About: It’s the S. Craig Zahler show here on Scriptshadow.
Writer: S. Craig Zahler
Enough of you were interested in Incident at Sans Asylum that I felt it was finally time to give you a review of my number three favorite script, The Brigands Of Rattleborge. Someone once described this script to me by saying, “It burrows into your soul,” and having read it a couple of times now, I can say that that’s pretty accurate.
Well this is sure to get the spec purists all riled up. How bout a Western? How bout no discernible protagonist for over half the script? How bout 138 pages? How bout a script where the inciting incident doesn’t happen until page 80?? I’m sure there will be plenty of people who will prepare their army of “buts” – *but*, the reality of the situation is this: This proves that the most important element in getting recognition as a writer is a great story – plain and simple. It doesn’t matter if you follow the rules, or what genre you write, as long as what you write is entertaining. And boy does this script entertain.
I’m going to go on record as saying that, in my opinion, this would be the greatest Western ever made. That’s not saying a whole lot as I pretty much hate Westerns. I’ve seen most of the big ones but I’ll be honest with you – I usually turn them off or fall asleep before they’re over. That’s not to say they’re bad films but there’s just simply nothing for me to identify with in any Western that’s ever been made. Even the highly touted Unforgiven – I’ve tried to watch it 3 times and still haven’t made it through the entire thing.
So what makes this one different? The writer creates some amazing characters. Each character is distinct and interesting. He takes his time introducing them too – a full 70 pages (yes, 70). I can’t think of any screenwriting book that tells you to take 70 pages to introduce your characters but this script does it. And it’s better for it.
The Brigand of Rattleborge starts interestingly enough. With two cowboys asking an Indian Chief to perform a fierce raindance to bring a terrible storm down on a nearby town. The idea is odd. Is this a fantasy film? Raindances aren’t real. Indians can’t really make it rain whenever they want. And yet somehow, someway…you believe that it’s possible. It’s a huge risk for the writer to take because as we find out later, the storm that is summoned is the driving force behind the entire story.
It’s used as a cover by our band of bad guys to go in and steal from the town’s richest members (not surprisingly, all of the people we were introduced to). The movie then turns into a revenge film. The Sheriff (whose wife was raped and murdered) travels to the town where the leader of this brigand lives in order to settle the score.
The script does two things very well. Knowing that it’s fighting an uphill battle by being a Western, it uses the most tried and true plot device there is to drive the story: Revenge. I literally think it’s impossible to make a movie where a person is tortured and killed by the bad guy, and not want the protagonist to enact revenge on that bad guy. Every time I read a revenge script or see a revenge movie I kick myself for not writing one myself because it ALWAYS works. And the writer does a great job of creating that rape/murder scene that instills in you a desire for our guys to get revenge no matter what the cost.
The second thing he does is create a great character in Abraham, the tortured former doctor whose own wife was raped and murdered by these bad guys and who insists on joining the Sheriff in his revenge quest. He has a suitcase full of instruments that allow him not just to kill, but to torture people (including himself). What he does to the man that killed his wife in the end is something so graphic I don’t know how they can possibly film it. It’s that bad. But the point is, it’s impossible to forget this guy – and a great reminder of how important it is to write at least one great character into your movie. Actors will be kicking themselves to play this role. And once some A-list actor is cast as Abraham, it will be easy as pie to get other great actors interested.
Anyway, I loved this script. I can’t wait for the movie. And I highly recommend it for a read.