A ScriptShark review of the Four of a Kind screenplay

This isn’t so much a review as it is “coverage”.

Per Wikipedia, Script coverage is a filmmaking term for the analysis and grading of screenplays, often within the “script development” department of a production company.

So it’s a report card basically. You pay someone, they read it, review it and grade it.

The grading scale goes like this: PASS, CONSIDER, RECOMMEND.

95-98% of scripts receive a PASS. Just the nature of the business. There is no risk when you say No, which is what a PASS is.

CONSIDER/RECOMMEND are given to about 2-5% of scripts. I’d guess Recommend is giving to less than 1%.

Anyway, Four of a Kind just received a CONSIDER from ScriptShark and below is the entire review, including the parts where they believe the script could be tightened up.

Dark, gritty, and evocative in style and execution, this script seems to channel the tonal sensibilities of a blend of movies like 25th Hour or even The Godfather, drawing together a well-textured and carefully-drawn cast of characters, and propelling them through a plotline that remains engaging and intriguing from start to finish. Superb dialogue is combined with a Spartan yet effective written voice, forging, by the conclusion of the script, a finished product that seems to harbor substantial potential and artistic merit.

While there may be one or two extremely minor areas worth simply considering just a little further with an eye toward ensuring that the script truly capitalizes upon the fullest potential set forth by these existing positive assets, it is worth noting that it seems these remain, by and large, fairly small elements. Aspects of the character perspective, sympathy, accessibility, and emotional investment could, perhaps, be fleshed out just a little further, but even as it presently stands, it is worth noting that it seems the script creates a strong sense of tone, texture, and atmosphere, while forging an overall impact that remains broadly quite impressive from its first to its final pages.

Structurally, the opening flash-forward furnishes something of a prologue to establish the sense of ominous foreboding and unpredictable violence before, cutting back, the script reintroduces its central characters as they come together under the guise of John’s apparent return. As it becomes clear that the group is under surveillance, and that John is pursuing his own set of ulterior motives, the story begins to find its way into its second act, reaching a sharp turning point with Natalie’s shocking murder.

From this point forward, John’s efforts to find the culprits propel a fresh thrust within the plot, while Tommy’s capture and eventual complicity in the police investigation supplies yet another layer to the story. Funneling toward an inevitable showdown, the script lands on a tragic and yet broadly appropriate note, killing off most of its major characters, but successfully rounding out the mob investigation with Vincent and Mikey’s capture.

From the first few pages – and indeed throughout the subsequent balance of the story – one aspect of this script’s execution that easily stands out is its dialogue. In every scene, characters speak with what feels like not only utterly realistic voices but also ones that are unique and individualized. From the banter between the various characters to the more serious conversations carried out between the likes of Tommy, Kirkland, and Ellis, more or less every single exchange that transpires comes across as immaculately-crafted – a set of cinematic sensibilities that seems in many ways seamless in presentation.

Whether it is exchanges such as those in which the friends mock Tommy, implying that his first blow job was one that he administered, or the exchange between John and Deanna, on page 28, in which John keeps reiterating how he “wanted to” get in touch with her, the script sets up dynamics that seem tonally reminiscent of the work of writer Aaron Sorkin – an impressive feat that speaks to a refined and elegantly intelligent written style. John and Mikey’s conversation about English conventions becomes another example of the funny, realistic, and well-crafted banter throughout the script, while Kirkland and Ellis’s “fuck/motherfucker” exchange, on page 63, seems, similarly, to channel the texture and artistic sensibilities of shows like “The Wire.”

Every bit as impressive as the dialogue is the attention to detail, realism, and veracity and authenticity throughout the unfolding plot. From minor components such as the particular mechanics of John’s SIM card swap, in Deanna’s phone, to more significant elements such as the interplay between John and his “homeless” handler, the script deserves substantial credit for creating what seems an utterly realistic and multifaceted criminal/police dynamic. When John punches out a taillight to follow a car, rather than, in a somewhat more overblown execution, using a complex GPS device, the script sharpens, strengthens, and drives home its sense of veracity even further. It is details and scenes such as these that allow the story to come across as so faithful, believable, and riveting in delivery.

Throughout the script, the descriptive written style proves serviceable and expedient, if, at times, perhaps slightly Spartan. Scenes such as those on page 26, beginning with “EXT. VINCENT’S HOUSE – BACKYARD – DAY John and Vincent stroll,” for example, do seem as though they may sacrifice a slight sense of vibrant visual atmosphere and texture in exchange for a smooth and efficient introduction to the action and dialogue, but by the same token, the script manages to fill in its world with speech, character behavior, and plot development to carry each sequence.
In many regards, it seems as though the fundamental underpinnings of this script stand on extremely solid ground. A well-conceived story is combined with characters that speak in superb written voices, reaching, by the conclusion, a finished product that feels well-crafted, well-executed, and distinctly cinematic. In part because of the strengths of so many of these elements, it now seems possible to perhaps examine one or two more minor components with an eye toward simply ensuring that they truly capitalize upon their fullest potential.

To some extent, for example, it seems as if it might be interesting to consider ways of tightening and sharpening, just slightly, the sense of character perspective, emotional investment, and focus in terms of some of the central protagonists throughout this story. Although, to some extent, it seems part of the point of the movie is the dearth of easily identifiable protagonists – a more nuanced, complex portrayal of both sides of the law during a criminal investigation – it seems, at times, as though the script remains so evenhanded in its approach that it may sacrifice a greater sense of emotional connection or investment in any one or the other of the central characters.

In many regards, John seems the most likely candidate as the central protagonist in the script, yet for the majority of the movie, he remains something of an enigma as a person. He is clearly conducting an undercover investigation, but what is driving him, who he is as a person, seems slightly less immediately apparent. Has John been planning on running off with Deanna all along? Does he have other dreams, ambitions, or desires? What are his precise motives in cooperating with the government against his former cronies? Does he have his own set of internal conflicts, problems, and external stakes to motivate his actions?

Although these may seem like somewhat broad, general questions, it does feel as if considering some of these elements of John’s character might simply allow him to come across as all the more complex, three-dimensional, and accessible as a protagonist in the story.

Somewhat tangentially, it does also feel as though the Natalie murder may come across as perhaps slightly random in its delivery. While this turning point does successfully escalate the sense of tension, emotional stakes, and depth within the plot, it seems, to some extent, perhaps slightly circumstantial as it relates to the central John/subterfuge dynamic. Could Natalie’s murder in some ways spring from John’s actions? Maybe Mikey becomes suspicious of John, or this development emerges in a fashion somehow related to John’s return in some other way.

These are, of course, merely potential directions the story could take, and they are not by any means the only ones available to it. Even as it presently stands, it is worth noting that it seems this script manifests a superb sense of dialogue, character voice, and cinematic narrative style.

By potentially considering one or two minor aspects of its character perspectives, as well as the ways in which these elements influence the progression of the plot, it simply seems as if this script may have the opportunity to capitalize upon its considerable assets even further, but even in its present state, it proves genuinely impressive on many levels.

19 responses to “A ScriptShark review of the Four of a Kind screenplay

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