Posted by: steveonfilm | June 27, 2013

Screenplay Review: Where Angels Die

Note: This review is merely an opinion piece on how I feel about a specific script, how it compares to other scripts I’ve read, and how I think it would fare as a movie. Opinions expressed do not mean I could have written the script better, am capable of writing the script myself, or that my writing in any way compares to that of the writer or script itself. I try to keep things as general as I can, but I will mention some story elements that could be considered spoilers.

For those of you unaware, Scriptshadow is the pseudonym of Carson Reeves (which is itself a pseudonym for his real name) who runs a website that used to review un-produced screenplays. At one point Carson shared the scripts with his readers, but he stopped doing that a long time ago for various reasons (legal and otherwise). I’ll leave the merits of whether publicly reviewing an un-produced screenplay is a good or bad thing for another discussion (after all, I’m about to do it).

Outside of reviewing professional screenplays, Carson also reviews amateur writer’s screenplays as well. My screenplay “Served Cold” was reviewed about two years ago, and while he didn’t hate it, it was apparent my screenplay and my writing wasn’t ready for prime time. I can’t say I disagreed with the review, or most of the comments, they were fair and offered many positive suggestions.

Back when my script was read, the submission process to Carson was basically e-mail him the logline and script and if it peak his interest he’ll read it. Since then, the submission process has changed so that Carson sends out a series of amateur screenplays on his newsletter, and readers vote for which one they like the most, and he reviews that script on the site a few days later.

The most recent amateur screenplay to be reviewed was “Where Angels Die”, written by Alexander Felix, and Carson went gaga apeshit over it, putting it into his top ten scripts of all time. By “his”, I mean the list is specific to him and his tastes, not necessarily respective of the movie industry as a whole. This has happened once before with a screenplay called “The Disciple Program,” written by Tyler Marceca. However, the difference is Tyler paid Carson for notes, whereas Felix did not exchange any money (as far as I’m aware). Evidently “Where Angels Die” is adapted from the novel “In The Place Where Angels Die”, written by Richard Seal. I can’t find ANYTHING about Seal or the novel, so I’m guessing it isn’t published yet.. I could easily be wrong.

“Where Angels Die” is the story of Parker Jode, a social worker in Detroit with a plethora of mental issues and idiosyncrasies that make him basically a mess. All that aside, he’s 100% dedicated to his job, and you respect that about him. There’s a hinted at romance between Parker and a “stripper with a heart of gold” named Dalia Perez. Is this cliche? Yes. But I thought it was handled pretty well and in and of itself wasn’t anything that really pulled my out of the script. Parker learns that Dahlia’s husband is about to get out of jail, and it’s pretty clear this scares the hell out of her.

The first act sets the tone quite well. I really liked Felix’s writing style, and while some of the dialog was a little rough it’s all stuff I’m sure he’ll polish up as he continues to tinker with the script. I had a clear idea of the world, who the main players were going to be, and decent enough idea of what the stakes were. It wasn’t perfect, but I was entertained and wanted to keep turning those pages to see what happened next.

Quickly in Act Two we meet Horatio, his gang, and soon understand just how evil he is… which was somewhat of a distraction, but I’ll get to that later. Things tend to move quickly through Act Two, too quickly. It felt like there were some missed opportunities for some additional character development, particularly for Horatio. I never really had a clear idea of what exactly he was up to, which was fine, but when you put together a bad guy as cruel and ruthless as Horatio is, you’re left wanting to know more about him. This distracted me a bit and was one of the few things that pulled me out of the script while I was reading. I kept waiting to learn more about him but never got it.

I think about The Joker from “The Dark Knight.” He was ruthless, insane, and cruel. He was a fantastic villain because you never really knew what his motivation was, which was in fantastic contrast to Batman who’s motivation was crystal clear. Horatio and The Joker are similar in this respect, they’re both cyphers. The reason why The Joker worked and Horatio left me wanting more was perspective. The characters in “The Dark Knight” offered it about their villain, the characters in “Where Angels Die” didn’t. As Commissioner Gordon said, “Some people just want to watch the world burn.” That little bit of perspective was missing from Horatio, and I think if there was a way to work that into “Where Angels Die” it would raise Horatio up another level and satisfy one of the few things this script left me wanting.

Act Two and Act Three play out in a fast paced and unpredictable manner. Horatio and his crew do things you’re not going to expect in ways you’re not going to expect. This unpredictability made reading “Where Angels Die” a hell of a lot of fun. It was the key reason why you can easily look past some of the flaws int he script. The tension quickly builds to some set pieces that will certainly be fun on the screen, and kept just enough on the side of plausibility that you never lose that ability to suspend disbelief.

However, there is some bizarre stuff between Parker and his… look, I don’t want to ruin it but you’ll know what I’m talking about when you read it. How it plays out in the third act was kind of odd and left me scratching my head, but it was still enjoyable.

One little tidbit I’m interested to learn more about… “Where Angels Die” takes place in Detroit. As a native Detroiter I found the setting of the script appealing right off the bat. However, I’m not entirely sold that Felix is from Detroit or has ever been there. Several locations noted in the script (such as the Ambassador Bridge) are obvious landmarks of the city. But there was something to me that said, “These places were researched via some Google.” I could be totally wrong. Felix could be completely from Detroit. But, I’ve heard from some friends that they always know when a script that takes place in LA was written by someone who’s never lived there. I kind of got the same feeling here. Again, there’s nothing wrong with this… A LOT of movies are being filmed in Michigan due to tax credits, so it makes a lot of sense to set them there. It’s really just a curiosity on my part that I want to know more about.

Anyway, bottom line is that this was a fun script. It’s worth putting aside 90-120 minutes to read. Parker is an interesting hero. Horatio is a great villain. The supporting characters are fleshed out just enough. It’s fast and exciting. There’s some really good things in here, and it “feels” like a movie. Will it make it into theaters? Hard to say. Scripts are bought up all the time but never make it to the screen. Hopefully the odds fall in Felix’s favor.

Felix certainly has made a name for himself with the buzz this script is getting. I’m no industry expert, but I believe he’s signed with management and the script has gone out to talent, production companies, and I’m sure a ton of other people. Regardless if this gets made, Felix has gotten a rocket strapped to him right now, and I’m interested to see where this opportunity takes him and what he does next!

Keep writing,
-Steve

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