Premise: A journalist helps clear an inmate on death row and the two become friends. But when the inmate runs for office, the journalist begins to suspect he may have been duped.
About: This sold for enough money to buy a decent two-bedroom condo in Brentwood (low seven figures). Will Smith is said to be producing, but I wouldn’t be surprised if he jumped into the lead role. It’s a movie about a politician. And we all know Will Smith wants to be president someday.
Writer: Stephen Belber
Surprise! A change-of-plans occurred when a loyal reader sent me this at the last second. Don’t you guys know how happy it makes me when you send scripts off my “Scripts I Need” List??? (over to the right – ahem!) You instantly get put into a special e-mail folder that I worship on a daily basis. So keep doing it! Now that means my 5 day “Top Selling Scripts From 2008 List” just turned into SIX DAYS! Hooray! Well, sorta hooray. You’ll have to wait til Monday for the review of our 2 million dollar script.
So are you guys getting as impatient as I am? It’s been, what, three weeks since a script entered my Top 25? It’s starting to look like the only way new scripts will make it in is if I take old scripts out. note: Once a movie hits theaters, it is no longer eligible for the Top 25. :( Is that really going to be the only way we learn about the next great script? Or will The Long Run, the high concept drama produced by Will Smith, change all that?
How bout this for a movie idea? A murderer on death row, DARIUS, is saved by a liberal journalist, RICK, when he writes a series of articles putting into question Darius’ involvement in a murder. Once free, Darius takes advantage of his fame by running for office. As his star rises, Rick begins to have doubts about whether Darius is, indeed, innocent.
I don’t know about you but I loved this premise. When I heard it I went on a wild hunt for the script and thanks to the aforementioned reader, was able to find it. But you know what? I’m sorry to say that Belber drops the ball. He fails to focus on the elements (the hook) that made the premise so compelling, and instead gives us something that’s way too familiar.
Although there were a number of things I disliked, I think the thing that most bothered me was that this was so obviously tailored to appeal to an Oscar-seeking A-lister. You have the ex-con wrongfully accused of murder. Works at Oscar time. You have the underdog political rise to fame. Works at Oscar time. I mean all you need is to make him a boxer and half-retarded and the race would be over. Will Smith thanks the academy. Even the ending is a desperate (spoiler) bid for a gold man with the truth of whether Darius is the murderer being whispered off-screen, leaving it *up to us* (sigh) to decide if he did it or not (echoes of the “whisper” from Lost In Translation that almost got Bill Murray an Oscar).
But like I said, it’s that aversion to what makes the script interesting that really bothers me. .There are so many components that could have led to a cool thriller here. Maybe even a cool political thriller. But the only thing Barber does with his hook is throw a worm on it and lure us in so we have to watch this boring underdog politician story that we’ve seen a million times before.
The script has some logic and structural problems as well. Part of Darius getting out of jail is dependent on the completely coincidental confession of his friend who’s in another prison 3000 miles away. Wow, how fortunate that this guy admits to the murder right when Darius needs him to. We’re led to believe that his friend did it out of loyalty. But exactly how loyal is someone who keeps their friend in jail for 15 years before admitting to a murder they committed? If only I had friends that loyal.
In addition, the script moves back and forth between Nick and Darius, and it’s unclear whose story it is. It starts out being Nick’s as he tries to get Darius out of jail. But once Darius gets out, we’re spending more and more time with Darius. I admit this is a pet peeve of mine and some people are fine with switching points-of-view. But there’s a certain pattern you have to establish early on if you’re going to go this route. And that pattern wasn’t established in The Long Run.
There’s also a relationship with Darius and his wife Opal (he married her before he went to prison) that just never works. There seems to be no reason whatsoever for Opal to stay in the relationship (she pretty much hates Darius) and yet she does. Why? Beats me. Their storyline completely mystified me. It was odd and strained and illogical.
There are some good things sprinkled throughout. There’s a great scene early on (which I’ll get to more in my “What I learned” section) between Darius and the father of the boy who was murdered. It’s creepy and intense and exactly the kind of tone I was hoping for when I started the script. Unfortunately after that scene the father isn’t seen again until the end.
I did like how Barber played with the theme of truth though. Darius’ political campaign is predicated on this idea that he’s the only politician that “speaks the truth”. And of course the whole time we’re wondering, is he telling us the truth? Or is he, indeed, the murderer?
So, does The Long Run make it into my Top 25? I’d have to say…………..no. The script is by no means bad. It’s well-written. It’s just that in trying to cater to the actor’s vanity, it focuses on the wrong things. But if you want to see what a 7 figure script reads like, take a look at The Long Run.
script link: The Long Run
[ ] trash
[x] barely kept my interest
[ ] worth the read
[ ] impressive
[ ] genius
What I learned from The Long Run: So I’m reading The Long Run and I’m barely able to pay attention. My mind is wandering. I’m inching forward, constantly checking the page number. And then, about 32 pages in I become riveted by a scene. Whenever that happens, particularly in a script I wasn’t enjoying, I go back and figure out what got me. Naturally I want to use the device in my own screenplays. — It’s a simple scene really. Rick and Darius are walking down the street and this strange man approaches them. He asks Miles if he is indeed Miles, and then proceeds to say a series of very strange things. The air is thick with tension. Who is this man? Why is he here? What is he capable of? It’s a very spooky scene. And I realized the reason I liked it so much was because it was *unexpected*. Up until that point in the script, everything had gone exactly according to plan. There wasn’t a single surprise. I make this mistake in my screenplays all the time. Everybody does. You can get so focused on what you’re trying to do with your story that you forget to surprise the audience – you forget to throw a scene in there that the audience doesn’t expect (because *YOU* weren’t expecting it) Those are the things that keep readers on their toes. Unfortunately, The Long Run didn’t capitalize on this scene. You introduce the most interesting character in the movie so far…and then never show him again. Well, until the end anyway. It’s a major missed opportunity. And it’s one of the reasons this script really didn’t work for me.