Posts in: June 3rd, 2010

Script Review: Five Killers (a.k.a., Killers) by Bob De Rosa, Ted Griffin and Michael Brandt & Derek Haas

[In lieu of actual content, for the next several weeks I will present, at least, one review of an upcoming film each week. These are scripts that I’ve been paid money to read, and many of them contain watermarking, identification numbers, password-protection, and other ways of tracking what company it was sent to; because of this and my desire to keep my job, I will not offer downloads for ANY of the scripts I review here. Don’t bother asking.]

Without having seen the movie, I speculate that everything that’s gone wrong with Five Killers can be traced to the title change: from the fairly specific (or, at least, enigmatically intriguing) Five Killers to the generic, not-at-all-compelling Killers. I say this based mainly on promos that fancy this a wacky, action-packed romance a la Date Night or Did You Hear About… God, I’m bored before I even finish the title of that piece of shit. They don’t get into what the script is actually about, which is disappointing, because it’s actually a funny story. I’ve complained a lot about the spy scripts I had to endure during the last half of 2008 and first half of 2009, but Five Killers was among the cream of the crop.

Even though I mostly liked the script (and The Spy Next Door, for that matter, although it turns out I read a different one than the script that actually got made), it got me thinking about the whole spy thing again. Much like changing from Five Killers to Killers, the fact that the overwhelming majority of the spy scripts I had to read were comedies—even if they’re good comedies—speaks volumes about the hackery that has slowly corroded Hollywood. I think the prevailing mentality is, “Every story’s been done, so there’s no sense in trying to engage an increasingly aloof audience with pathos and drama in a story they’ve already seen.” Writing a spy comedy is easier. Conventional (wrong) wisdom tells you the spy plot doesn’t matter, and if it gets so hole-filled it resembles John Holmes’s underwear circa 1979, you just insert a quick scene of characters trying to figure out the plot and lapping themselves. Pointing out the shortcomings of your script is way easier than fixing it.

More than that, you can hide from real emotion and suspense by undercutting anything serious with a wacky, unexpected moment. It’s sort of like Hollywood is now catering to the “nervous giggle” reaction many people have to visceral moments in horror movies. Now, the audiences don’t have to feel like depraved/confused monsters laughing at graphic depiction of murders, because the movie says it’s okay to laugh. Maybe I’m off-based on that assumption, but I do know that inserting cheap laughs just when the characters are about to feel and/or express genuine emotions like “fear” or “manimal lust,” the writers back away from it and slide in a joke. Maybe it goes back to the mentality in the previous paragraph: why bother inserting (so to speak) a genuine romantic subplot or legitimate suspense when everybody’s just going to call it hackneyed and predictable? That’s fucking lame, guys. Sac up and go for emotional truth, not ironic detachment.

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