LOGLINE: A group of ex-army infantry soldiers who run a mobile food truck in Vegas must fight back when they are extorted by a local Mexican gang.
WRITER: Wesley K Clark II
SCRIPT BIO: 2016 spec script from Tantillo entertainment and ICM.
The story starts well. We find a group of infantry soldiers in the middle of a minefield in Afghanistan. The leader of the pack, Master Sergeant Perry (45), has just activated a trip-wire.
Most people would shit themselves in a situation like this, but not Perry or his band of men. They're unrealistically calm - even when they suddenly come under fire from enemy snipers.
Cut to some time later, a year, maybe two or three, and we're in Las Vegas.
Here, we find out that all the men made it out of that tough situation alive and well.
We join Perry who has just invested everything he has into a mobile food truck.
He's invited all his army buddies to come and work with him, and rather than do something with their own lives, these men stick together and start working on the truck, trying to sell grilled cheese sandwiches.
With me so far?
Pretty exciting stuff huh. (sigh)
They set off into a rough part of town and setup selling their grilled cheeses opposite a Korean food truck.
The Korean food truck is killing it, the queue for their food is a mile long. Our army men aren't having an easy time selling their grilled cheeses.
But slowly over the course of a few days, they start to make money.
Just when things seem to be going well -- a local Mexican gang member tries to hit them up for $500 per week - roughly 10% of their weekly takings.
This happens at around the page 30 mark.
That's right for 30 pages we've watched these army men setup a grilled cheese truck.
Perry and his men go to the local police to report being extorted, but apparently there's no laws against extortion. Sigh(#3).
Things soon escalate, when Perry's son has the shit kicked out of him by another gang member at his school.
Perry then escalates things further by kidnapping the gang member that beat his son and threatens to kill him.
One of Perry's men is then shot in the face by a 12 year old gang member.
Perry and his men then decide to take this gang on head to head in an all out assault.
The question becomes, will violence save the day? Will Perry and his men get away with multiple homicides?
I loved the open scene. Or rather, I thought I loved the opening scene, until I saw the way the rest of the script was written and handled.
Then I realised that the opening scene was as corny and unrealistic as the rest of this script.
This script pretty much does everything wrong.
I kept waiting for it to get intelligent - I kept waiting for the great moral of the story to hit me - but there isn't one.
I think Donald Trump would love this film.
It's about ex army vet's killing suburban Mexicans.
I would actually go so far to say this script is borderline racist. It paints Mexicans as black and white evil, and the army vet's as angelic heroes.
It's the sort of story you would expect to come out of the Reagan area.
Even in the ending when the army guys go to take down the 'gangster' - I thought, okay, here we go, this will be where I'm proved wrong - all the army guys will die and it will have been a great big setup leading to a point where the script had a point to make - being "violence doesn't solve anything."
This script advocates using violence to resolve conflict.
There was nothing intelligent here - it was a pure revenge script - it would make a great addition to the Expendables franchise. Expendable 8 - Grilled Cheese Chaos!
Ex army vets setup a grilled cheese food truck and battle local gangsters for turf.
Does not get me excited.
Would you pay money to see this in a cinema? Or does it sound like something you'd maybe catch if you had nothing else to do and it was on Netflix?
I can get behind the kernel of the premise of this idea - army vet's reintegrating with life after being in war. That's a very worthwhile topic.
My problem here is the flag waving, overly patriotic execution of this base idea.
Even with that said, hasn't that idea been done and done? There's just not enough here to justify this being made into a film.
CONCEPT RATING: 3/10
CONCEPT TIP: Put your concepts through the CINEMA TEST. Write down the core concept of your story then ask yourself, if this wasn't your film, would you PAY MONEY to see that in a cinema . And here's the trick to this test - be honest to yourself. It's harder than you think.
Form wasn't good here.
It was actually under written. I often complain of over writing - but here we went in the opposite direction. It was so sparsely written, that at times it felt like the writer got bored of writing and wanted to sum up what was happening in the most overly concise way possible.
Bold was also used here. Do not use bold in a screenplay ever. It screams rookie.
There were also instances where the writer write a slugline - then went straight into dialogue. Never do this. Always write a description of what's happening in the scene. Without a description we don't know who is there, and what they're doing.
Really simple stuff.
There were also spelling mistakes galore and often whole words missing from sentences.
FORM RATING: 4/10
FORM TIP: Learn the screenwriting form rules. Read How Not To Write A Screenplay.
Structure was terrible here. I can assure you the writer has no idea what the hero's journey is. None of the characters have an inner journey what so ever.
Everything that happens here is external.
Without an inner journey your structure is going to be weak.
Take the inciting incident - when the gangster tries to extort them - this takes place around page 30.
That's terrible. The inciting incident should happen at around page 10 - 15 at the very latest.
The inciting incident in JAWS happens in the opening scene.
After the inciting incident the story then waffles on for act 2 - until they finally decide to take down the main gangster which is kinda like act 3.
But not really.
When a character doesn't have anything to overcome within themselves, then it's very hard to create an interesting structured story around them.
If anything, Perry actually starts the film with NO FLAW, then develops a flaw throughout the film.
At the start of the film Perry is essentially a law abiding citizen and a pacifist. By the end of the film he is a murderer who advocates the use of extreme violence to resolve conflict.
STRUCTURE RATING: 1/10
STRUCTURE TIP: Learn how to use the Hero's Journey to give your story a second layer. First layer is the external stuff that's happening to your hero. The second layer - the emotional later - is what's happening to your hero inside them. This second layer is what we, the audience engage with and connect to.
CHARACTERS & DIALOGUE:
While there were maybe 10 characters here, really there were only two.
One good guy. And one bad guy.
ALLLLL the army guys spoke the same way. ALLLL the army guys were cardboard cut-outs of each other. I think there was one difference in that one of the army guys didn't want to use violence and one did, but ultimately the one who didn't finally decided that he did.
The 'bad guys' were equally identical.
There was a 12 year old, a 20 year old and say a 35 year old. They were all carbon prints of each other.
Dialogue was also dull as hell. Not one character spoke in a different way to any of the other characters. Except to say that the Mexican gangsters spoke in the single most cliche way imaginable. They finish every sentence with 'Homey'. Just another element of this script that leaned toward stereotypical racism.
CHARACTERS & DIALOGUE RATING: 3/10
CHARACTERS & DIALOGUE TIP: Differentiate your characters. Give them quirks. Give them opposing personalities. Especially when you have a high character count.
When you have a group of 5 or so people together and they all speak and sound the same and all agree with each other - it's going to get boring quickly.
Remember this - DRAMA IS CONFLICT.
Every scene should have conflict. A scene without conflict is boring. Simple as that.
TAKE A LOOK at American Beauty. Almost every single scene in that film has conflict.
Our main character is in conflict with EVERY OTHER character in that film.
His wife hates him, his boss hates him, his daughter hates him, his neighbour's father hates him. That's a great example of conflict driving a story.
Can you imagine that film if he got along with his daughter and wife and boss? Where would that film be now?
Voice suffered here because of --
Almost no structure.
Carbon copy characters with carbon copy dialogue.
When your script is weak in all these areas your voice is going to come across as weak also.
VOICE RATING: 3/10
VOICE TIP: Break down your screenplay into the elements I do on this blog. Identify the element/s of your script that need work and refine them until each aspect pops.
I wouldn't be surprised if this did end up in the Expendables franchise.
Stranger things have happened.
I would not put money into this film as I don't see a return.
Even if you got major talent behind it, it just doesn't have enough going for it to get bums in seats to make this a profitable film.
It'd be a 20 mill production at least and add to that a $30 mill P&A budget (prints and advertising) then factor in that you need to make 3 times your production budget at the box office to just BREAK EVEN - do you see this film making $150 million?
I surely don't.
Poor concept executed weakly.
OVERALL RATING: 3/10