In November, we reviewed Kosta Kondilopoulos’ Lowlife. As readers of Shootin’ the Shorts are aware, our goal at STS is to find new and promising writers, and provide them with the platform they need to get their work seen (then hopefully optioned, and produced!)
One of our not-so-secret weapons in this quest is Danny Manus of No BullScript Consulting. Having worked as a development executive in Hollywood, Danny is an in-demand script consultant, named by Creative Screenwriting Magazine at one of the “Top 15” consultants in their “Cream of the Crop” list. Partnered with STS, Danny provides wonderfully detailed and helpful notes for the monthly STS feature script. This coverage is provided free to the writer, and can be posted our site or kept confidential – at the writer’s discretion. But wait – there’s more! Any script that gets a coveted “recommend” from tough but eminently fair Danny will be featured in his monthly newsletter and may also receive further exposure to his production contacts…
Below, please find Danny’s notes/coverage for Lowlife. Read, learn, comment…. and don’t forget to submit your best work for possible review!
**To submit a script, please visit STS at the page listed HERE. Danny can also be contacted directly via the No BullScript Consulting website at http://www.nobullscript.net/contact/. Or on Twitter @DannyManus.
NO BULLSCRIPT ANALYSIS
Type of Material: Screenplay
Author: Kosta K.
Number of Pages: 94
Submitted To: Simply Scripts
Location: Any City, USA
Coverage Date: 12/1/14
Budget Range: Low-Medium
LOGLINE: Trying to protect his friend, a criminal is forced back into bed with a dirty cop and the Russian Mob after a job gone wrong but this time he may lose everything he has left.
COMMENTS: Kosta, thank you for submitting your script, “Lowlife” to Simply Scripts. The following notes and comments will go through what works well and what still needs to be worked on or changed in order to make this a more viable and commercial script.
Overall, this is a solid script and story, and a pretty fast and easy read. There are a couple strong action scenes, nice visuals, and you’ve crafted a likeable anti-hero that we root for even though we’re not sure why. The killer with a conscience story has worked many times before, and can certainly work again, but the story and tone needs to feel really original to stand out. And while this is a nice read, I think the biggest issue is the originality and making it truly stand out. Right now, I’m not sure what really makes Lowlife, and Ritchie’s character, seem much different than Ray Donovan on Showtime or films like Jack Reacher or Drive. In fact a couple scenes feel very similar to those films.
The script could use a stronger specific hook to it. I like the noir feel, but I would suggest going even more noir with it and that would make the voice seem even stronger. The writing is strong, but I think it could feel a bit more mysterious and suspenseful – a bit sleeker or sexier – and perhaps the scope of the story could feel a bit bigger. For me, the porn angle seems a bit comedic and it doesn’t seem important enough or dark enough for these mobsters, dirty cops, and killers to all turn on each other. One mobster gets the hotter girls for their videos, so the dirty cop wants him dead? It sounds a bit too petty for stone-cold killers and “business” men. It’s more original than drugs or weapons, but it adds a more comedic slant to the danger instead of a noir or action feel.
The twist or reveal that Pete is a Detective and the dirty cop they’ve been talking about, is unclear. We are never told when we meet him in Trent’s office that he is a cop, and we don’t even know it for sure when he is at Dimitri’s house after Gwen’s murder. We’re actually not told this until later in the second act, and I think this could be revealed and made clear much earlier in the script. On page 45, Nikki and Ritchie talk about “that cop” and on pg 46 Ritchie asks if she knows who “HE” is and she says “some dirty cop,” but we still don’t know for sure it’s PETE they are talking about until Pete says it on page 61. And Pete is never around any other cops, he’s never dressed as a cop, he’s never seen as a cop. I think it could be even creepier to see that character in his police uniform at some point, and it could make for a visual and more shocking reveal of whom he is.
Structurally, I think you have some wonderful turning points in the second act that keep the story going, first with Nikki killing Gwen and it being Pete who finds her phone and calls them; and then on page 71 when they get double-crossed at the party. Your midpoint is exciting, but the action scene with Mike, Franky and Rocco isn’t really connected to the story – it’s just a random fight sequence. But as far as “filler” scenes go, it’s a fun and exciting one.
I’m not sure where the first act actually ends though and the opening scene seems a bit muted and I’m not sure it’s totally necessary. You could start the script in the rain in the dark alley as the car pulls up. Without dialogue or interaction, I’m not sure what the opening scene with the sleeping girlfriend really gets you, or what it tells us. The threat Sammy makes against her only means something if we really feel a connection between them, and from the opening scene the blonde could be a wife, girlfriend, or just some one night stand he’s watching in the morning. The relationship could be defined a bit better in that first scene to show how important the girlfriend character is to Ritchie.
It’s unclear if the girlfriend is pregnant in the opening scene. Perhaps if you’re going to open with the girlfriend, showing her as pregnant and maybe seeing Richie touch her stomach or just look at it, without any dialogue in the scene still, would set up a much deeper and clearer connection. It would also set up a bit more of a clear time frame as we don’t know how long ago she gave birth, was killed, or when he killed Sammy. Plus setting up that she’s pregnant will make us wonder if it’s the baby in the hospital, or the girlfriend or someone totally different and make us wonder what happened to her. Then perhaps the dialogue in the hospital scene could be even stronger on page 4. Something like “Any update?” “Still fighting.”
We learn that the girlfriend died by being run over by a car – seemingly on purpose. Who was this blast from the past and was it the guy Ritchie killed? Hard to believe that Ritchie didn’t get vengeance for this “accident.” Or if there could be some greater connection between her death, the man responsible, and all the mob guys and killers he’s working for/with?
After the double-cross when Dimitri takes Ritchie and Nikki, the third act brings us plenty of fun action and revenge and is pretty non-stop to the end. I love how Nikki’s death seems to reignite the killer in Ritchie and make him realize that being a nice guy wasn’t getting him anywhere and everyone must die, save one – Heather the innocent porn star – to prove he only kills guilty people. And I really like your last beat where we think Ritchie might be leaving the bag of money in the Church but then last second realizes that’s not who he is and goes back and takes the bag back. I think that’s a great moment that nicely defines that Ritchie knows he has nothing left to live for, so he might as well be the person he has always been.
The one bit I didn’t quite understand or believe is why Ritchie would go to such lengths to destroy all the evidence and not get caught, but then wear bloody dirty clothes with evidence all over them to the hospital. As a professional killer who has cleaned up crime scenes before, this doesn’t sound like something he would do. He would probably throw his shirt into the fire at the cabin. I like that the cops let him go because they all hated the dirty Pete, though perhaps it’s a bit of a stretch since Ritchie did kill like 6 people. But if the cop told him that the reason is because exposing Pete and everything he was into would reverse dozens of cases, put criminals back on the street, and destroy the reputation of the police force – then there’s more of a rational reason to let Ritchie go.
Projects like these usually get made when a big enough actor wants to play the lead role. Anti-heroes have been a growing trend in TV and film, and those types of protagonists usually are attractive to actors because it allows them to play different layers and emotions. And Ritchie feels like he has SO much churning inside of him right under the surface, but very seldom does any of it come out. I like that Ritchie has something innocent driving him as motivation – his dying baby – and I like that he has a rough backstory that he’s been to prison for 5 years and refuses to go back. It gives him a bit more of a moral compass and shows that he has compassion and a fear, but I’m not sure what Ritchie’s goal is in the story.
He goes on these little jobs given to him by other people and he wants to clean up after Nikki to clear her from Gwen’s murder, but there’s no clear case or goal or THING that Ritchie needs to accomplish by the end except survive. I would think that with his deeper need of getting redemption or vengeance for what happened to his girlfriend and Sammy, and with everything that’s happened to him, he’d have his own personal mission but there isn’t one set up. And then that goal or mission would be ruined by what he has to do to save Nikki and by working with Pete again.
Ritchie’s connection with Nikki is likable and they have a nice chemistry, but we never get much depth or backstory about them. There is a line that intimates they possibly used to sleep together or date, but we never get any real information about them or their connection. She’s a likable character who brings energy and levity to the script, and her death is definitely the emotional strong point of the story – perhaps the one true emotional moment in the script for the audience. I kept waiting for her to pop up and still be alive.
However, she does sometimes feel like this little neurotic Chihuahua constantly yapping in Ritchie’s ear. She tells other people she’s not his girlfriend, she’s not his friend, and she’s not his partner. So what is she? Where did he find her? Why does he keep her around? I actually think it’s pretty funny that after being told by Mike that she’s about to get beaten and raped in front of her boyfriend, her only response is “he’s not my boyfriend.” It makes her seem like a tough girl, but we already know she’s not really because of what happened with Gwen and how freaked out she is.
It’s clear Ritchie has this history with Pete and this anger or guilt over what he did to Sammy in the opening scene because of Pete, but other than knowing they “used to run together,” we don’t know anything about Ritchie’s relationship with Sammy or why this affected him so greatly. Did he have to shoot his best friend? After Sammy, has Ritchie been searching for some sort of redemption? Because he’s still doing the same things he was doing when he killed Sammy, so I’m not sure exactly how he’s trying to change.
Overall, the dialogue is pretty strong. You have nice moments of levity, the description is sparse and clear and easy to visualize, and your characters do have personality that comes through their dialogue. I think the biggest note in terms of dialogue is that it doesn’t always feel as NOIR-ish as it could, especially in Ritchie’s voice. His cadence and the speed of his dialogue and his delivery should basically set the tone of the script. It’s a solid thriller, but to make it stand out, I think giving it more of a noir slant could help.
Just a few specific page notes –
Pg 36 – Typo – It should be BOBBY who says the line, “He doesn’t get through that door again” instead of Richie.
Pg 40 – Can cut the scene heading at bottom as it’s the same location she’s already in.
Pg 43 – We don’t know immediately that Dimitri is the husband, as we’ve never seen him before.
Pg 54 – This scene with the 3 against one (and even Ritchie’s line about it) is pretty reminiscent of the Jack Reacher scene outside the diner.
Pg 55 – “I’m the one who got the fucking brain facial” is a great line.
Overall, it’s an enjoyable and fast read with a castable lead character. It’s a perfectly serviceable script. I think the biggest issue is just making the story and tone stand out against so many other thrillers about killers with a conscience. Stick with it! Keep writing! And best of luck! Thanks again Kosta for submitting your script Lowlife” to Simply Scripts, and congratulations on being the featured script of the month.
NO BULLSCRIPT 20 POINT GRADING SHEET AND RECOMMENDATION:
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