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Message from the King

Author: Oliver Butcher & Stephen Cornwall

Genre: Neo-Noir

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A mysterious Jamaican arrives in Los Angeles to track the men who murdered his sister.


JACOB KING, a stoic Jamaican, comes to Los Angeles in search of his sister, who has disappeared. He soon discovers she has been murdered, and his new mission is to track the murderers and find out why she was killed. He goes through an assortment of neighbors, drug dealers, and petty criminals until he is led to WENTWORTH, a dentist who supplied King’s sister with free dental work for unknown reasons. Wentworth is tied to a film producer, PRESTON, who believes King has already discovered the reason for his sister’s murder. Preston sends his own underground thugs to kill King; King slips away and confronts them all at an Oscar party. He discovers that Preston is a pedophile who kidnapped his sister’s adopted son for his own disturbing sexual gain. King kills all of them in revenge, takes the son, and disappears back to Jamaica.


This is a good film-noir script in the vein of Chinatown and The Limey. While on many occasions the rich details of the seedy side of L.A. enhance the reading, the script often gets bogged down in tedious geographic details that are both unnecessary and distracting. On the surface, the structure seems tight, but the story slows down to the point of aimlessness on a few occasions. It always recovers, but these slow passages detract from the overall narrative. The idea of the strange, pedophile Hollywood producer is both timely and disturbing, and it succeeds primarily because of the satisfying third-act vengeance.

This script’s strong-but-silent/fish-out-of-water protagonist is always fascinating, and the story falters whenever it shifts out of King’s POV. The mysterious circumstances of King’s sister’s death unravels in interesting and surprising ways, even though it sometimes get bogged down in expository dialogue. A romantic subplot involving King and a prostitute is interesting initially, but it ultimately fails because it doesn’t develop either character much and has no relevance to the main story. Despite these problems, the script takes a great concept and turns it into a decent noir story that should be considered.

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