Wednesday, March 25, 2009


Genre: Violent Drama
Synopsis: Two men relentlessly terrorize a group of partiers.
About: Honestly, I was tired of reading recommended scripts so I opened this one up on a whim. Knew nothing about it. Found out later it was on the 2006 Black List and is being made into a movie that's coming out this year (edit: The movie was on the Blacklist but not on any production slate)
Writer: Scott Milam

Chalk another one up to the dreadful title but awesome script collection. Wow, I don't even know where to start with this script. I have never read anything as relentless and crazy and sadistic and exploitative as this screenplay. It's like Helter Skelter mixed with Funny Games mixed with.......someone who really needs to be placed in a mental institution! Wichita falls somewhere between real life and total absurdity. Despite its relentless and tasteless violence, it succeeds because even though it comes from the imagination of a writer, you know that there are actually people out there like this. As awful as it is, this feels like something that could really happen.

Look, I'm no Indian hater. I grew up in Illinois. We were the birthplace of some 25 different Indian tribes. I'm reasonably sure that I'm at least 13% Ojibiwe. But I have to admit, when a Native American is the first character I meet in a screenplay, I don't jump up and scream, "This is going to be awesome!" So when DAN, a Navajo Indian, walks into a convenience store on a cold deserted winter night in Wichita and starts chatting up the checker about how much life sucks, let's just say I was eying my Quantum Of Solace DVD.

But as soon as Dan gets in his car, two men make a surprise attack. They have guns and they want money. Dan explains that his step-father has a lot of money and he'll take them to his house. A quick check of his wallet and they realize they already know where the house is. Which means Daniel, a man we thought was our hero, is disposable. They take him into the forest and shoot him in cold blood. Welcome to Wichita.

We cut in on what we realize is the house Daniel was heading to. It's a huge estate out in the middle of nowhere and a bunch of well-off friends are having a Christmas party. Everyone's waiting for Dan so they can start their gift exchange. With a couple of exceptions, this happy giggly group has been living their lives blissfully unaware of the hardships going on in the rest of the world. They don't even know what the dark side looks like. That's about to change.

The bad guys show up and within seconds tell everyone to strip. They want money and they want jewelry. Scared and a bit ignorant, a couple of the guys try to act tough. They learn quickly that these are the wrong people to act tough with. The bad guys grab Brooke (Dan's girlfriend) and tell her she's making a choice. One of these people is going to die. And she has to choose which one. She begs and pleads not to make her do it but they explain it's either one of them or all of them. She chooses the guy who's the most well off - with his girlfriend sitting right there. The bad guys instantly shoot him in the head. This is on page 20 folks. And it only gets worse from there. Way. Way. Way worse.

How Wichita keeps up this relentless pace for 120 pages is one of the things that makes it such a good script. You're gripped by how horrible these two men are. There are a few times where their actions venture into absurdity, but for the most part, it feels like two very angry demented men getting their "revenge" on the world. This is not for the weak. And if any sort of violence offends you, I'd probably skip this read and wait until tomorrow's review. But this was such a page-scroller, it broke my top 25. Everyone say goodbye to Pictures of You. :(

[ ] trash
[ ] barely readable
[ ] worth the read
[x] impressive
[ ] genius

What I learned from Wichita: The power of a great villain. The thing that kept me invested in this film was how bad the bad guys were. And when the bad guys are this bad, you're dying to see them go down. I would've given my left arm to see the protagonist, Brooke, kill these men in the most horrifying awful fashion possible. This may seem like obvious advice but it really isn't. There are many genres where you the writer have a choice to add a villain or not (romantic comedies for example). My suggestion is, if it fits, always add one. And make him someone we want to see pay. Audiences love to see the villain go down.