome agree to stay away from each other for a while. Their feelings begin to cool. That night, he dreams they're together again in the motel room. He says he wants to make movies so that a part of him will live on after he's dead. In his dream she vanishes before his eyes, and he doesn't care. For the rest of the movie, Jerome identifies not so much with whitetrash Genevieve, but more with Inspector Welsh, whom he considers his intellectual equal and "audience."
Things get worse. Jerome receives a phone call the next morning from a man named Bead, claiming to know everything. Bead makes no demands, except to tell Jerome to wait for his phone call at a particular phonebooth in the city. He leaves Jerome to twist in the wind, scared of his own shadow. Bead is, of course, the man who was following Jerome earlier, the man Jerome never noticed.
Like a ghost, Inspector Welsh seems to be everywhere Jerome goes. He appears at Jerome's work and waits for Jerome inside his apartment. Welsh "casually" mentions that cigarette butts were found in Onslow's car, even though Onslow doesn't smoke – and Jerome does. He says that a witness saw Onslow come home the night he was murdered. Worst of all, he informs Jerome that the Rijkdoms must have been robbed recently because Genevieve showed him their empty safe. He goes on to say that all the cash from the safe is traceable. Is he warning Jerome? Taunting him?
Jerome burns his $100,000. He is so furious with what he perceives as Genevieve's breaking team that he drives to her house and storms inside. A heated debate ensues in which Genevieve accuses Jerome of being no better than Onslow: an arrogant man who thinks whitetrash Genevieve is a joke. Nothing is resolved except that the connection between the two murderers has all but fallen apart.
Alone, Jerome has a vision that he and Welsh are back at the film festival from the beginning of the film. This time their conversation is different. To the imaginary Welsh, Jerome confesses everything and asks for help with Bead the blackmailer. Welsh counsels him that he must in some way already know or be connected to the blackmailer. There's no way he is a complete unknown. Welsh also tells Jerome to stop being angry all the time. Jerome takes his advice to heart.
Back in the real world, Jerome is calmed by the realization that he was never going to make another movie. He destroys his screenplay and calmly goes to wait for Bead's call, but Bead never calls him. Instead, Jerome finds a note left by Bead in the phonebooth telling Jerome where they should meet.
Meanwhile, Bead lays a trap for Jerome. The lone employee at a tattoo parlor called All-Night Photography, he trashes the parlor's waiting room to make it look as if there's been a struggle. He leaves a message on Jerome's home answering machine saying that he is a friend of the Rijkdoms' who suspects the security footage was faked and that the two of them should discuss it before going to the police.
Bead lays in wait with two handguns so he can shoot Jerome and make it look like self-defense. But Jerome gets the drop on him and Bead is shot to death. After overcoming his shock, Jerome finds photographs of Bead and Genevieve as couple.
Jerome pieces everything together: Bead was Genevieve's writer boyfriend from before she met Onslow. Their plan was to get a patsy to murder Onslow for them, then kill the patsy in "self-defense" so he would take the blame.
Genevieve confesses to this when she arrives and holds Jerome at gunpoint with one of Bead's guns. But Jerome has outsmarted her – Jerome unloaded one of Bead's guns and shoots Genevieve dead with other one. With his newfound clear-headedness, he makes the scene of the crime look like a murder-suicide, in which Genevieve, filled with remorse over killing Onslow, took her own life and the life of her adulterous lover.
The final confrontation between Jerome and Welsh is fought entirely with words. Welsh knows everything but can prove nothing. But Jerome is able to counter every accusation that Welsh throws at him. In a way, Jerome is finally in his element, in absolute control of an artificial reality, much like being a filmmaker.
Welsh stalks off in defeat, but Jerome's victory is, in a way, equally hollow. He lost the money and he lost the girl, but more importantly, he cannot tell his story to anyone. He even records his confession as a video on his computer, but he destroys the video to protect himself. His dream of making a version of himself that will live on after he dies has failed.