Sunday, October 27, 2013

(Unproduced) Screenplay Review: The Brigands of Rattleborge


(Note: read this script with a dictionary beside you)

Premise: A group of bandits ransack and terrorize a small town. After the rampage, the sheriff seeks revenge.

Written by: S. Craig Zahler

Technical: Original 2006 draft.

As a whole, Rattleborge is bombastic and verbose.

At first, I enjoyed the "thesaurus writing". It adds another dimension to the screenplay. It is a different style, refreshingly unique. While reading I looked up every word that I didn't know in the dictionary (online dictionary, not paper). It is refreshing to be exposed to such foreign, precise words. After all, part of reading is to improve your vocabulary, is it not? The problem is that it got old fast, and stopped developing the world of Brigands, and started detracting from it. The verbiage eventually becomes over the top, and unecessary.

Here is an example from page 2:
Billy SNAPS the reins to his horse, a subtle and efficient flicker. The horse obediently takes to the steep decline beyond the lip of the plateau, and picks its footing down.
Another example (from page 27):
Pickman runs his hand over his bare scalp to the point from which his retreating hair has not yet surrendered.
And it goes on. Further into the screenplay, about halfway through, the verbosity noticably slowed my read down, making it draggy. Trying to get through the pages felt like trying to run through water.

The wordy writing is a double edged sword. When it does work the situations and characters are wonderfully articulated, conveying as much as words can (on page 14, Ermine the barber is creepy before he even says or does anything!)

If used carefully, and in moderation, this writing style could have enhanced the script. In Rattleborge, this was the case sometimes. But overall, the language weakens the screenplay significantly.

The first third of the script was really good. But from post-rampage to the arrival in Quarterstone, everything dragged, and the quality of the writing declined significantly. By page 75, it was utter garbage.

By that point, it's blatantly obvious that the script is too long, in that there is a lot that should have been cut. Speaking of which-the journey to Quarterstone was painful to get through. All of the travel through the plains, or most of it, is very unnecessary. (This fluctuation of quality was extremely frustrating.) Aside from quality, there were other inconsistences. For some sections, the author uses normal, clear description. At other times, it seems as though large portions were written using a thesaurus.

Once Pickman and Abraham get to the Higgensford residence, the screenplay becomes brilliant, once again?? It's better written, and is really tense. And when Billy Lee comes home... it has to be one of the best scenes I have ever read in a screenplay. Intensely, sickeningly satisfying, and terribly exciting, it is the absolute definition of badass. Reading through the entire screenplay, just to get to the climatic ambush scene,  is worth it. After this, thankfully, there is an avalanche of chaos and violence, and things go full force until the end.

For the most part, the characters have razor sharp personalities, and are well developed. Even the smaller characters pop off the page. But the inclusion of some characters is unecessary (Ermine, The Gouley Brothers, Grant and Donna Tylor, etc.) They are introduced, and then die. They contribute nothing to the screenplay. They aren't very interesting or entertaining alive, nor are they dead. Cutting superfluous characters and situations like these would shorten 9and tighten) the script significantly.

Rattleborge is quite a creative, clever piece. It has moments, even sections, of brilliance. But some heavy reworking still needs to be done.

As it stands, The Brigands of Rattleborge is better than mediocre, but far from great.

History: Rattleborge was the number one 2006 Black List script. It has rotted in development hell, probably due to its extremely violent content. As of October 2013, the the project is unproduced.

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