Genre: Comedy
Premise: After a publisher changes a writer’s debut novel about a deadly assassin from fiction to nonfiction, the author finds himself thrust into the world of his lead character, and must take on the role of his character for his own survival.
About: This is Morris’ first script sale. He optioned one screenplay before this one. More on Morris tomorrow, when he gives GITS and Scriptshadow an “Assassin” interview.
Writer: Jeff Morris


So when Scott and I published our 5 script choices for this month’s Scriptshadow Challenge, I quickly received an e-mail from Jeff Morris, the writer of The True Memoirs Of An International Assassin. He was receptive and a great sport about his script being reviewed. But I was a little nervous. Assassin was looking like it was going to win. What if I didn’t like it? I remembered back to the days when all I had to do at Scriptshadow was review scripts. When did everything become so complicated?? Well color me relieved. Assassin was a fun breezy comedy with a memorable cast of characters. Was it perfect? No. I had a few quibbles here and there. But I’ll get to those later. First, let’s talk about the story.

Joe is a struggling spy novel writer who’s a bit of a pussy. He’s the kind of guy the boss knows he can make work late. Lucky for Joe, he’s just finished his latest manuscript, a spy thriller about the world’s most cunning international assassin. He sends it off to every publisher in town and every publisher in town immediately rejects him (hey, beats waiting). Just when Joe is ready to give up on his dream , he gets “the call.” It’s one of the publishing houses. They love his book and want to put it into print right away! Joe is ecstatic. Years of hard work finally paying off (ahem, real-life parallels here?) and Joe gets to do what every one of us dreams of doing, walk into that office and tell your boss to f8ck off (it doesn’t exactly work out that way but kudos to Joe for trying).

Joe eagerly anticipates his book’s grand opening and when it finally comes, he races into the store, straight to the new fiction section only to realize – wait a minute – his book isn’t there. He hurries up to the cashier and informs her of the problem. “Not a problem,” she says. “The book’s in the non-fiction section.” The non-fiction section? Joe is confused. His book’s not non-fiction. He heads over and cautiously picks up one of his books only to find out that the word “True” has been added to the title. Uh-oh. This is bad. A concerned Joe bee-lines over to his publisher and lets him know that a giant mistake has been made. No mistake, his slimy publisher assures him. He simply made a business decision. As a novel, it sucked. But as a true story, it’s spectacular. Joe fights viciously to get this wrong righted, even threatening to go to the authorities. But the publisher makes it clear that if Joe screws them in any way, he’ll be sued right out of existence.

Pretty soon, Joe is doing Matt Lauer interviews and grumpily going along with his alleged “former career,” even becoming a bit of a celebrity around town. He gets so sick of living a lie though, so sick of all the false attention, he decides it’s time to get away. Too much of a pushover to ever ask for a vacation at his old job, Joe thinks a vacation will do him right. He settles on the beautiful South American tropical paradise of Belize, where surely no one will know him.

As soon as Joe lands he’s kidnapped by the local ruling ganglord, El Toro, a kind of ‘Scarface-with-a-sense-of-humor’ thug. El Toro has el-reado Joe’s booko and is convinced that Joey’s the dangerous international assassin, Colt Rodgers, from the book. So El Toro orders Joe to unretire and kill the Prime Minister of Belize! Joe tries desperately to plead his case (“I’m not who you think I am”) but El Toro is a very insistent man and offers Joe ridiculous amounts of money. In the end, Joe is given a trunk full of a guns and a mandate to kill the Prime Minister.

Complicating matters is smokin-hot journalist Claire, a former high school classmate of Joe’s who smells something fishy about this whole “international assassin” thing. From what she remembers, Joe couldn’t assassinate a prom invite. Determined to expose him and his scam, she flies to Belize and “accidentally” bumps into Joe, deceitfully cozying up to him so she can catch him in his lie. Poor Joe falls for it hook, line and sinker, and falls for the girl that’s only using him for a story. Joe also manages to upset the rival ganglord, Jesus, who’s a lot like El Toro without the sense of humor. Jesus, on the take with the dirty Prime Minister, now wants to assassinate Joe.

Assassin is the perfect example of how to approach a spec script. Come up with a good hook, keep the story simple, and exploit the premise to its maximum potential. In fact, Assassin kinda read like a good vacation. It was fun, relaxing, and time flew by. It wasn’t all sunscreen and mai-tais though. I did have some issues with the script. The first was the lack of a clear goal for Joe. He’s been paid to kill the prime minister, but we all know he’s not going to do it. So what is Joe doing exactly? For awhile there, I wasn’t sure. This leads into my second problem: the lack of urgency. El Toro is funny, but he’s not scary. Nor is he around enough for us to feel like Joe is in any danger. Had El Toro been more intense and given Joe a more definitive time frame in which he had to kill the Prime Minister, I feel like the script would’ve gained a sense of urgency, which in turn would’ve led to a more fearful Joe, which in turn would’ve led to a story with higher stakes (studio term, I know. But I felt like it applied here).

Luckily, the script was funny enough to mask most of these issues. I loved the bumbling idiot CIA agents, convinced that Joe is indeed Colt Rodgers. I loved the alcoholic’s anonymous bodyguard El Toro sets Joe up with, and I loved how Joe steps back every once in awhile just to wonder, “How the f*ck did I get into this situation??” My favorite scene in the script is when he goes to the Prime Minister to warn him that El Toro is trying to kill him, and accidentally ends up – well – assassinating the prime minister.

The humor is pretty broad overall, but if you’re into Farrely Brothers movies, this is going to be right up your alley. Jack Black would be perfect in this roll so Jeff, if you and your agent are listening, it’s time to give Mr. Black a call. Leave your own thoughts on the script down below. I’ll be interested to hear what you guys think. If you haven’t downloaded “Assassin” yet, I suggest you give it a spin. It’s a fun ride.

[ ] trash
[ ] barely kept my interest
[x] worth the read
[ ] impressive
[ ] genius

What I Learned: Stay focused on your story. Make sure every scene is about *that* story. You can explore interesting tangents in your character-driven pieces, but if you’re writing a spec (something with an interesting hook that’s story-driven), never go too far off-point. “Assassin” does a really good job of this.

And now, here’s Scott’s analysis from Go Into The Story…

“The True Memoirs of an International Assassin”

Written by Jeff Morris

Character Archetypes

Protagonist – Joe Schmidt

His Disunity state at the beginning is Joe the Author vs. Colt the Assassin. Eventually he has to claim his ‘Inner Colt’ to become the hero he needs to be in order to save Claire.

Nemesis – El Toro / Jesus

El Toro forces Joe to take on the task of assassinating the Prime Minister, then Jesus takes over the antagonist role, leading to their eventual Final Struggle.

Attractor – Claire

The growing romance between Claire and Joe causes Claire to change from hard-ass reporter intent on busting Joe to acting to squash the story.

Mentor – Kenny

Secretly a member of the B.I.A. (Belize Intelligence Agency), Kenny encourages then trains Joe to ‘become’ Colt Rodgers.

Trickster – Walt / Colt Rodgers

Walt publishes Joe’s book, but calls it a piece of non-fiction, setting into motion all the ‘negative’ events in Joe’s life. In assuming the persona of Colt, Joe receives benefits (hero worship), but also all the mistaken identity hassles.

10 Major Plot Points


The Opening

Introduces the fictional hero Colt Rodgers and his creator Joe Schmidt, an aspiring writer whose fantasy world of bullets and bravery is a far cry from his real world, establishing that Joe and Colt are “polar opposites.”

The Hook

His book published, but fraudulently so as a “true” memoir, Walt (Joe’s publisher) convinces Joe to publicize the book as Joe Schmidt AKA Colt Rodgers.

The Lock

While on vacation, a local ‘bad guy’ (El Toro) coerces Joe to assassinate the Prime Minister, resulting in Joe being tracked by El Toro and his men, the CIA, and Claire, a reporter posing as a businesswoman on vacation, looking for an expose on Joe’s “fake memoir.”


First Big Test

Jesus Sanchez vows to kill Joe / Wayne urges Joe to live “like Colt Rodgers.”


Joe beats up someone he thinks is out to kill him / wrong guy, but Joe is now acting like Colt Rodgers.

Second Big Test

Joe “kills” the Prime Minister.

All Is Lost

Jesus kidnaps Claire.


On the Defensive

Kenny helps Joe train as a hit man, but Joe isn’t any good.

On the Offensive

Joe assaults Jesus Sanchez’s compound.

Final Struggle

Joe vs. Jesus (with a major assist from Kenny) – defeats Jesus and saves Claire.

Major Selling Points

Strong high concept: The central premise is easy to grasp and therefore market. Good basis for an action-comedy.

Castable lead role: The Protagonist role (Joe Schmidt / Colt Rodgers) could be filled by a number of male comedic actors, which gives a studio flexibility in terms of budget and schedule.

Action-comedy is hot: Four of 2009’s biggest hit movies are action-comedies (Up, Monsters Vs. Aliens, Night at the Museum: Battle of the Smithsonian, Paul Blart: Mall Cop).

Paul Blart: Mall Cop: The movie cost $26M. It grossed $180M worldwide. Starring Kevin James — who would be a great call for True Memoirs.

PG-rating: After excising various F-words from the script, the movie should be able to get a PG rating, assuring widest possible audience.

100 pages: Translates into about a 90 minute movie, which means it can get an additional screening per theater (6, not just 5 per day), thereby generating more B.O..

Wish fulfillment: Youth audience can live out fantasy of acting out like a spy / assassin.

In sum, The True Memoirs of an International Assassin has all the elements of a successful action-comedy movie with a moderate budget $30-40M and strong upside for significant B.O. and ancillary revenues.

Note: Be honest in the comments section. But please be respectful. Jeff was nice enough to grant us an interview and I’d like to have more writers come on Scriptshadow and share their experiences. It’s the only way for the rest of us to learn. Honesty, good. Cruelty, bad.

Genre: Romantic Comedy
Premise: A woman attempts to take advantage of a time-honored custom in Ireland that allows women to propose to men on Leap Year.
About: Matthew Goode (Watchmen) and Amy Adams (Doubt) are signed on to play the leads. The movie is being directed by Anand Tucker (Shopgirl). Kaplan and Elfont also wrote the little-known but underrated gem, “Can’t Hardly Wait.”
Writers: Deborah Kaplan & Harry Elfont

I love you Amy.

Yes, I like romantic comedies. Okay there, I said it. I’m not going to lie. The cat is out of the bag people so have your way with me. You know what I watched a month ago? A little movie called When Harry Met Sally. And afterwards? I may have shed a tear. That’s right. Um-hmm. I may have. And I’m not going to feel bad about that because the reality is, when done right, romantic comedies make you believe in love again. The problem is, when done wrong? They’re unmitigated disasters.

Leap Year caught my attention because it has two actors in it that I absolutely love. Amy Adams and Matthew Goode. If you don’t know much about Goode, head over to your local video store tonight and rent “The Lookout” (also starring Joseph Gordon-Levitt). Goode’s charasmatic yet deceitful character is the one that stands out in a film clearly designed to showcase Gordon-Levitt’s talents. But Amy Adams? Well besides the fact that I want to marry her, she’s memorable in just about everything she does. In Doubt, a movie with Meryl Freaking Streep and Phillip Seymour F’ing Hoffman, Adams, who plays the most reserved role of the three, holds her own in every single scene. And let me tell you honey. That ain’t easy to do.

Amy Adams in a romantic comedy felt like a good fit. But I’ll be honest, when I heard the premise for “Leap Year,” I cringed. It sounded like it came out of the Romantic Comedy Logline Machine – a lumbering MRI-type contraption that can be found in the back of most studio offices. But, you know, Can’t Hardly Wait was a damn funny movie, so I was willing to give Kaplan and Elfont a chance.

Anna, 30s, sweet but a little materialistic, stages apartments for a living. You know, one of those people that dresses up apartments so they look good for prospective buyers? She has the perfect boyfriend in cardiologist Steve (think Patrick Dempsey), who she’s been together with for four years now, and it’s looking like he’s finally going to propose to her on their anniversary. But when he gives her a bracelet instead of a ring (hey, they’re both round) and informs her he’s heading off to Ireland on a business trip , Anna is devastated, and begins to question whether Steve will ever become her knight in shining armor.

Later that night, Anna’s BFF sister jokingly tells her about an old Irish custom where every leap year day (February 29), women are allowed to propose to men. After laughing it off, Anna finds herself wikipediaing that shit and learnng that indeed, it is true (A little warning to all you men with girlfriends planning trips to Ireland). Anna, unable to avoid the tick-tock sound of her biological clock, throws caution into the Irish wind and decides to fly to Dublin to surprise her dear Steven with a marriage proposal!

As her 747 swoops in to Dublin however, wouldn’t you know it but a huge storm rolls in and forces them to land in another city. Egads! With Leap Year day only a few days away, Anna, stuck in the Irish countryside, must find a way to Dublin in time to propose to Steven! (If you are a man, I applaud you for making it this far in the review. However, I cannot guarantee your safety from this point on).

Anna stumbles into a small Irish pub and pleads her sob story to anyone who will listen. But of course everyone’s too drunk to care. Glaring at her from the shadows is Declan, the brooding yet unkempt innkeeper. Declan is so angry and bitter, you get the feeling he’s going to walk out of the script at any moment, shrugging his shoulders and mumbling, “Why did I agree to this?” Unfortunately (wouldn’t you know it!) Declan is the only one in the bar with a working car! When Anna offers him a boatload of money to take her to Dublin, even the defiant Declan can’t decline.

How do you say, “You complete me” in Irish?

The script jumps into Travelogue mode as we drive, jog, hitchhike, and train through some of the most beautiful countryside in the world. Of course Anna and Declan don’t enjoy a single moment of it because they absolutely despise each other.

For the first 60 pages, Leap Year was the most cliched, by-the-books, lazy, forced, unoriginal piece of crap I’ve read in awhile. The shameless female wish-fulfillment tale busts out all the romantic comedy stops. Do our characters hate each other more than anything? Check. Is one a rich American while the other a poor foreigner? Check. Are they placed in a situation where, even though they despise each other, they’re forced to kiss? Check. Are they forced to sleep in the same bed at one point? Check check and CHECK! I could almost feel Blake Snyder’s beat sheet breathing underneath this screenplay. At one point I wanted to murder Ireland.

And that premise. What the fuck is with that premise? Why would a woman travel to Ireland to propose to a man on Leap Year instead of, oh I don’t know, TALKING TO HIM ABOUT IT IN AMERICA! We don’t live in the stone age. If you’re unhappy about something in your relationship, particularly something as big as marriage, YOU TALK ABOUT IT.

But then…………something funny happened. Leap Year stopped trying so hard. It threw away the beat sheet and began allowing its characters to dictate the story. Gone were the cliche romantic comedy staples. Gone were the obvious set-pieces. All of a sudden, I felt like I was watching two living breathing human beings. I can’t believe I’m saying this but I was smiling for the last 50 pages of Leap Year. You know why? Because it was just two people who liked each other that knew there was no way they could ever be together. And who can’t identify with that? I identify with it every Saturday night (actually, I don’t even know what that means).

So to sum up, Leap Year was a little like a pint of Guiness. Bitter at first, but smoother as the night goes on (ugh, now I’m the one trying too hard). If you’re a romantic comedy fan, instead of watching Love, Actually for the 50th time, give Leap Year a read.

[ ] trash
[ ] barely kept my interest
[x] worth the read
[ ] impressive
[ ] genius

What I learned: The first act reeks of “trying too hard.” All of the romantic comedy staples are stuffed down our throat. Audiences aren’t dumb. They know when you’re forcing things. You have to make your screenplay structure as invisible as possible. Hit the beats, but do so in a way that doesn’t draw attention to itself.

Genre: Drama (Dark Comedy)
Premise: A couple of friends plan out a relaxing weekend vacation, but get involved with a party of wealthy snobs on the verge of a wedding instead.
About: This will be Max Winkler’s directing debut. It will star Jesse Eisenberg (Adventureland) and Michael Anagarano (Snow Angels) and be produced by Jason Reitman (director of Juno). Max Winkler is the son of The Fonz.
Writer: Max Winkler

No idea who this girl is. I just wanted to include a hot girl in the picture.

If you’ve been following Scriptshadow long enough, you know that I’ve read two of Max Winkler’s scripts. The first is The Ornate Anatomy Of Living Things (co-written with Matt Spicer), which I thought was awesome and stands strong in my Top 25. While it’s not for everyone, the Kaufman-esque tale of a bookstore clerk who discovers a museum dedicated to his life is one of the most imaginative scripts I’ve ever had the pleasure of reading, and it put Winkler and Spicer on the “I’ll read anything of theirs” list (a prestigious list if I do say so myself). The second is the one million dollar spec Winkler and Spicer co-wrote with Jonah Hill, “The Adventurer’s Handbook.” I like Winkler and Spicer. I like Jonah Hill. How I came to dislike this script so much then is a bit of a mystery. I think it was the issue of squandered opportunity, a cool idea sacrificed for Apatow-style “guys hang around and make fun of each other for 120 minutes” humor. Whereas Ornate had imagination to spare, Handbook’s imagination would’ve taken its own adventure to find. In retrospect, however, I champion the sale. A big spec sale is good for all writers. Inspires other companies to go out and make their own big spec splash.

I didn’t know much about Ceremony other than Winkler was writing alone this time and would be using this as his first directing vehicle. Hooking up with the talented Reitman as producer was also a smart move. The draft I read was dated late 2008, so I’m sure some of its contents have changed since then. I’m guessing the overall story and characters haven’t though. So how was it? Let’s find out.

Overly selfish Sam, 24, is an unsuccessful children’s book author who’s recently connected with his psychologically scarred best friend, Marshall, whose defining characteristic is that he always seems to be on the verge of a nervous breakdown. The two haven’t seen each other in forever because the selfish Sam stopped returning Marshall’s calls. Lucky for Marshall, Sam’s invited him to a weekend getaway where the two can catch-up and patch-up their friendship. They head off to the New York countryside and find a little hotel in the middle of nowhere.

Once there, however, Sam immediately starts acting strange. He’s always distracted, and seems particularly obsessed by the large party of people residing at a nearby mansion. Instead of plugging up old holes in their friendship, Sam suggests they head over to the mansion and see what all the fuss is about. Marshall, who seems incapable of thinking for himself, reluctantly agrees. Once at the party, it becomes clear that Sam is looking for someone. And that someone is the stoic emotionally unavailable Zoe, who happens to be ten years Sam’s senior. It’s clear that the two have some kind of past together and that Sam is here to declare his love for her. Little does he know (or did he know?) Zoe is getting married this weekend to the even more selfish documentary filmmaker “Save The World” Bono-wannabe, Whit. It doesn’t take long for us to realize that “rekindling his friendship” with Marshall was never a part of the weekend plans. Sam merely used Marshall for his car. The rest of the story concerns Sam desperately trying to convince Zoe to run away with him, while the oblivious Marshall tries to refocus Sam on their friendship.

In short, I didn’t want to participate in this ceremony. The movie’s full of characters who are extremely difficult to like. Sam is so selfish and so cruel to Marshall, it’s hard to muster up even a sliver of sympathy for him. And Marshall is so spineless and such a loser, you practically root for someone to kick his ass. Zoe’s emotional unavailability and constant toying with Sam makes her just as bad as the others. It’s like hanging out at a party with a bunch of people you don’t like. There are shades of Max’s relationship with Rosemary in the great movie, Rushmore, here, but those characters were dripping with heart. I can’t find a pulse in any of Ceremony’s characters and it made for a disappointing read.

I’m hoping these problems were addressed in the rewrites, but even if they weren’t, I root for this movie to do well. It’s normally the kind of film I fall head over heels for and I’d like for nothing more than to be proved wrong. Winkler’s still on my “Read anything of his” list but as much as I wanted to, I couldn’t get into Ceremony.

Link: No link

[ ] trash
[x] barely kept my interest
[ ] worth the read
[ ] impressive
[ ] genius

What I learned: Winkler and Reitman seem to be subscribing to the theory that Eisenberg and Anagarano will make these characters tolerable. Casting actors to make up for character issues in a script is always a risky proposition. Of course there are cases of it working, but even if you cast Tom Hanks as Adolf Hitler, it doesn’t mean we’re going to like Adolf Hitler. It’s best to address these issues on the page, where you still have control.

Genre: Sci-Fi Thriller
Premise: An ex-professor seeks the truth about a secret organization known as the “Karma Coalition.”
About: A high-profile pick-up from Warner Bros. in late 2008 to the tune of 1.5 million. Christensen is the lead singer for a band called Stellarstarr.
Christensen also co-wrote “Sidney Hall” which has been set up with producers Ridley and Tony Scott.
Writer: Shawn Christensen

“I just sold a script for 1.5 million dollars suckerrrrrs!”

Now I’ve caught a lot of flak for liking this script so much. People barrage me with arguments like “It’s got plot holes you could drive a semi through!” They say it’s cheesy, clunky, and all over the place. You know what I say? You’re wrong. You’re 93% stinking wrong! This script was a hell of a ride. Not to mention I’m a sucker for a good “ordinary man in extrodinatry circumstances” tale – and Karma Coaliton takes care of my fix.

Beware. Major spoilers follow. Part of the reason I liked this script so much was that I didn’t have any clue what it was about going in. So if you plan on reading it, tread carefully.There are spoiler landmines everywhere.

A recent flap of deaths has been occurring all over the world – deaths of very important people: Archdioceses, scientists, celebrities. But why? What’s the connection? There’s someone who knows. Someone who’s been betting on these deaths from the beginning. And getting it right every single time. So we’re going to find out who this person is and how they’re making these amazing predictions right? Wrong. The prognosticator is killed on Page 6.


William Craft, a relatively young college professor who just lost his job for sleeping with one of his students (wait a minute, don’t all college professors sleep with their students? I thought that was one of the perks.) is just trying to make it to the next day. He’s a widow. His soul mate/wife/love of his life died in a car accident six years ago. Without her, he’s been stumbling through life, looking for a purpose.

William’s life is turned upside-down when the police blow into his place and arrest him. Remember the prognosticator? Turns out William used to be friends with him. He’s thrown into an interrogation room and told that he’s under suspicion for the murder of this man. Before they deal with that, however, the cop slides a mysterious box across the table and asks William to open it. The box belonged to the prognosticator and was left to William.

William carefully pries the box open. Inside are five things. One, a note that tells him the cop opposite him is one of the dirtiest cops in the city. Two, a gun. Three, smoke bombs. Four, a DVD. And five, a note. A note that simply says: “She’s still alive.”

Have I got your attention yet? Welcome to Karma Coalition. I don’t know about you, but I’m hooked.

I’m not going to tell you how William gets out of the room because it’s pretty obvious. He’s got smoke bombs! After escaping, he takes his newfound possessions to a friends’ and pops the DVD in. The DVD is of the prognosticator, who informs him that in 2013, a huge catastrophic event takes place that wipes out 90% of the earth’s population. Because of this, a secret organization called the Karma Coalition is faking the deaths of very important people all over the world, in order to get them onto a secret island called “Parista,” where they will be safe and the human race will continue.

Guess whose wife is on that iiiiiiiii-sland?

Naturally, William will do anything to get to the island. And the good news is, he’s on the Parista list. But the cops chasing him have other plans. Will William make it to Parista? Will he be reunited with his wife? I’m sorry but you’ll have to read the script to find out. Or the rest of the review.

I loved the heart-pounding unpredictable nature of Karma Coalition but it did have its faults. (Major spoilers) When William finally gets to Parista, we have about 7 minutes to wrap up the storyline between him and his wife. He charges into a restaurant where his wife and her parents are having dinner and it just feels…wrong. Clunky. Weird. This is the love of his life and it’s not the way to reunite them. Part of the predicament of Karma Coalition is that you do have the main character getting to his destination late in the screenplay, forcing you to wrap up a lot of storylines in a very short amount of time. As a result, all of the storylines get short-shrift. None more than him and his wife, which should’ve been an incredibly emotional moment and wasn’t.

But the final sequence of Karma Coalition is ridiculously fun. The cops are tracking down the island of Parista, trying to find William. Yet they’re being led deep into the middle of Wyoming. How can there be an island in the middle of Wyoming? The answer leads us to “the big twist,” which I suspect put Karma Coalition over the hump and secured it that huge sale. Many people point out that the twist doesn’t hold water (ahem, island reference). And if you really think about it, there are definitely some inconsistencies. But I had so much fun getting there and the twist was so unexpected, I didn’t care. It’s one of those things you know they’re going to address in the rewrites anyway, so I just went with it.

Sure Karma Coaltion can be silly at times. And it’s not afraid to toss in a few cliches. But the script is so fast and its imagination so vibrant, I’m going to prematurely vanguish all you Negative Nancies out there and highly recommend it.

[ ] trash
[ ] barely kept my interest
[ ] worth the read
[x] impressive
[ ] genius

What I learned: Probably the best “ordinary man in an extraordinary circumstance” movie is either “North By Northwest” or “Close Encounters of the Third Kind.” The reason we’ve been so light on this genre lately is because Hollywood demands more realism these days. Your character has to behave in a realistic way. I don’t know about you but if a terrorist pointed a gun at my head, I wouldn’t go for a Bruce Lee sweep of the legs combined with a Trinity wall climb, simultaneously grabbing his gun and forcing him to shoot his own partner. I’d probably scream like a little girl. The problem in these movies is that sooner or later, your character will be forced into choices that require extraordinary actions. How he/she goes about them in a believable way is the key to making the genre work. I’m telling you this after highlighting a scene in KC where our “ordinary” hero escapes an interrogation room with smoke bombs. So obviously these rules are not hard and fast. But I guarantee you this issue will be brought up in any script you submit. So you might as well nip it in the bud now.

GENRE: Action
SYNOPSIS: A 14 year old girl who also happens to be a trained killer must fight her way through a strange country to reunite with her father.
ABOUT: Mystery pile people. Sorry, I know very little about this one.
WRITER: Seth Lochead
Oh sweet Hanna. Why do you frustrate me so? Hanna is about your atypical 14 year old teenage girl with an AWOL Navy Seal/CIA father who’s moved to the backwoods of Sweden so he can raise and train her to become an assassin. Yes, Hanna is a cold-blooded killer – a “Little Nikita” who really is little.
Within the first five minutes, father and daughter are captured by 50 agents for reasons I’m still not entirely clear on. The implication is the father wanted to be caught, purposely burning a fire he knew would be seen by an array of satellites that are constantly on the lookout for him. Apparently this guy’s wanted badly. For reference’s sake, I only have a single satellite looking for me. Once captured, because he and his daughter are so dangerous, they’re sent to different holding bays in separate countries.
Of course neither stays captured for long. Using Jason Bourne like badassery, they escape and head off to different locations. Here is where the script gets muddy. Hanna finds a family in the middle of Turkey who she befriends. She reveals she’s trying to get to the German Consulate in Istanbul (this is where her father told her to go). In hot pursuit of Hanna is the organization that captured her, which is headed up by the steely Marissa, who becomes obsessed with finding her. There’s clearly some sort of link between them but what is it?
Hanna makes it to Istanbul where, for some odd reason, Marissa decides to call off the dogs. Hanna’s given a train ticket by the consulate to the backwoods of Sweden, the very place her and her father were abducted. Yay! Hanna gets to go home!
Hanna trudges up to the cabin where her father is waiting for her. Yet it ain’t all pancakes and nursery rhymes. He’s pissed off! He reveals that the whole point of this exercise was for Hanna to be reunited with her damn momma! But that’s okay, because remember those 50 agents that abducted the two of them earlier? Well they’re baaaaack! Except this time, they only want Hanna. She’s whisked off to a jail in Stockholm where the mysterious Marissa awaits. She escapes her confines by Jason Bourning a few soldiers to set up a finale with Marissa. After a few pleasantries Hanna finds out that Marissa…wait for it…IS HER MOTHER. Hanna cuts the family reunion short though and pulls out a glock, shooting her mom in the head, sending her a little closer to those satellites she seems to like so much.
We get a prologue where Hanna explains why she did what she did. “My father told me about her. He would tell me stories about her. I decided I didn’t like her.” Man, and to think when I don’t like someone I just don’t return their calls. Now whether this means that Hanna truly didn’t like her mother because of these “stories” or, in a scene that preceded the movie, her father planned this whole assassination from the get-go, possibly even bred Hanna for this very purpose, will remain unclear. But even if that was the case, I’d still be asking myself, uhhh, why? What’s the reason the father wants to kill Marissa so bad? Because she likes to look for him?
Probably my biggest problem with the story though is that it didn’t need to happen. If the father wanted Hanna to kill the mother, why didn’t he just send her or drop her off at the city where the mom was located? For someone as well-trained as he obviously was, I’m sure he’d have no problem finding and getting the daughter to the location. The “deliberately trying to get caught” thing creates too many questions and is a very flawed plan for someone who’s supposedly so brilliant. When these agents break into the house for instance, Hanna starts killing them. Even though they’ve been told not to kill, once people start dying, all bets are off. Who’s to say they don’t shoot her dead to save their own lives?
I don’t know. Part of me just thinks this type of stuff isn’t my thing and it’s better left to someone who lives and breathes the genre. So I’ll stop dogging it. The writing itself was exceptional and I’ll give it to Seth Lochead for creating an interesting character in Hanna and keeping the story moving at a brisk pace. But I’d tie up some potentially large plot holes before sending this one to the big screen.
[ ] trash
[x] barely readable
[ ] worth the read
[ ] impressive
[ ] genius
WHAT I LEARNED FROM HANNA: There is a scene in the middle of the script where Hanna is staying with a family in Turkey who has no idea who she is. A local warlord comes by asking for money from the father. The warlord physically embarrasses him in front of his family and it’s a wonderful moment because we see Hanna watching this and we just know that she’s going to tear him to pieces. And of course she does. Use your character’s secret strength in a scene where nobody else knows they have it besides the audience (for example – in Big – he uses his childlike curiosity to woo over the boss in the famous big piano scene). That scene always works.