Monday, August 6, 2012

Screenplay Review - The Gun Eaters

Genre: Cop/Procedural
Premise: (from Black List) Four hardened New York detectives race to apprehend a relentless spree-killer who’s executing victims from Queens to Southampton in the span of a single day.
About: This script finished in the middle of the 2011 Black List with 10 votes. Co-writer Alex Paraskevas has one produced credit, the 2005 Jason Patric movie, Walker Payne. Jordan Goldberg has a bit of a more interesting past.  He wrote on the animation series, Batman: Gotham Knight, and seems to be in tight with Christopher Nolan, as he co-produced and associate produced The Prestige, The Dark Knight, Inception, and The Dark Knight Rises.
Writer: Alex Paraskevas and Jordan Goldberg
Details: 116 pages

Shia for Byrne?  

One of the problems with watching the Gangnam Style video 642 times in a weekend is that you begin to lose touch with reality.  Nothing you do or see is quite good enough when compared to a deranged Korean pop star sitting on a toilet belting his heart out.  This has particularly hurt my reading, as I find myself bored by the simplicity of black words on a white page.  I want color.  Lots and lots of color!  And grown men having dance-offs in underground parking lots.

Which is probably why Gun Eaters was the worst possible script for me to read this weekend.  I do this thing where I pick out a Black List script without knowing anything about it.  I've found some really awesome scripts this way - namely because it's fun to figure out the premise as I go along.  But as soon as I realized this was a cop procedural, I deflated.

Procedurals have become such a staple in the television world that it's nearly impossible to do anything new with them.  Therefore, if you're going to write a movie procedural, it better have some unique-ass angle to it - something that warrants people paying 10 bucks for it instead of just staying home and watching one of the two-dozen procedural shows they can see on TV.

Sadly, Gun Eaters was not the exception to the rule.  The script follows two cops, 29 year old Detective Berendan Byrne and 48 year old vet, Detective Warren Salvo.  The two cops couldn't be more different.  Byrne is young and idealistic, the kind of cop that makes all the other cops look bad, and Salvo is the grizzly vet who gave up that idealism a long time ago.  As he puts it, he's learned that you're never going to be able to win this war.  Your goal is simply to break even.

The two get put on a case where a man's body parts have been dropped all over the city.  That's usually...not good.  They soon find out that the man was an employee of Youngerman Health Incorporated, a company that went belly up after it was revealed that their CEO, Quentin Youngerman, was embezzling lots of money.

Blahbity blah blah, more people start dying, also employees of this company, and it's eventually revealed that Youngerman was the main health insurance provider for all the city workers.  Once he went bye-bye, all these families started going bankrupt because they couldn't pay their medical bills.  One would suspect, as our cops do, that their killer was probably one of these city workers.

BUT!  It turns out it goes much deeper than that.  When Salvo gets attacked one on one by the killer (who's behind him so he doesn't see his face), he notices that the gun he's using is police issued.  Our killer's a cop!  Duh-duh-duh-duhhhh!!!  Not only that, but he appears to be working with OTHER COPS.  Once Salvo and Byrne realize this, they've gotta find a way to get Youngerman to safety since he appears to be the ultimate target.  But how do you find safety for someone if you can't use any of your police resources?  And the even more frightening question:  Can Byrne and Salvo trust each other??

Eric Bana for Salvo?

So to be straight up here, my biggest fears were realized.  I just didn't think this plot was worth writing about.  It's a very average.  Very unspectacular.  A killer's out there killing people.  And his reason is...something about health insurance???  I mean is it just me or is that uninspired?

And I'm still trying to make sense of it.  The people who were affected by the company going under were government workers, right?  Okay, so, if a company insured by the government is responsible for someone's health benefits and they go belly-up, doesn't the government still pay those benefits?  I mean they don't just say, "Oops, we trusted the wrong company.  Wish we woulda done better research.  Sorry guys!"  They still pay the medical bills, right?  So is anybody really affected here?

On top of that, the cop pairing was forced conflict to the extreme.  The two cops hated each other because...because that's how these movies work!  The partners have to hate each other!  I'm not opposed to conflict, of course.  Conflict is good!  I just pointed out how much End Of Watch sucked because the partners had no conflict with one another.  But the conflict has to feel organic.  It can't just feel like they hate each other because the writer knows it'll make for better scenes.

If you look at Lethal Weapon, you saw two guys with completely different lives.  One lived in a trailer and grieved every day over his dead wife, a loss that's made him suicidal.  The other had a huge family with a loving wife and great children.  You could tell why these two wouldn't get along.  And the cool thing about that Lethal Weapon pairing was that it wasn't one-note.  The two had issues with each other in the field but actually got along quite well off it.  Their relationship was dynamic as opposed to one-note, as was the pairing here in Gun Eaters.

I guess I was just waiting for something unique to happen and it never did.  People have noted that I've been giving tons of "wasn't for mes" lately and the reason is...well...I haven't been reading any good scripts!  It seems like everything I read is either sloppy or really predictable.  And the scary thing is, these are both elements that can be addressed with EFFORT.

Sadly, this is yet another subpar script.  Hopefully the Wachowskis bring some game tomorrow.  I'm STARVING for a good screenplay.

[ ] what the hell did I just read?
[x] wasn't for me
[ ] worth the read
[ ] impressive
[ ] genius

What I Learned: In regards to the two issues I mentioned above.  Sloppiness (which wasn't a problem in Gun Eaters, but in other screenplay I've reviewed recently) is mainly about lots of rewriting and making sure your reader always understands what your characters are going after at all times.  And predictability comes down to challenging yourself - constantly asking yourself, "Have I seen this choice before?"  "Have I seen this idea before?"  "Have I seen this scene before?" "Have I seen this character before?"  If you're answering "yes" to a lot of those questions, chances are you're writing another "been there, done that" script.