An excerpt from my script review for American Assassin which will be available 09/25/17:

4.) Dialogue and Description

Dialogue that is blunt, and to the point.

And this stuff was good, not “matter-of-fact” style that is abundant in amateur screenplays. These characters didn’t have time to dick around.

There’s not a lot more to say, so let’s jump right into the examples.

Page 19:

HURLEY (CONT’D)
(catching his breath)
What was your mistake? Come on
son, you made three already.

Mitch claws at the cable but Hurley keeps him pinned there–

HURLEY (CONT’D)
One, you swung across the desk.
Can’t get your weight behind the
punch that way. Two, you came at
me bare-handed. A professional
will always find and use a weapon.
Anything can work.

All while strangling the new guy with an electric cord…school’s in session, Mitch!

(See what I did there?)

Page 23:

Stansfield returns his gaze to Rostami.

GENERAL ROSTAMI
We don’t control the terrorists.

STANSFIELD
(his turn to smile)
Of course not. Unless you count
funding, training and protecting
them. Let’s leave the bullshit to
the politicians; we all know you
back half the Jihadist groups out
there. And I don’t expect you to
stop anytime soon.

Stansfield glances at the two deputies once more.

STANSFIELD (CONT’D)
But a nuke is different.
(beat)
I came here to share some
information with you, Vafa. That’s
all. For your own good, I suggest
you consider it carefully.

GENERAL ROSTAMI
Is that a threat?

STANSFIELD
It’s a reminder.
(stands)
Thank you for the tea.

Stansfield accepts how the world works, but still has a job to do.

Page 35:

Mitch scoops the knife, attacks. Hurley GRABS THE
BLADE, then viciously ELBOWS Mitch in the side of the head!
Knocking him to the ground.

MITCH
What the hell– you said act like
it’s a real knife! Who grabs a
blade?!

HURLEY
The man who wants to stay alive.

School’s still in session with this important life lesson Mitch will use later.

Page 28:

MITCH
It’s a training exercise. What was
I supposed to do? Let a man die?

Hurley takes a breath. Appears to cool off.

HURLEY
No. No, you did the right thing.
The problem is… I don’t need
people who do the right thing.

Hurley moves closer. Speaks softly:

HURLEY (CONT’D)
When you look down the scope of
your rifle at a suicide bomber and
see the face of a 13 year-old boy,
are you gonna have the stones to
pull the trigger?

Two entries and the weight of the job is in complete focus, for Mitch, and us.

Page 41:

ANNIKA
There’s a cafe across the street.
We’ll be less conspicuous there.
(turns to him)
We are a couple but remember, this
is Turkey, not America. A
traditional country. You may hold
my hand, nothing more.

MITCH
This isn’t my first time doing this
you know.

ANNIKA
Yes it is.

Ha! Mitch isn’t as smooth as he thinks, and Annika is proven pretty capable.

Mitch tracks the Benz, holds up Kamil’s smart phone. Beat.

ANNIKA (CONT’D)
That was foolish. And lucky.

MITCH
You make your own luck.

Okay, I included this to mention that you might want to avoid similarly cheesy lines ripped right out of an early 90s Arnold movie…

And lastly check out pages 75 and 76.

Hurley is both interrogating the physicist to find out where the bomb is headed AND explaining to Mitch how he fucked up.

Both conversations are really quick and punchy, especially when you consider Hurley’s multitasking!

On the description side of things.

Page 5:

Vladik tries to reach for his gun but the Ghost is too fast —
puts the letter opener into Vladik’s neck with practiced
efficiency– the same technique as Hurley.

Foreshadowing!

Page 8:

THE CUBICLE DIVIDERS turn the office floor of desks and
workspaces into a MAZE. MOVE WITH MITCH deeper toward the
center of the room–

A HIGH ANGLE SECURITY CAM VIEW — REVEALS Mitch at the center
of a closing net, as the operatives converge on him from all
sides.

That’s just a cool visual right there…seeing all the agents wandering through this corporate rodent trap to find Mitch.

Page 71:

Mitch is thrown bodily into the shower. Glass rains, a shard
slicing his chest. Blocks a vicious right. Blows exchanged.
Fast, hard, punishing. A close quarters fight in a confined
space. Mitch pivots. The man’s hand slams into tile. Bones
break. Mitch grabs his head, DRIVES it into a wall. The man
drives his elbow into Mitch’s ribs. Something inside tears.

And there were a few other similar entries, but break shit like this up into more “mentally digestible” images.

I get it, the writer was running over so things were combined to save space, but you’re not doing your script any favors if your reader is skipping over your action because it’s intimidating.

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