Dark Matter

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© 2018 by Dark Matter Media LLC

 
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Logline: A father seeks vengeance against the jury that convicted his daughter's killer by reason of insanity.  

Dark Matter Review

 

Overall Impression:

Vengeance is part police procedural, part theory of criminal justice, and – oddly – lighthearted.  The last 20 pages deliver on a series of taut and punchy finishing maneuvers, and left a nice aftertaste.  The first 80 pages, on the other hand, lulled us along with extensive stretches of dialogue and cheesy (although occasionally endearing) one-liners.  A rewrite of the first two acts of the script that captured the spirit and power of the third act would yield a formidable script well worth producing.

What We Found Most Effective:

 

The ending.  Knocked it out of the park for us.  Great twists.  Some laughs, some shocks and a classic final kick in the ass for the antagonist.

What We Found Least Effective

The protagonists: Bo and Tucci.  They're just sort of there.  The detectives who happen to get the case.  Neither has an emotional goal or an arc to his story.  Adding some layers and emotional complexity to the two main characters would do this script wonders.

Suggestions For Improvement:

Big Picture Suggestions

 

  • The script is dialogue heavy.  We need some action, tension and excitement.  We don’t mean gratuitous car chases, shootouts and explosions, necessarily, but Vengeance has long stretches of talking heads.  We’d love a nice organic fight/flight sequence, or at least the possibility of a physical confrontation.  Check out (or re-watch) Wait Until Dark, an old Audrey Hepburn film, for a little inspiration on how to keep folks on the absolute edges of their seats without any over the top physical action.  That old beauty kept coming to mind as we read Vengeance in terms of possibilities for how you might get the audience's blood pumping a little faster.

  • Where’s the doubt?  The ending was anything but predictable, which was great.  But murders 2-6 were about as canned as they get.  We suggest a refocus on the intrigue of the who-done-it; we think that doubt would help build tension and generally sharpen the audience’s attention and enjoyment.  Our gut tells us that you’re one character short, and that the story structure would lend itself to having two key suspects, each equally plausible as the murderer.

  • Bo and Tucci didn’t resonate for us as far as buddy-cop tandems go.  They’re too similar, for one thing.  Yes they look different and Tucci eats a lot, but fundamentally they’re both wisecracking, good old boy cops.  The buddy cop vibe needs truly distinguishable personalities.  Think Riggs and Murtaugh; Mills and Somerset; Angel and Butterman; Cates and Hammond.  They’ve got to look, act, feel, joke, think and just simply be completely different.

Odds & Ends

 

  • General Note: The formatting is for a shooting script.  We’d suggest using spec script formatting for your best shot at advancing the script.  Check out David Trottier’s The Screenwriter’s Bible for a great guide to spec script formatting.

  • Pg. 7. Typo. “They nods.”

  • Pg. 9. Typo. “Covering his phone” needs to be in parenthesis under Bo’s dialogue heading.

  • Pg. 14. Typo. “the quickly”

  • Pg. 15. We’re not experts, but we don’t think “Guilty by reason of insanity” is a possible verdict (insanity wouldn’t be the reason you were guilty, the crime would be the reason).  As we understand it, a defendant can be not guilty due to insanity (e.g., the “insanity defense”) – but even then they can still be incarcerated (i.e., the still "did it" they just lacked the intention to act because an insane person, by definition, cannot formulate intent), so they're just incarcerated in a psychiatric facility, not a jail.

 

  • Pg. 19.  Interesting.  This is a pretty early reveal of who the killer is.  We’re curious to see where you’re taking this.

  • Pg. 24.  “From who? The Taliban?”  lol – nice line!

  • Pg. 27. Typo. “Red laughs having hear this before…”

  • Pg. 31. “Thank you from the bottom of my indigestion.”  The puns start out cute, but they’re getting a bit out of control.  They feel inconsistent with the primary, much darker tone.

  • Pg. 37. Typo. “A patient lies on be with…”

  • Pg. 46. This feels pretty early in the script for Bo and Tucci to have figured out who the murderer is.  Is it really going to take them half the movie to find and lock up Judd?

  • Pg. 49. One second Bo and Tucci are speaking with Sharon, the next second they’re interrogating Judd.  No apprehension sequence?  No Judd on the run?  We’re still intrigued to see where you’re taking all this, but these may be missed opportunities to spice the script up with a little action.

  • Pg. 53.  Seems like it would be too soon to worry about a harassment lawsuit.  Bo and Tucci had probable cause and didn’t act overly aggressively in questioning Judd.

  • Pg. 66. Bo and Tucci protest to the idea of questioning Cohn a little too hard.  They’re professionals, doesn’t seem like they would just dismiss the possibility out of hand.  They’d still follow through on the lead. Also, we felt that commissioner Bloom also runs to the press with this suspect way too quickly – the lead detectives on the case hadn’t even questioned him yet.  Seems unlikely.

  • Pg. 70. We’ve never hear of a sanity hearing of this nature before.  Is this really the procedure?  Would they really potentially release a murderer found criminally insane?  We don’t know enough about that process to know whether it’s well researched, but would encourage you to make sure you’ve read a lot about it and/or talked with experts to help with authenticity and to maintain suspension of disbelief.

  • Pg. 73. Typo. “…tell the shrinks at the hospital not too waste their…”

  • Pg. 74. The twist of Cohen confessing falls a little flat.  For it to work better, we suggest trying to infuse it with more believability.  Work in some facts/red herrings that suggest maybe he could have been the killer.  Perhaps he could even be Bo/Tucci’s #2 suspect.  As it is, the Commissioner just comes off naïve and foolish and it doesn’t add much to the story.

  • Pg. 78. You’ve got some good suspense working late in the script.  Judd has had enough alibis that we’re beginning to doubt what we know and whether Bo/Tucci will figure it out.  Nice work!

  • Pg. 86. Finally, some real action and physical tension.  Very longtime coming – the script could use some more!  Recall the scene in Se7en where Mills and Somerset chase John Doe out of the apartment building?  It isn’t all the great of an action sequence, as far as action is concerned, but what makes it memorable is all the tension built up and leading into that confrontation.  A scene or two of that level of action would do wonders for the pacing and alleviate some of the reliance on dialogue.

  • Pg. 89. Excellent climactic scene with Judd and Judge Meacham.

  • Pg. 94. Nice payoff with the note from Judd to his wife.  Would they really put him in the same hospital as Mason?

  • Pg. 97. Lol, clever twist killing off Mason before Judd could get to him.  Great ending, very solid final 20 pages.

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