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No Such Thing As Heroes by Joseph Kospiah (spesh2k) - Action - A retired hitman is forced back into the business to pay off a debt, but after he realizes he isn't capable of murder anymore, he hires his former mentor to do it for him. However, he was hired to murder his mentor months before, but instead spared his life and helped him disappear into hiding to cover it up. After his mentor botches a murder, his secret is exposed and he finds himself on the other side of the gun. 94 pages - pdf, format
For those who would like to read my script No Such Thing As Heroes, I have an updated version of it that should be up soon - no spelling errors or typos and a few more elements added to the story (5 pages longer...hopefully 5 pages better And I also changed the ending.
This version was literally the first draft written, so I may have prematurely posted it on the site, perhaps a bit too eager to have someone read it.
But if you do choose to read this version, that's perfectly fine by me.
I'll give the second draft a read. I can wait until it's up or you can email it to me (my email's in my profile).
If I may comment on the logline though...first of all, I had to read it a couple times. It's a bit confusingly worded.
Second of all, I've gotta tell you that from the logline, this guy's mentor sounds completely incompetent, which doesn't reflect well on him. Your logline seems to raise a lot of questions, and not the good kind. If our protagonist helped his mentor go into hiding, and botched the job, why were there no repercussions for him? If the mentor is in hiding, why would either he or the protagonist, who worked so hard to get him into hiding, ruin everything by having him pull off another hit and thusly put him in the limelight? And, as I guess I already mentioned, why is the mentor so incompetent that he not only needs his protege's help but he also botches a job?
Sorry to talk so much about the logline but they are darn important and often will be your only chance to impress people who might give your work a look.
-Don't put your WGA copyright on your title page. Page one: I don't know if this is a matter of personal taste or a rule but I'd leave the "Fade in" out. -"A sign reads..." We know. It says where we are in the slugline. I'd use this sentence to describe the laundromat or surroundings. -Your description kicks ass for the most part. Great economy of words. Page five: See this was nagging me, but I waited to see how it played out, but Knox is a badass killer, right? But when he sees the blood and the body, he's saying "Whoa" and "Oh my god" like any innocent one of us. I think it'd be GREAT if, you know, we see him in this incredibly normal situation at the laundromat, then BAM, we've got blood and a body, but he's still handling it like it's all the same thing, and now the reader is thinking, who is this guy, why's he taking this so calmly? Then we STILL get the surprise when Knox blows Percival's head off, but we keep him in character as well, yeh? But...damn! Great first scene here. -Small thing, just FYI...I didn't know what an EMT was. -Matter of taste I suppose but you don't need to capitalize stuff like "spectators" and "clean up crew". Personally, I find it distracting. Page seven: C'mon now, Stout wouldn't tell any of this to a civilian. Page eleven: I'm just gonna comment on something tiny here, but the "bad luck to die with your eyes open" thing...is Charlie Christian? Fine if he is, just, this is the first sorta character-revealing line that we've heard out of him, and what I'm getting out of that is that he's Christian, right, that's a Christian superstition, you die with your eyes open you're going to Hell. If that's intentional, awesome. If it's not, just don't forget that every single line should have meaning. While we're on the topic, yeah, it doesn't mean bad luck for Knox, it means Benny's going to hell. That's the way I've heard it, anyway. -Lovin' the story so far by the way, the hook is great. Page 12: Hahaha, that's hilarious. Page 14: "Wants to see you tomorrow morning..." It's 5 AM. They'd say, "this morning". Page 19: Knox and Devereaux come across as very civil people, haha. I don't know if this is intentional. I like that Knox has a human side, he's borderline whiny. To me, this scene comes across as a little comedic, kinda like a dad telling off his teenage kid. Personally, I think it works great, just letting you know that that's my interpretation of tone. Page 20: Haha this idea of him becoming a hero is coming along wonderfully. Great stuff. Page 21: "...the first time I've seen the place since..." Gah! Obvious line. REALLY obvious. -Whoop! First time you've done this I think but "Carol's fiance" is a no no. Nothing in the action but what we can see. Actually, I missed one last page, you did the same thing with Carol "Knox's ex-wife". And another with Matthew on 22. I'll stop now. Page 24: If you're gonna kill him, damnit, just kill him. Scenes like this are a pet peeve of mine, where the killer lets someone talk and talk and really they're just gonna shoot them anyway, especially with Knox's character where I would think he'd just wanna get it done and over with as soon as possible. Maybe a real sicko would like to hear someone plead for their life, but Knox isn't a real sicko at all. Now, maybe the idea here is that Knox is debating about whether or not he can do it...if so, I'd add in a line of description getting that idea across more clearly. Oh and also, he didn't actually kill him, did he? That's my guess at this point. Page 27: I hope it's explained how the police managed to find that body.
I'm stopping on page 35 here. It feels like the exposition was a little thick through that last scene with McClung, but overall, I think you've got a great first act. Your handling of the cold feet killer is about as original as one could ask for so far, you've got that great hook...to be honest, the hook was so good that I was hoping it would take us a lot longer to find out who Benny was. I think that might be the one faltering point of the first act is that everything wraps up so nicely with the Chances that it feels a little forced when Knox gets pulled in on a completely new job. I appreciate the idea of him getting pulled back in with having done this one job as a gateway, but it's kinda like everything concludes itself in a way during the first act. Obviously the problem with the discovery of Chance's body is gonna extend through the movie, in fact, there are quite a myriad of subplots going on right now, which is awesome, but it still feels like that jump to the new job is a little strained.
Other than that, I think you've kept our sympathy with our protagonist quite well...the family life is an interesting angle and I like that he's not always totally in control of the situation, a way in which many people seem to be tempted to portray the "badass hitman" character. I would say -- and you've chosen an incredibly difficult genre and setting for this problem -- that so far, you're treading the line on whether or not you have anything new to bring to the table as far as crime, action, hitmen, or mob bosses. I don't mean that your writing and characters aren't good, I just mean that these are people and settings that we've seen it all from. So far, to me, what has really grabbed me out of everything in this script is the fact that he's being looked up to as a hero and really he's a cold-blooded killer. I'm hoping that we're gonna see that idea develop a lot more, and judging by the title, I'm guessing that we are.
So those are my thoughts and concerns at this point. I'll finish up soon, hopefully today. Just allow me to reiterate, though, that I think your description is excellent and your dialogue is pretty good as well, for the most part. I'll discuss that stuff more once I've read the whole script, but I think one skill you really have is economy of words, which is integral in creating a readable and marketable screenplay.
Page 37: I don't think you trusted your own writing enough during this conversation, to be honest. I actually got everything there was to get out of the scene much sooner than it ended, and I think there's a fair amount of dialogue between Knox and Matthew that's just unnecessary. This scene could be cut in half, or even quarters, probably. Page 38: "...in a sexy outfit named BRIDGET" I wouldn't use the "named", it's unusual and distracted me quite a lot for being one little word. "BRIDGET, an attractive woman..." works just as well. Same for Jim, obviously. Page 39: I don't know if this is intentional but that position IS in the Kama Sutra, isn't it? ...still works though I figure. Page 45: The scene introducing Angel is waaaaaay too long. I'd say cut to the chase on this one. Page 49: "It's the only place I can go to calm my nerves..." I don't think Devereaux would be even this personal with Charlie. He takes a while to cut him off, too, shrugging and letting him say another line. I like the idea of seeing some of Devereaux's troubles but I don't think Charlie is a character that he would show any weakness to. -Hey I've got a thought. You had that scene with the twins outside Benny's already, right, a buncha pages ago. Why not just show them getting shot then? It'd establish the mystery earlier, give more of a point to that scene, and cut down the amount of explaining you'd have to do in dialogue later. Page 51: Typo..."wack" should be "whack". Page 53: Haha kinda easy to get into that apartment building, huh. -He's thwarted by a locked door? Says "What now?" out loud? This guy is really quite unimpressive...and he's been unimpressive all along, which is all well and good, but at some point we're going to need to see that skill he must once have had to be Knox's mentor. Page 55: To be honest, I'm a little annoyed that we've spent all this time with McClung, only for him to be completely incompetent and get killed immediately. Page 58: Ah ha! Another delightful twist with ol' Charlie. Page 60: I appreciate that you're maybe trying to break up the rhythm of Angel's kills with Guard #2, by having a line and the phone ring, but the truth is that Angel's character is such that he would have shot him immediately. Page 67: Hey, the first real full-on action sequence. Page 75: Ah ha! Well there you go, McClung's back. I'm kinda unconvinced that Angel would have screwed up like that, it might be more believable if McClung hadn't been shot at quite so close range, for instance. Or if he'd been shot in the torso rather than the head. Great twist though. Page 81: "...shit myself" This seems out of character for the script. Say McClung is doing quite a lot of talking despite having a bullet in his jaw.
There's a lot going on in this script. A big, twisty plot that wraps everything up nicely and has a few surprises along the way. Some nice humour and a wide cast of characters that, I think, are all pretty believable.
The question I would pose to you would be this. What is this script about? What are you hoping to say to your audience?
I get the sense that you want this to be a little more than a straightforward crime thriller. There are a lot of suggestions of interesting ideas and themes in the script, the standout for me being the fact that Knox inadvertently becomes a "hero". But that idea just sorta disappears midway through the script. I think the idea of him becoming a hero for a part of himself that he hates, and his son looking up to that hero ideal, is absolutely brilliant. To me, that's what sets this story apart, and for the first half or so of the script it really felt like that's the direction that you were going on. The second half, though, just sorta ends up as a typical X kills Y because Z killed A, etc. You have McClung on board to really bring out those themes of the sacrifice, the way that professional killing in a sense ends the killer's own life as well...he could never have been happy. In the end there's this idea that it's too late for Knox. So, fine, though, we sorta knew that as soon as he got pulled back in.
I want to see Knox's personal relationships developed more. There's lots of places you can free up room...the Angel introduction, the Charlie/Devereaux scene, etc. That stuff was good, but in the end, I didn't care about it as much as I cared about how Knox's relationship with his (ex) family worked. Now that's a good thing, because it means that I was interested in your character. But in the end, the script didn't give me what I wanted. I'd like to see much more of a conclusion to a lot of the other aspects and themes in this script that are developed but not finished. The idea that Devereaux has family problems. Great stuff, but it's mentioned and then becomes unimportant, and it supports the main thesis of the script so perfectly! Knox's relationship with Carol...she even knew the type of stuff that they were doing. But how did that affect them? Matthew. He looks up to his dad, and that's dangerous, sure, but it feels like you kinda take the easy way out with the "you're MY hero". I'd like to see Matthew get more mixed up in the finale and see how that played out.
In fact, that brings up another point. Knox's family were kinda kept separate from the film. I know that things end up in their house, but even then, they're not really a part of it, you know? Them being mixed up in Knox's hitman life is the worst thing he can imagine, yet when it comes to pass, it's not particularly impactful for anybody.
I think it's a mistake to kill Angel off the way you do. He is the main force of evil in the script...Devereaux maybe but he's not developed nearly as much, plus you give him a human side...in any case, the way he's dispatched seems kind of offhand. He's a perfect antithesis to Knox, even going so far as to enjoy killing, yet they never really have a proper showdown. I don't mean that Knox has to be the one to kill him, but it's kinda like, this guy's causing trouble for fourty pages, then he walks in the door, bam, that's the end of him, you know?
Other than that...the script held its tone well, it was fast paced, description stayed strong the whole way through. Good use of humour for the most part, not a ton of action SCENES but lots going on. Your characters are very clearcut and we definitely identify with Knox. Your pacing was pretty good for the most part...from Angel's introduction and a few scenes onwards, there was a lot of exposition that dragged the script down a bit, definitely need to tighten up that middle section. The violence was good and not excessive, McClung's final showdown was excellent. We never really have a showdown between Knox and a specific, clear antagonist. What exactly is the climax of Knox's story? Something to think about.
In the end, I just want, more than anything else, to see you dig deeper into those themes that kept me reading. The plot is good but the potential themes are better, believe me. Develop them, lose the parts of the plot that you don't need, and I think you'll be well on your way.
Thank you so much for reading the script, Heretic. You've really helped me in developing more ideas for the next draft as well as what works and what doesn't work.
I was already working on the next draft before you posted your review, and a lot of your suggestions matched some ideas that I had but wasn't so sure of. So you definitely helped me clear some things up.
And as for Knox not having a showdown with a definitive antagonist, in abstract terms of thinking, my intention was to sort of have Knox be both the protag and antag. I wanted this to be more of a morality tale without beating the viewer over the head with the message. He doesn't want to kill anymore, and with the exception of the beginning, he almost succeeds. He gets shot at the end. He's still alive. But instead of letting it go, the killer mentality that was engrained into him came out. The antagonist version of himself wins, and the protagonist side of him knows it and lets it be known in the final shot of the script.
Any way, thanks again for reading and giving me some feedback out of the kindness of your heart. It was very thoughtful and thorough and I will definitely consider many of your suggestions and criticisms of the script.