Wednesday, January 19, 2011


Genre: Action
Premise: A woman must fight off hundreds of yakuzas all sent to do one thing – kill her. The hook? The entire battle takes place in her apartment.
About: Yale Hannon spent ten years as a script coordinator on TV shows, working on such series as Parenthood, In Treatment, Vanished, and Big Love. What a nice story to see Hannon finally break through with his own script. Everly finished in the middle of the pack of 2010’s Black List.
Writer: Yale Hannon (Story by Joe Lynch & Yale Hannon)
Details: 92 pages, March 23, 2010 draft (This is an early draft of the script. The situations, characters, and plot may change significantly by the time the film is released. This is not a definitive statement about the project, but rather an analysis of this unique draft as it pertains to the craft of screenwriting).

This script sounded too bizarre to be true. A woman stuck in an apartment fighting off hundreds of Yakuzas? Why would Yakuzas want to kill a woman so badly that they’d send hundreds of themselves to do the job? And, um, what is a Yakuza anyway?

Let’s face it. This is geek fantasy at its finest. One woman. Hundreds of warriors. Guns, sweat, and blood. Visions of Matrix, Kill Bill, and Sin City dancing in our heads. Reality isn’t exactly top priority in these instances. And usually, when you throw reality out the window, Carson jumps with it. Who wants to watch 90 minutes of fight porn?

Okay, don’t answer that. Sorry.

30 year old Everly has just been raped by half a dozen men when we meet her. What a wonderful way to meet a hero. She’s holed up in the bathroom of her apartment, barely able to move, the incessant taunts of the men from outside barreling through the door like bullets. They want her back out there, where they can finish their job then do what they came here to do – end her life.

Of course Everly would never be in this position if she hadn’t made some previous mistakes. See Everly used to be involved with a man named Taiko, a Japanese mobster who owns half the city. Then one day, presumably after she realized – you know – that she was schtooping a guy who kills people for a living, she decides she’s going to turn him in to the DEA. Except in this case, the DEA was on Taiko’s payroll.

There are two truths in this world: Never expect a monogamous relationship from a girl named Candy and never double cross a guy named Taiko. Especially if he’s a mob boss. I have personal experience with both of these mistakes so just trust me.

Taiko is so pissed, in fact, that he’s decided to not only kill Everly, but to make her suffer like no one has ever suffered before. And he ain’t stopping there. He’s going to lop off Everly’s mother’s head and put her daughter into a lifetime of prostitution…and probably kill her afterwards just for kicks.

Now Everly’s a tough cookie. She can handle pain. But when Taiko brings family into it, all bets are off.

So she calls up her mom (who by the way, is one of those moms who’s eternally disappointed in their children’s life choices – although in this case I think she may have a point) and tells her to come to her apartment with her daughter. It’s the last place Taiko will expect them to go, and therefore the safest place they can be.

In the meantime, she pulls out one of her many stashed guns and blows through the bathroom door, taking out all the dudes who thought it was funny to rape her. She succeeds, but this only pisses off Taiko more. So he sends a bigger wave of henchmen to take Everly out.

For those wondering how in the hell you shoot up an apartment and not have the entire force bearing down on you within five minutes, well, it turns out Taiko owns this building. Everybody who lives here works for him in one way or another. So instead of these folks calling the police for help, they’re answering Taiko’s calls, to KILL EVERLY.

Everly fights off wave upon impossible wave of these psychos until her daughter and mom arrive. She hurries them into her neighboring friend’s apartment while somehow fighting off even more waves of baddies. Finally, Taiko realizes he has to stop fucking around, and sends in The Sadist. The Sadist is clearly the highlight of the film and maybe even the reason the script was written.

Basically, he’s some fucked up Japanese guy with a lot of masks and a lot of chemical concoctions and even carries with him a slave in a cage. Think of him as a combination of Sling Blade (the Japanese version), that dude in Animal Kingdom, Buffalo Bill from Silence Of The Lambs, and Charles Manson. The Sadist is Taiko’s personal guarantee that Everly will suffer history’s most long and drawn out death.

When it’s all said and done, the entire apartment is leveled to the point where it looks like a tornado, a bomb, an earthquake, and a tsunami hit it all at once. There’s no floor, no ceiling, and of course, Taiko has to show up to finish the job himself. Will he succeed? Or will it be Everly who wins?

A spade is a spade right? Everly is long on stylized action and short on story. But I have to give it to Yale. He injects just enough reasons for this story to exist (surviving, saving the daughter) that it works. Not only that, but you can see this as a movie. In fact, I see directors drooling over this script. There’s just so much craziness to play with. It’s kind of like Kill Bill without all the slow parts. And I’m guessing that after seeing Everly, Tarantino may be drooling as well, wondering why he didn’t think of it first.

If there’s something that places this above all the wannabes – and make no mistake about it, it’s easy to fail here – it’s the “impossible” factor. When you write a story, you want the goal to seem impossible for your main character. The more impossible it is, the more gripping the story tends to be. It’s like watching a football game where your team is down 21 points in the 4th quarter. You know they’re probably going to lose – but dammit you want to watch to see if they win.

I mean just the sheer number of people trying to take Everly out has us in constant flux, wondering how she’s going to pull it off.

The other driving force here is one of the oldest story devices in the book. Make us hate your bad guy. Make us want to take that fucker down. BUT! Don’t forget to also give your villain proper motivation. I was just talking about this with some writers the other day. If your villain is bad just to be bad, he won’t work. There has to be a REASON he’s bad. In this case, Everly double crossed Taiko. That’s why Taiko is so relentless. He’s not just trying to kill Everly cause he’s a bad guy.

Everly has some problems. I would’ve liked a twist or two. This script goes pretty much according to plan. And man is it a chore to read through at times. You’d have a better chance finding Emelia Earheart than you would a full page of dialogue in Everly. This is only a 95 page script, but because it’s so much action, it reads like it’s 135. I would strongly advise anyone writing an action heavy script to please keep the paragraph chunks lean, since failure to do so results in novel-itis, a disease you don’t want your screenplay to catch.

But other than that, this is a cool screenplay, and probably a movie you’ll see on the big screen within the next couple of years.

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

What I learned: This is the very definition of the kind of script I see a lot of unknown writers break in with. Unique hook (1 girl, hundreds of attackers). Marketable (who can’t see this trailer?). Clear singular goal (survive). Contained space and time (one apartment, one night). By no means do I think Everly’s execution is perfect, but that’s the advantage of writing this kind of script – you keep the story so simple that your mistakes don't matter nearly as much as they normally would.