Judgement Date Script Review

Oct 29, 2012 by     6 Comments    Posted under: Script Reviews

Script: Judgement Date by Ed Love

Logline: When a wrongly convicted death row inmate gets a chance at freedom on the live comeback TV show of a disgraced Idol judge, he gradually turns the tables on her.

Synopsis:

A death row inmate is given a chance to win his freedom by dinner dating a disgraced Idol judge on her live comeback TV show. Initially, she toys with him, but soon realises he’s not quite the pushover she expected. What begins as a simple quest for ratings becomes far more serious, involving a knife attack, a near drowning, kidnapping, guns and more, as he gradually turns the tables on her.

Again, we’re back to an amateur script this week because I felt like it.

On top of that Roy and I are always impressed by the exchanges that go on in the forum, especially swapping reviews.

And of course, Ed had me at “contained thriller.”

Will he do better than 127 Hours? One can only hope…

1.) Can we visualize the description?

Description was alright.

Nothing too fancy, and where that would usually make me criticize, I’d say the real value of this script is the fast moving dialogue, so description is better kept minimal, keeping that flow intact.

Here’s the opening that I thought was good:

BANG! BANG! BANG! BANG!

FADE IN:

INT. RESTAURANT – NIGHT
A SHORT MAN in a white blazer brandishes a Colt .45 pistol.
FELICITY, mid 40s, Chanel clad, faded former TV talent show
judge, clings to her chair.

The Short Man stares at her. BANG! BANG! BANG! BANG!

CLICK. CLICK. The slide locks back, magazine empty.

It might not be fluffy and poetic, but it certainly grabbed me.

Then from page 2:

TONY appears in a Tux. Ex Oklahoma, early 30s, tall, blond hair, blue eyes, clean shaven. Observant, street smart, often underestimated. He blinks like a deer in headlights.

He sizes up Felicity, the table, the room.

Uniformed arms behind his back free him from

HANDCUFFS.

Still paying attention, so as much as I’d like to say, “Be more creative with your words,” even I’d find it hypocritical since we argue grabbing and then keeping the reader’s attention is paramount.

Some things I did have trouble with:

Character Descriptions

They’re too detailed. We don’t need information like “flat chested” unless it’s important to the story, like a female character impersonating a male one.

Keep it simple.

NAME (AGE), brief description.

Focusing too much on the details halts your story, and when they’re not important later it’s an amateur strike against you, and any strike gives a reader a reason to say “no.” We don’t want that.

Bit with the Guard and Gun.

There was too much going on around page 88.

Tony gives the guard back his gun, but bullets are scattered everywhere, and the magazine ejected?

Parts on the table, parts on the floor, parts with Tony and the guard…do we need to know where all the parts are?

This was VERY hard to follow and pulled me out of what was shaping up to be a very intense moment.

All in all, pretty fluid though, save for each new character being introduced.

6 out of 10 points.

2.) Does the author use an acceptable format?

Format was good.

Other than “Over Black” and “Fade In” at the beginning, there was no other instructions on how I should be viewing the characters.

That’s good.

One problem here though is the lack of (CONT’D) with two lines broken up by description/action.

Usually this isn’t a problem, but with this script relying heavily on two characters conversing, there’s a few times where Tony especially goes on for a bit. I got lost on a few of them.

8 out of 10 points.

3.) Is the dialogue free of exposition and rich in subtext? Does each character have a unique voice?

Again, dialogue was good.

Felicity and Tony going at it was really great in almost every part.

Page 3:

TONY
You’re gonna have to excuse me, I
ain’t done this for a while.

FELICITY
Take your time. We have plenty. Do
you like the music?

TONY
Can we stop pretending it’s a
regular date? You might do it every
week, but it just ain’t natural.

FELICITY
Where’s your sense of romance? How
about sweeping a girl off her feet?

TONY
My current situation distracts me.

FELICITY
If you want to improve your current
situation, get with the program.

TONY
Yes, ma’am, whatever you say.

FELICITY
Let’s start with a blast from the
past. A song, if you please.

TONY
I couldn’t sing to save …
(laughs)
You know I can’t sing.

FELICITY
Do I?

TONY
Surely you done your homework?

FELICITY
I leave that to my assistant.

TONY
It must be real tiring delegating
all that work. You trust him?

FELICITY
Why do you assume it’s a man?

Tony’s more or less trying to woo her for his life. He’s brash and short with her, and although she seems to fight it, you can tell she’s also kind of into it.

What Tony points out, and I agree, is that he’s unusual given the situation as most people before him have just pleaded for their lives.

That seems like a natural thing to do, so his contrast to that intrigues us.

There were also smaller examples of “the most interesting way for your characters to say something.”

Page 30:

TONY
You’re not so pure. How’d you get
those debts? Not exactly popular,
neither. Skeletons in the closet?
You’ve got an Indian burial ground.

Tony seemed to be full of stuff like this. I enjoyed it, but would argue (without taking off points) that Ed Love should cut right to the good part, dropping any “fluff” dialogue. I’d argue the above example still works cutting out the first three sentences.

Smaller things to watch out for.

All characters had unique voices except Dick. On page 32 he uses the word “homie” which I know the author is Australian, but normal Americans don’t use that on a daily basis.

This VERY much took me out of the story, as I was thinking, “That doesn’t sound like Dick.”

Then there’s odd transitions similar to page 63:

FELICITY
You men are so possessive.

He takes a mouthful of trifle, savors it.

FELICITY
I’m listening.

TONY
Hold your horses. Whatever happened
to slow down and smell the roses?

This one happened before a flashback, and seemed very unnatural given the previous discussion and even queuing up the flashback.

I’d go through and check to make sure each scene flows successfully into the next, as I’m positive there were two other examples to this that were odd, but not odd enough to write down.

(I kept reading, and was interested which is good, but remember a professional reader doesn’t guarantee a page 1 to fade out read.)

7 out of 10 points.

4.) Does the writer understand the challenges and rewards posed by the medium chosen in which to tell his/her story? Shorthand version of this is: Is it a movie and not a play?

At the end of the day it was just two people talking.

This was the one downside I felt with the script, as nothing really screamed “MOVIE!” at me.

It was suspenseful and kept moving which was good, but it was just two people talking at a table for the most of it. Dialogue was great, but plays have great dialogue too.

The flashbacks did spice things up a bit, even if some of them weren’t always needed.

4 out of 10 points.

5.) Is there anything unique in what the writer presents? Are the writer’s ideas, based on this sample, likely to continue to be original?

The story, especially the premise of a first date being linked to one’s freedom, was unique.

I’m also a fan of the dialogue, which may be cheating, but since Roy and I struggle with it ourselves, we’re excited to see amateurs who do well with it.

10 out of 10 points.

6.) Does the script have a hook?

I won’t list it again, but we start with a guy firing several rounds at a woman during a candlelit dinner.

We’re reading…

Then you have a similar situation where the woman’s kind of bitchy and a guy comes in handcuffed wearing a tux.

Still reading…

(The “reading” means Ed Love’s doing his job.)

15 out of 15 points.

7.) Is that hook effective?

We find out that Tony’s on a date with Felicity where a studio audience will determine if he goes free based on how entertained they are with his actions, or back to death row.

We also see Tony’s a bit chevalier given his situation.

Felicity is very much in control of his fate, which should be scarier to him.

The one thing I didn’t like was the flashback to the pool.

Felicity gave Tony the chance at his freedom if he could swim the length of the pool.

He’s deathly afraid of water, and fails miserably.

Unfortunately this info never becomes important again in the story, nor does it make sense how Felicity was able to give Tony this shot.

If you’re trying to set her up as a bitch, there’s easier ways, and I’d say this scene is almost unnecessary since the other flashbacks and her dialogue do it better.

If you want to have a saucy initial meet up, especially with Tony thinking he’s her intellectual equal, then do something else. Don’t promise him his freedom when it’s a crucial part of the story later on that she can’t deliver.

This seemed to want to serve as an inciting incident, but didn’t.

9 out of 15 points.

8.) Is there enough to maintain the hook? Reveals, conflict, etc.?

The rest of the story was good.

Cool midpoint where Tony turns the tables on her and is in control.

I don’t want to give away too much of the plot, but things definitely started to escalate, and the ending was a perfect payoff.

What I HATED though, was the scene where Felicity can’t reach Naomi.

There was SO MUCH potential, but she just freaks out, and the way she does is so silly.

Ed Love (and I keep referring to his first and last name because I think it’s awesome) did a good job of having Tony bluff Felicity earlier with a truffle.

She should think he’s doing the same here. He can shrug, but then as she checks things start to unravel and escalate.

Since it makes perfect sense that he knows exactly where Naomi is, his certainty should play into her fears more. (It will also play into our suspicions about him, as we’ll also be wondering how he knew.)

As it is now, she goes from zero to one hundred in less than a line of dialogue.

Then she flips out and grabs a guard’s gun. It all seemed like too much of a reaction.

This scene has a lot of promise, so make use of it.

The other thing I didn’t like was Tony lying about Peter. It was fine that he lied, but I didn’t like the fake flashback.

(I could take or leave the flashbacks anyway, but this one really made me mad since it never turned out to be true.)

Flashbacks are by nature confusing, so if you’re showing us things that never actually happened, there’s an even bigger chance we’ll get lost.

7 out of 10 points.

9.) Does the story play to a target audience, and have the elements demanded by that audience?

It was set up as a contained thriller, but wasn’t due to the flashbacks.

Normally this wouldn’t be a problem, unless you’re trying to sell it as a contained thriller. Setting scenes in bars, jail cells, casinos, etc. is outside of where your story is taking place.

This will make a reader question your screenwriting knowledge which is another strike against you.

The restaurant setting is fine, the control room fine, and even Felicity’s dressing room. Outside of that, your thriller just became uncontained.

Another big problem was Felicity’s past. With all the flashbacks, I was confused what she actually did to fall from grace. Answering the question, “Why is she a faded TV reality show judge,” felt like it was important, especially since Tony kept hinting at it.

Nothing was ever done with this. No payoff equals unhappy audience.

The other two things I didn’t like was the “who’s not paying” bit Jane was talking about.

First, it took me a while to understand they meant for Tony’s release and not the technician Felicity said to fire.

Second, I didn’t understand why Carol said she would, then decided not to. What was her decision based on? Felt like a cheap trick that was only put in to increase suspense, but screw Tony over like that and we’ll need some semblance of an explanation.

Lastly, and it ties into Felicity’s freak out, on page 82 the guard tells Felicity she can’t leave. Why? It seemed like another cheap trick to get her to stay there.

Oh, and I found it kind of odd that security wasn’t in the room with Felicity at all times. No one’s that stupid, whether you’re fishing for ratings or not, to go one on one with a death row inmate.

(Ed Love DID deliver on the thriller part though.)

5 out of 10 points.

Conclusion

Ed Love did something unique.

He took a setting most people, including Roy and myself, would advise against and made it interesting.

Making a romantic dinner for two into a inmate reality TV show was very interesting. Not only that, but he delivered on keeping me interested from page one to the end.

Very good job, and if you contain this thriller I think the right people that read it will be very interested.

Total 71 out of 100 points.