Monday, October 1, 2012

Screenplay Review - 2

Genre: Crime
Premise: A detective who refuses to follow the rules finds himself in over his head when he tries to determine who robbed a bank, a squeaky clean family man, or his black sheep twin brother.
About: Barry Levy burst onto the scene with his viewpoint shifting spec "Vantage Point," which went on to become a 2008 film starring Matthew Fox and Forest Whitaker.  Levy has another film in post-production starring Liam Hemsworth, the little brother of Thor himself.  The film, which also stars Gary Oldman and Harrison Ford, is about a boss who blackmails one of his employees to spy on a rival company.  The story behind "2's" sale isn't as clear.  Apparently, the spec sold to Universal.  But Universal is now apparently commissioning Levy to write a script BASED on his spec?  I don't know.  Something weird like that.  Or maybe the people reporting on these things just have no idea what they're talking about.
Writer: Barry Levy
Details: 111 pages

Matt Damon for Dennis?

I don't know why but I thought "2" was a sci-fi script for some reason.  It turned out not to be, which was disappointing.  But that's okay, because I eventually realized it had twins!  And having twins is basically the equivalent of sci-fi anyway, right?  I mean, you're asking the audience to take a pretty big leap of faith once you throw twins into the mix.  And almost every story botches it, because let's face it: Once twins are pretending to be each other in any high-stakes realistic capacity, it's almost impossible to believe.

But don't give up on writing twins into your script just yet!  If you write twins, especially twins who are total opposites, you might just get yourself a great actor who's excited to play two different parts!  And occasionally - even though it's rare - these twin scenarios actually work out.  The story has to be tight.  The writer has to really help you buy into his world.  But it can be done.  Was "2" one of those screenplays?

Dennis Davison, or Double D as his friends call him (they don't call him that. I just made that up), must have watched too many 80s cop movies growing up, because the pushing-40 detective refuses to work with a partner.  This man doesn't fly a Dreamliner.  He flies a Cessna.  And if that doesn't make Eddie Murphy or Chris Tucker proud, they'll be happy to know that Dennis NEVER listens to authority either.  In fact, whatever he's told to do, he does the opposite!

Well Dennis is going to wish it was Opposite Day when he stumbles upon the crime of his career.  A man has broken into the Bank Of America, killed his three accomplishes, and fled into the city, somehow escaping capture.  Oh yeah, and he didn't take anything either!  Or at least that's what it looks like.  Upon closer inspection, the man, who we'll come to know as Noah Hayes, stole a lockbox from the bank containing the top secret ingredients to the paper the U.S. Treasury prints their money on.  Theoretically, this could be worth billions of dollars on the couterfiet market.

It shouldn't be a problem catching Noah though.  There were cameras everywhere, taping him at multiple angles inside the bank.  He even left his DNA on the scene.  Open and shut case, right? Ehhhh, not so fast.  We soon find out that Noah has a TWIN BROTHER!  JORDAN!  Whereas Noah is the squeeky clean one, Jordan is the hardened criminal.  Which means Jordan probably did it, right?  Except Jordan wasn't anywhere near the scene.  Or wait, was it Noah who wasn't anywhere near the scene??

It doesn't take long for our detective to figure out that he's being played Full House style, and that the punchline to the joke isn't as simple as one of the twins marrying Justin Bartha.  With the clock ticking down to when he must make his case to the grand jury, Dennis' going to have to find out which twin to convict, or risk letting both of them go free.  Momma always told me not to get into a bank robbery case with twins.  Looks like Double D is about to learn that lesson the hard way.

Couple things I noticed right off the bat.  This script is written in a smaller font or something.  Can someone confirm this?  There is a ton of dialogue in this thing and it was mostly entertaining (which is when scripts read the fastest), yet it took FOREVER to get through.  So bad Barry Levy!  Stop trying to cheat on your page count.  I was getting frustrated by the slow-factor, which affected my enjoyment of the script.

Next, the beginning of the script moved too slow.  Maybe that was due in part to the squished text, but I just felt like it was taking forever to get going.  I was kinda dozing off a few times until we got to the heist, and more specficially, when we found out there was a twin involved. That's when things got interesting and I was curious to see where the script was going to go.

Levy decided to take it in the legal direction, which is always dangerous if you're not, yourself, a lawyer, due to the "this sounds like made-up law" problem bogging most legal films.  But of what little law I know, he seemed to be playing by the rules.  I did question why, however, they needed to find out which twin did it within 4 days, when the Grand Jury Indictment was, or else they both went free.

You know me, I'm all about the ticking time bomb.  But is this true?  My experience with courts is that they take forever to do shit.  Since when do they only give you 4 days to solve a crime?  Then again, I'm not a lawyer.

I think the strength of the script comes in the interaction between Dennis, Noah, and Jordan.  The tough talking one-up'ing machismo made for a lot of fun conversations and a hell of a lot of conflict. When (spoiler) Noah and Jordan reveal that they're in on this together and that even with that knowledge, Dennis can't stop them, it becomes a full on war, and I enjoyed every little battle.  Did it always make sense?  Probably not.  I had a hard time believing that the courts couldn't find a way to arrest these two for something.  But as long as you allowed that suspension of disbelief to keep flowing, you had a fun time.

What I DIDN'T like was the whole Dennis/Lindsay relationship.  Lindsay plays his lover who Dennis is afraid to commit to and there was just something...I don't know...too light about their problems for a movie like this.  It was almost like Levy was trying to cram in a rom-com relationship to a legal crime thriller.  I appreciated what he was trying to do (there was a nice little thematic thru-line of closeness and trust explored in this relationship as it compared to Noah and Jordan) but again, I just kept thinking, "This love story doesn't feel right for some reason."  Maybe it was the tone?  I'm not sure.

In the end, I gotta say this, Levy knows how to approach a spec script.  What I mean by that is he knows how to throw a catchy little angle into the story that can be marketed to get butts in seats.  I never read Vantage Point, but I can see why it sold and, ultimately, got made.  It had a fun little setup and execution that was unique and that kept the story moving.  The twins thing here will accomplish the same.  I didn't LOVE this script, but I liked it.  What did you think?

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

What I learned: Make sure everything your characters talk about or run into is RELEVANT to the rest of the script! - You shouldn't write anything in your script that only works on its own.  It should be tied into the rest of the script somehow.  There are 2 instances of this in "2" (how ironic!!!).  Early on, Dennis discusses a Portuguese restaurant with Noah during the bang robbery.  Seems like a bunch of random dialogue, but later becomes a relevant plot point when Dennis uses that conversation to determine which twin is which.  There also seems to be an unimportant capture of a Vietnamese programmer that happens early on.  However later, Dennis uses that programmer to help him take down the twins.