How It Works
Email Rob the first ten pages of your feature length screenplay (in pdf. format) along with a logline and title. Every Friday one of us (or a guest reviewer) posts one writer's work along with notes and a:
Trash It (Start over.)
Take Another Pass (You're onto something, but it needs more work.)
More Please (I'm hooked. What happens next?)
Somebody Shoot This!
Readers then vote and comment on your work.
My review this week will cover "Loco", a curious horror concept about a director who is kidnapped and forced to make a horror movie by a Mexican cartel leader. Unfortunately, our ten page format doesn't allow for us to really delve into that this time - but as with all reviews, we'll try to just focus on what we do have in front of us. I will say that I am interested to see how the "real body count" thread referred to in the logline intertwines with the plot of the director trying to save his family, as I hope it's not just something tacked on inorganically.
The story opens on a film set, where a crazy, self-loving, arrogant prick of a director named John is churning out another in an apparent string of lame B-movie horror flicks he has become known for. By the way, the first page of the script opens in an identical fashion as "Deep Level Shelter", another work Amy reviewed a couple weeks back. Meaning, we are led to believe there is an actual murder taking place until the director yells "CUT!" and we realize we've been duped as an audience. Unfortunately, after the awesome faux-tribal sacrifice in "Deep Level Shelter", this scene doesn't pack quite the same punch - especially since I feel like I've seen this trick several times before already in other films (not to say it wasn't written well, because it was).
So: my first impression of John is that he's an asshole, and I don't care what the hell happens to him in this film. He drops a half-dozen F-bombs in the first two pages, which immediately makes him unlikeable, he's not funny when he probably thinks he is, and he treats women like the worst kind of shit. I really, really, really didn't like him. I understand this is the writer's intent, but maybe it was a little too much early on.
After getting a blow job from the assistant he just berated in public, John gets a frantic call from his forty-something, past-her-prime wife. He comes back home to his mansion to find that it's been broken into, and police are checking things out. Nothing's been stolen, but the audience knows from a previous scene that a Mexican man was the culprit, as he was here earlier taking photographs of the inside of the house for some reason. We get a little bit of a confrontation here between John and his wife, who knows John is not being faithful nor a good father to their children. After seeing John in all his assholian glory just a minute earlier though, it was hard to garner any sympathy for him, even when he was attempting to reach out to his pained spouse. That exchange felt a little forced.
The next scene is the introduction to our villain: Loco. Loco is a slick-suited, big, intimidating Mexican drug lord who shows us he's a complete bad ass by blowing a captured opponent's butthole wide open with a revolver round. This sequence, while competently written again, was pretty over-the-top and cliche for me. There were even a couple dialogue bits like, "You know I can't do that" - "Can't? Or won't?" and "Am I attractive? Then why are you trying to fuck me!" - these are exchanges I feel like I've seen time and time again, in one form or the other. I don't feel like it's being done in a tongue-in-cheek manner, either, so it was kind of hard to take the it very seriously - but, that may be due to personal reasons. Case in point: I hated Man On Fire, and the scene where a stoic Denzel shoves a grenade up a man's ass kinda struck me in the same silly kind of way this scene did.
We end our pages with Loco meeting with the Mexican photographer who invaded John's mansion earlier, and the photographer sharing his camera goodies with Loco. It's a nice question to end on, as we're wondering what the hell does this guy want with intimate knowledge of a famous director's interior home design?
Overall, I'd have to say these writers are very competent, they know formatting, they write relatively lean, nothing about the structure really jumped out at me as bad (although, my first thought was that the villain shouldn't be introduced so early on, but they may have reasons for that).
As far as the actual content on the page though, it struck me as a little bland and unoriginal. The dialogue, as I've pointed out, kind of felt like it was retreading previous films in certain spots, and most of the story choices didn't seem all too fresh either. The policeman who asks the director for his autograph at a crime scene, the dog-like, hot-blooded Mexican gangster, the intro "trick" scene which I've already touched on. None of it's really bad, it's just not anything that gets my heart racing if I'm being honest.
Aside from that, my biggest issue was the main character. Movies where our hero is a giant dickwad at the start of the film are not unheard of of course, but in the cases where it works, it works because that giant dickwad is also entertaining. He captivates us, even if we don't sympathize with him. Scrooge, for instance. P.L. Travers, in the upcoming "Saving Mr. Banks" - these characters are witty, funny, and full of life. Translation: fun to watch - even if they're not so nice. There is nothing about John Williams in these first ten pages that I find interesting. He's not funny, he's not charismatic, he's just a huge jerk. I think maybe toning his character down and giving us a reason to root for him might go a long way into connecting the hero with the audience, which is pretty key in the first few minutes of a film.
I will give this baby a "Take Another Pass".
( )Trash It
(*)Take Another Pass
( )More Please
What did you think of the Michael and Adam's 1st 10 pages?
Next week Amy will give feedback on the 1st 10 pages of Gene Levitzky's A Mass Exodus?
Please comment below on the 1st 10 pages of LOCO.