Sunday, February 14, 2010

Mr. Right

I don't have a lot to say about this week other than that I read a great script which I will be reviewing Thursday. The rest of the week will be a mystery. However next week, we're going to be doing another theme week, and I'll be announcing what that is Wednesday or Thursday on my Facebook and Twitter feeds. So if you're not already following, please do (click over to the right there). Here's Roger with a review of "Mr. Right."

Genre: Action, Romantic Comedy
Premise: Mr. Right is a retired hitman with a code of honor. He only kills the people that try to hire him for jobs. When an organized crime family tries to draw him out of hiding, Mr. Right must save his only friend, a girl he's fallen in love with who may or may not want anything to do with him.
About: Max Landis is John Landis' son. They wrote the Masters of Horror episode Deer Woman together. A few years ago, "Mr. Right" made the rounds around town, impressed people, but ultimately was never purchased.
Writer: Max Landis

Martha McKay is a wreck.

If the text messages about hot tubs and anal sex indicate anything, Marth McKay's boyfriend has cheated on her. A lot. She's spent the past fifteen days in bed crying.
She explains all this to her psychologist. The psychologist is a sexy female who seems to take offense when Martha categorizes the women her boyfriend has cheated on her with as sluts. Martha connects the dots and realizes that her psychologist is one of the sluts who slept with her boyfriend.
A vase is thrown and female fisticuffs are implied.
Martha's friends, Elaine and Tatiana, try to take care of Martha, whom spends the next few days drinking inside of closets and scaring the men who hit on her at bars. To the dude who wants to know if Martha is single: "My boyfriend was killed by velociraptors."
So, if the title implies anything, Mr. Right is gonna be the guy that sweeps Martha off her feet and helps put her back together, right?
Mr. Right likes to kill people whilst wearing a red clown nose.
Wait. What?
That's Right. When we first meet him, he shoots a woman in the heart. Then eats a Rice-Krispie treat. An odd juxtaposition, as he's so handsome and whimsical it's like he walked out of a Busby Berkeley musical comedy.
Martha goes to the pharmacy covered in cat shit and blood.
She works at a pet store called Petacular! (for some reason I kept thinking of Shit-Ass Pet Fuckers!), and it's just another day on the job trying to wrangle a feline into a cage when the thing claws her and shits like a mink, squirting diarrhea all over her.
Mr. Right is at the pharmacy picking up his meds when he lays eyes on Martha for the first time, smitten. Martha collides into a display of cough-drops and something interesting happens... slow-motion, we see dotted lines appear out of the boxes, showing us their future trajectories. Martha manages to catch one box, but Mr. Right appears at her side, catching all of the other boxes.
It's weird that he was able to do that, because that was a lot of fucking boxes, man.
Right offers Martha a lifesaver and we understand that Right is either an idiot savant, has Asperger's Syndrome, or is mildly retarded. Regardless, a sweet musical comedy-like romance begins (think A Life Less Ordinary) as the two go on a date to fast-food joint and eat kid's meals and play in the park.
All of these scenes made me want to go on a man date with the writer, Max Landis.
This blossoming romance culminates into an ingenious scene where Right is hurling knives at Martha in his apartment. Maybe I can explain this scene better here than I did to a friend over dinner last night, who just looked at me like I was a fucking lunatic.
Martha wants to know how Right moved so quickly in the pharmacy, catching all those cough-drop boxes. Right explains, "Everything we see, like physical things, is all just islands. And under it, carrying it, is this sweeping current...Now if we can feel the current, we can feel other things in the current, other moving things...And we can feel how the current will move them, and we can see where they'll go."
Right demonstrates with kitchen knives (we are treated to a hilarious flashback that tells us Martha has an interesting relationship with knives, "I GOT KNIFES FO FINGAHZ!").
Right gets Martha to see this Current, and he drops a knife, hoping she will catch it, but she gets scared and realizes she's trapped in an apartment with a potential psychopath. There's some miscommunication. She needs to find an exit fast. He just wants to explain himself. So what does he do?
He throws a knife at her.
She catches it.
He throws more knives at her.
She catches them. All of them.
We have a cute, whimsical and weird romance. Check. We have Current Theory. Check. But what's the plot? Isn't this an action flick?
The relationship seems to be going great. They've had a few hiccups and some misunderstandings, but they're working through them. They're falling in love.
The first sign that there might be something rotten in Denmark is when Martha sees Right shoot Charlie Cartigan in the face.
The FBI arrives to inform Martha that, yes indeedy, her new boyfriend has killed 89 people.
That's a lot of people, man. Who is Mr. Right really?
Special Agent Hopper informs us, "His name is Francis Minch. He's a psychopath. He was formerly one of the world's most notorious professional killers."
You see, somewhere along the way, our man Right developed a moral code. He only kills the people that try to hire him for jobs.
And that guy he shot in the face on the park bench? Charlie Cartigan? Yep, he was trying to hire Right for a job. And yep, he was heavily involved in organized crime. And yep, there is going to be retribution.
Who are the villains who will be delivering this retribution?
Von Cartigan, Richard Cartigan, Johnny Howl, Shotgun Steve Gage, and Bruce Cooper.
The crime family and enforcers of the deceased.
How do they get Right to come out of hiding?
Easy, they go after his new girlfriend, Martha.
And that's pretty much the second half of the script, lots of action as the bad dudes try to kill Right and his girlfriend.
Right not only has to kill all these guys, he has to somehow make amends with Martha and protect this new love they've discovered. And Martha has to learn how to trust Right and channel her inner psychopath. Will she surrender to Right and the ballet of bullets that comes with her new Beau?
I mean, if you love the rose, you gotta accept the thorns, too, right?
How is the action, Rog?
Really fucking good. I think every gun known to man is used in this script. There's even bouncing betties, flashbangs, and a hilarious karate duel.
There are lots of neat scenes where we get to see Right use his Current Theory to take out whole apartment buildings full of bad guys. Like Fred Astaire channeling Leon from The Professional.
The finale kinda reminded me of Lethal Weapon, because Right has to infiltrate the Cartigan Lodge, a mansion where Martha is being held. Insane amounts of firepower and fisticuffs here.
My favorite characters are Shotgun Steve Gage and Bruce, and they have interactions with Right that are really funny.
Shotgun Steve is a guy who always seems to get the upper hand on Right, but through events he has no control of, always falls short. Like shooting Right in the face with a shotgun but discovering someone loaded his gun with birdshot. Or Bruce, who cheats and uses karate, and at one point almost blows himself up with a grenade, earning Right's sympathy and friendship.
Sounds nuts! Is it good?
While the script is insanely charming, has great dialogue (Max Landis is a real writer with a great ear, people!), and fantastic action, I think the story suffers from both its strength and its weakness: The character of Mr. Right himself.
On one page he's described as an idiot savant, like Rain Man, and on the next he's dispatching people with the witty repartee of a stand-up comedian. Who the fuck is this guy?
Is he autistic with zero social skills, or is he the Dorothy Parker of hitmen, a charmer that can entertain a room with his verbal wit and physical grace?
Because we get both here. And I'm not sure if that's the right choice or not. I'm being told so many different things about him.
Right needs to be more psychologically grounded so he doesn't seem like such a schizophrenic character. I feel like he's written two different ways, and it's hard to get past that.
TL:DR? It's like True Romance had a threeway with Leon and Grosse Point Blank while Busby Berkeley watched from the corner, touching himself the whole time.

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

What I learned: Frankly, I really like Landis' voice. Great dialogue that reminded me a bit of Martin McDonagh with innovative, well-written action.

In fact, a friend sent me this script because they wanted to show me how Landis writes action. It's pretty interesting. Check it out:

He snatches away A's gun, slaps B and C, kicks A in the balls, shoots D with A's gun, snatches away C's gun, shoots A with C's gun, pokes B in the eye as he raises his gun, slaps C and stabs B in the neck with it, and then shoots C in the head with A's gun.

Now, this prose style is kinda peppered throughout the script, mostly during the fast-paced and chaotic close-quarter fights. I think the prose appropriately reflects the frenzy and confusion of the fight. Each individual move is there, but it's a blur. Like Right's combat style itself. And you know, this type of thing is a matter of taste, but as an action writer myself, it makes me think of how I choose to write my action scenes. Studying other writers and their prose expands the toolbox.