Monday, February 27, 2012

Screenplay Review - Run All Night

A fellow screenwriter who burst out of nowhere with a 750k sale returns with his newest spec, which sold last month.

Genre: Crime/Drama/Thriller
Premise: A washed up hitman is pulled back into the game when his estranged son accidentally gets tangled up in a bad situation with his former employer.
About: Brad Ingelsby jumped onto the scene when he sold The Low Dweller a few years ago. The 750,000 dollar spec sale was spearheaded by getting Leonardo DiCpario attached. This is his new spec, which he just sold last month.
Writer: Brad Ingelsby
Details: 107 pages – 1/3/12 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).

Collin Farrell for Mike?

What better word-lover to follow Tyler than ANOTHER word aficionado, Brad Ingelsby! With these two on the Hollywood Scrabble board, it’s like a word-topia. It’s like a word-a-palooza. I have a feeling if it was just me, Tyler, and Brad at a bar, I would quickly be nudged out of the conversation. They’d be like, “Carson, could you parsimoniously pass me my drink?” And I’d counter with one of six four-syllable words I know – something like “affirmative” – and that would be it. I’d be out.

Anyway, this is Ingelsby’s second big script. I may not have been The Low Dweller’s biggest cheerleader, but hey, you know me. It’s hard for a slow-paced script to pull me in. Maybe that same thought nudged into Ingelsby’s noggin, because he did title this one, “Run All Night.” Promises of something faster paced? Read on to find out.

Jimmy Conlon is a hitman in Philadelphia. To give you an idea of what Philadelphia's like – they boo Santa Clause there. No, I’m not kidding. Santa Clause showed up to an Eagles game once and they booed him. So the kind of people who live in this city? Not the huggable types. Important to know for later.

Anyway, Jimmy’s finally hung up the gun (do you hang up a gun) and spends his days in cushion land getting wasted all day. While I understand this is the de facto writing method for 30% of the screenwriters out there and can be really fun when combined with the internet, it definitely doesn’t suit our friend Jimmy. Clearly, he’s wasting away.

So Jimmy’s got a son, Mike, who he hasn’t stayed in touch with. Mike drives a limo. Has a family. Lives a clean life. He’s basically the opposite of his father.

That’s about to change, however. Mike is unknowingly tasked with bringing a couple of low-lives to a guy named Colin McGuire’s place, who’s also a low-life, but with lots more money and guns. And when these guys ask for their payment, Colin gives them a bullet sandwich instead (yes, I just used “bullet sandwich” in a sentence. Roll with me here. I’m still upset about being kicked out of Tyler and Brad’s conversation).

Once Colin realizes these guys came in a limo, well naturally he has to kill the limo driver too. Which is exactly what he tries to do. But Mike narrowly escapes. This leaves Colin with a problem. A virtual eye-witness to his murders. Now here’s where things get interesting. Jimmy, Mike’s father, used to work for Shawn McGuire – as in COLIN’S FATHER. That’s who he used to kill people for.

So now Mike has no choice but to go to his father and ask him what the hell he should do. Jimmy, back in business mode, says he’s going to try and take care of this diplomatically. So he calls his old boss, explaining that it’s all good – that his son isn’t going to say anything. But while this is happening, the loose-cannon Colin sneaks in to kill Mike. When Jimmy realizes what’s going on, he runs into the room, just as Colin is about to pull the trigger, and shoots him dead.

Jimmy then tells Shawn what happened – that he just killed his son. Shawn agrees that he did the right thing. If he were in his position, he would’ve pulled the trigger too. But he follows this with a really chilling sentence: You know how this has to end, right? Jimmy knows. So he grabs his son, and the two have to “run all night,” and not just from Shawn, but from everyone in the town that Shawn owns, which is everyone, including the cops. Will they make it out alive?

Run All Night starts with a very un-reader friendly gaggle of Irish names. Everybody’s named Shawn or Frank or Collin or Conlon or Maguire or Dorsey. My guess is Brad doesn’t read a lot of scripts or else he’d know how difficult it is for a reader to keep track of that kind of character spread. If I’m looking at a large character count, I’m using everything in my arsenal to make those names individual and memorable. I’ll use nicknames, unusual names, monikers (Fat Bill). I’ll push unimportant character intros to later so they don’t get lost in the slog. But it really gets hard if all the names are one nationality like this. I was checking my notes every 30 seconds to keep track of who was who.

But after that…Run All Night gets good. Really good in fact. I got goosebumps after Jimmy kills Colin, makes the call to Shawn to tell him he just killed his kid, and Shawn, somewhat understanding, replies, “You know how this has to end.” That was my official "sit up" moment (Whenever I sit up, it means a script's got me).

Brad also makes the wise decision – WHICH I ALWAYS TELL YOU GUYS TO DO – to create an unresolved relationship between Mike and Jimmy. Once you have an unresolved relationship, the audience emotionally invests themselves in the journey until it’s resolved. So it’s one more way to pull the audience in besides the cool plot of running from the bad guys. Was the relationship here a little too familiar at times? Yeah, probably. But Inglesby added just enough of his own spin to make me believe these two were real people with real issues.

And, you know, I always like when a writer throws in the wild card character. I remember how this very device SAVED a script that I would have otherwise forgotten. We also saw it work for Everly. Here, it’s Andrew Price, a trained killer who looks like he never outgrew his high school mathlete days. Shawn hires him to dispose of his son’s killers and boy does he pull out every trick in the book to do so. I don’t know what it is but there’s something about the wild card character that just shakes shit up. You don’t feel like you have as good of a beat on what’s going on. They create uncertainty and unpredictability and I love that.

Scriptshadow vets (not to exclude the Disciple newbies) may have also noted a key Scriptshadow truism– our character’s goal. Remember, if you just have the characters on the run the whole time, it’s probably going to get boring. Your characters need a purpose! They need somewhere to go! So Ingelsby uses the kid who witnessed the murder as the character goal. They need to find that kid so they can prove that Colin, did indeed, kill those men.

Did I love this goal? No, I didn’t “love” it. I kept flashing forward to the court room with Shawn using one of the best lawyers money can buy to discredit the shit out of this boy. So I think something stronger could be used. But the point is that there’s a goal in the first place. Beginner writers wouldn’t even use a goal in this scenario so the characters would just be running around aimlessly with the audience asking, “What’s the point of all this again? Where are they going?”

But I was definitely entertained bythis one. It feels like Ingelsby is growing as a writer. Let’s hope that continues cause he’s frighteningly talented.

[ ] Wait for the rewrite
[ ] wasn’t for me
[xx] worth the read
[ ] impressive
[ ] genius

What I learned: You never want your characters wandering around aimlessly for too long in these “on the run” movies. They can be running from someone. But within 2-3 scenes, you want to give them a plan, something to do – because wandering around aimlessly gets repetitive. For that reason, always be asking yourself, “What can my characters be *after*? What can they *need to do* right now?” The sooner they have a plan in place, the sooner your script gains that essential focus that all good screenplays have.