You will not be the same after reading this screenplay.
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Genre: No idea – Crazy?
Premise: When a young gang of girls kills her brother, Dakota, a former member of the gang, vows revenge.
About: I picked this because I just really liked Z’s query letter. Here it is: “BULLET” features a high school girl on a quest for revenge, a rambunctious 16 year-old male prostitute and a human-taxiderming psycho. It’s over-the-top, but my main objective is always to prioritize well-rounded characters and complex relationships above spectacle. If someone asked me to “movie-meets-movie” it, I’d say “Heathers meets Kill Bill”. — My biggest beef with the grindhouse resurgence is that filmmakers think they can skate by on irony and style to mask poor storytelling. I want to see more substance injected into the genre. — My biggest influences were “The Machine Girl” and “Up”. — Thanks for your consideration.”
Writer: Z. LaPorte Airey
Details: 106 pages (This is an early draft of the script. The situations, characters, and plot may change significantly by the time the film is released. This is not a definitive statement about the project, but rather an analysis of this unique draft as it pertains to the craft of screenwriting).
Today’s review will change everything.
Okay, maybe that’s overstating it. But it’s rare that an Amateur Friday script has gotten this much buzz before a review (generated mainly on Twitter). The question is, what kind of buzz? Good buzz? Bad buzz? That’s up to you to decide. But I’ll say this – this is one of the few scripts I’ve read over the past year that you read and absolutely HAVE to have an opinion on. It makes you want to talk about it. Do you know how rare that is? A good 95% of the scripts you read you forget about a few days later. This is not one of those scripts.
And yet, I still don’t know what to make of it. I don’t know if it’s the most original voice I’ve ever read or a total mess. One thing’s for sure – and this is something a lot of you have already written me about – no matter how weird or shifty it gets, you have to keep reading. Bullet is so damn readable!
The first scene is a good indicator of what to expect. Nina Pinko, a 16 year old knockout and leader of the Pink gang, is cavorting with her crew – the overtly obese Cameo, the constantly spitting Spits, the Duran Duran lookalike…Duran Duran, and Nina’s best friend – Dakota.
When a member of the rival gang, the Yellows(?) shows up, our crew (minus Dakota) stomps the shit out of her. And I’m not talking about movie fighting here. I mean they beat the pulp out of this poor girl. It was at this point that I realized I was reading something different.
As you know, I’ve been reading through the first ten pages of the Twit-Pitches every night, and my biggest complaint is that nearly all of them have nothing that GRABS you in those first ten pages. Either a surprising scene or a surprising voice or a perfectly executed scene with lots of conflict or irony. Something that pulls a reader in. Because of this, I’m rarely excited to read on.
Bullet had such a jarring first scene that I absolutely had to read on.
Anyway, Dakota, the only one in the group with an actual heart, decides that the beating of the Yellow girl is too much and quits the gang. Instead, she focuses on finishing up school and protecting her younger-by-a-year brother, the fragile Duckie.
Unfortunately, Nina is so furious by her best friend’s betrayal that she targets Duckie as her personal whipping boy. So one day, in maybe one of the most disturbing scenes I’ve read, Nina’s crew corners Duckie in the men’s bathroom, forces him down on his knees, Nina pulls down her pants, and Cameo postures, “You ever eat cunt, little boy?”
I mean, what the hell is going on here!? So disturbing!
And yet I had to keep reading!
While Duckie gets out of that situation with his life intact, he’s later cornered by the girls on a rooftop, and to spare you the gory details, let’s just say when it’s all over, Duckie’s not on the rooftop anymore.
Dakota is devastated when she hears the news and it takes all of about 2 seconds for her to transform into revenge mode. Unfortunately, revenge mode isn’t very well thought out in Dakota’s world and when she confronts the group (in an alley), they beat her within an inch of her life, chop off her arm, and leave her for dead.
Dakota’s rescued by a gas station manager, the anxiety-riddled Val, who nurses her back to health. Afterwards, she tells her why she saved her. A group of bad people have kidnapped her 2 year old child and she needs to get him back but can’t do it alone. So she’ll help Dakota get revenge for her brother’s death if Dakota helps her save her baby first. Dakota doesn’t have much of a choice so she’s in.
Eventually the two meet up with a 16 year old male prostitute who specializes in imitating Elvis. Elvis-Prostitute is pretty naïve on anything that doesn’t have to do with sex, so being involved in a rescue mission AND a revenge mission is a little overwhelming for him. But truthfully, none of these three have any idea what they’re in for, as Bullet For My Best Friend is basically one giant extended bat-shit crazy sequence (and not for the light-hearted).
How does one even analyze a script like Bullet For My Best Friend? It’s just so…unique. Maybe that’s where we’ll start. Writing something that’s truly unique is so damn hard these days. Everything’s already been written of course. And everybody’s copying everyone else – either the movies they see or the scripts they read. “Bullet” does reference some other movies, but it still has its own voice, its own vocabulary. And it’s kind of mesmerizing.
Starting with the choices, Bullet features a gang of girls. 99 out of 100 writers would’ve featured a male gang. Except a male gang’s been done a million times over. So this felt fresh. Same thing with the 16 year old male prostitute. Not many movies feature a prostitute who isn’t a female, much less a 16 year old one. So again, it felt fresh. Strange how something as simple as a gender change can bring life to a script.
And, you know, what really surprised me, was that this script actually had some heart. I believed in the friendship between Dakota and Nina. I believed in Dakota’s love for her brother. Therefore, I was invested in her avenging his death. Nina’s gang was so ruthless as well that I wanted to see them go down. It’s a small thing but kind of not. Creating a bad guy that an audience hates can drive interest for an entire story all by itself. The bad guy just can’t be “stock bad.” They have to feel unique, different in some way. And for the reasons I mentioned above, Nina and crew felt different.
The scene structure here was pretty great too. You know how I always talk about “goals, stakes, and urgency” for a story? Well that same approach can be (and should be in most cases) applied to scenes as well. There’s a bizarre scene late in the script where a psycho human taxidermist (the nightmare inducing Mr. Hands) has our three heroes chained up. He plugs Elvis Prostitute with a needle and starts transferring blood out of his body. Dakota then gets free and has to fight off Mr. Hands. If you’re paying attention, you’ll notice that the ticking time bomb is what makes the scene so exciting. Fighting off Mr. Hands alone would be an okay scene. But Dakota has to do it BEFORE too much blood is sucked out of Elvis Prostitute. It’s a great scene.
But let’s not kid ourselves. There’s something…off about this script. I don’t know if it’s the tone or what but it just doesn’t seem…real? And maybe that’s because it’s supposed to be absurdist. I get that. But one second a character is beating the shit out of an old lady and the next second someone’s sobbing their eyes out. Are we supposed to be laughing or crying? I’m not sure. Brent, a Scriptshadow reader, probably said it best in a tweet: “It’s well written, but so odd. I would not be surprised if the author had never met another human being.” It made me laugh but when you read Bullet, that’s kind of what you’re thinking too.
And yet that’s what makes it so damn original. If it were just like everything else, then who would care, right?
Anyway, I also thought some characters needed major rewriting. Val is a huge disappointment. She just tags along the whole time, whining and worrying. Her act gets old immediately and she has nothing under the surface to keep us interested in her. Since we need to love this woman to want her to find her child, this is a huge misstep that needs to be rectified. She needs to be rebuilt from the ground up and have something just as crazy going on as all the other characters so she can fit in. Yeah, that was my issue with her. She felt like she belonged in the alternate “normal” version of Bullet For My Best Friend.
Elvis Prostitute was also kind of lame. He, too, felt like he was tagging along for the ride. You have to remember that just creating an interesting character on paper isn’t enough. You still have to dig into him – give him a backstory, give him issues he needs to resolve, give him some sort of depth. In characters like Nina and Dakota, you could feel the history there. I never felt any history with Elvis. He was just your average quirky character, which is a shame, because he had a ton of potential.
But in the end, I can’t stop thinking about Bullet For My Best Friend. It has tons of flaws but it’s so damn readable! You have to find out what happens next. And isn’t that all that matters in the end? Also, the next best thing you can do outside of writing a great script is writing something that gets people talking – and this script will guaranteed GET PEOPLE TALKING. You can’t NOT have an opinion on it. For that reason, this one’s definitely worth the read.
Script link: A Bullet For My Best Friend
[ ] Wait for the rewrite
[ ] wasn’t for me
[x] worth the read
[ ] impressive
[ ] genius
What I learned: I thought Z missed an opportunity here. I can’t remember where I first heard this, but a tip I always liked was to use your character’s biggest weakness and, at some point in the script, turn it into a strength. For example, Riddick’s weakness in Pitch Black is that his eyes are too sensitive to see in the light. But in the second half of the movie, when the planet goes dark, that weakness becomes a strength. I kept waiting for that with Dakota. She only has this one arm, which puts her at a big disadvantage. There should have been a payoff near the end where that weakness became a strength. But it never did. :(