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MORIARTY Captures The Shooting Draft Of SUSPECT ZERO And Puts It Out Of Its Misery!!

Hey, everyone. "Moriarty" here with some Rumblings From The Lab.

This is a mercy killing. Trust me.

Every now and then, a script sells for a lot of money, and it becomes the hot read in town. Sometimes, the films end up being really good (THE SIXTH SENSE) or big hits (INDEPENDENCE DAY, AMERICAN PIE), and sometimes, they end up being spectacular misfires (THE LONG KISS GOODNIGHT) or interesting failures (THE LAST BOYSCOUT). I do my best to read each of these big spec sales when they happen, and what I’ve noticed is that more often than not, the scripts that sell aren’t the films that come out. Instead, they are promises of what the films might be. A great spec script... the kind that generates real discussion in town... is a script that gets the reader all hot and bothered, no matter how the film finally ends up.

SUSPECT ZERO was one of those scripts.

I first tracked the script down when Ben Affleck and Sylvester Stallone were circling it at Universal. I managed to get hold of Zak Penn’s August 1997 draft, the same draft that was used to get actors aboard the film, even after other drafts were written. There’s a reason Penn’s script generated enormous heat in town and got him a deal at DreamWorks and got him rewrite work on REIGN OF FIRE and got him the gig on X-MEN 2. It’s a great concept, executed with little or no adornment. It’s clean writing, well-researched. And it was one of the best police procedural thrillers since SE7EN.

The opening scene of the script set the tone right away. HAROLD SPECK sits alone in a diner, one of those middle of nowhere side of the interstate places, in the wee small hours of the morning. He’s a nondescript little guy, reading the paper, quiet. A disheveled man, O’RYAN, takes a seat across from Harold in his booth and begins talking to him. It’s apparent right away that O’Ryan has been watching Harold for some time. He starts talking to Harold about life on the road, about how lonely it can be.

And as they talk, O’Ryan slides a photo across to Harold. Then another. Then another. And Harold freaks out as he sees them, even though the audience doesn’t. He calls O’Ryan sick, then goes to leave. Before he can, though, O’Ryan grabs Harold’s hand, squeezing it to force it open. He looks at Harold’s middle finger, which extends at least an inch and a half longer than the rest of his hand. Harold snatches his hand away and storms out. Once he’s on the road, he realizes that O’Ryan is in his car with him, and there’s a struggle. O’Ryan forces Harold off the road and into a small, seedy rest stop, and just as O’Ryan attacks Harold, we cut to --

THOMAS MACKELWAY. Former cop. Hotshot new recruit to the Bureau who feels like he’s stuck in a shitty job in the San Angelo, Texas FBI Office. He’s our lead. He’s pretty much your standard issue lead in a film like this, much like David Mills in SE7EN. Almost but not quite a blank slate. On his first day, he gets pulled into the investigation of the murder of Harold Speck. Seems that after he was murdered, his car was pushed so that it was straddling the state line between Texas and Oklahoma, making it a federal case. When Mackelway investigates Speck’s car, he finds a case full of knives and other carving instruments, and the discovery of lime on the outside of the trunk leads to the grim cargo of the trunk, the bodies of two dead young women. A search of Speck’s house reveals more bodies buried in a crawlspace. He was obviously a working serial killer, which raises the question: who killed him, and why?

Examination of Speck’s body leads Mackelway to EVBD, or Episodic Violent Behavior Disorder. It’s a common chromosomal deficiency in rapists, murderers, serial killers. There are physical markers that show up whenever EVBD shows up, “linked attributes.” One of those is an elongated middle finger. Bruises on Speck’s wrists show that his hand was forced open by someone looking for something... looking for that middle finger. In his conversations with Fran Kulok, a medical examiner, Mackelway advances the theory that they’re looking for a modern-day Van Helsing, someone hunting serial killers, our modern-day vampires. He and Kulok end up on O’Ryan’s trail, and they are viciously attacked and beaten for their troubles. O’Ryan challenges Mackelway, dares him to come chase him down. He carves a clue in Mack’s flesh.

All of that is just the first act of the script. It’s so well-built, such a sure-handed thriller, that I was willing to go anywhere with it. I wanted as wild a ride as possible, and I knew that it would be handled well. When a writer does his job building a first act, you can’t help but get sucked into it. Even if the form is familiar, style and presentation goes a long way. Penn tells his story with absolute conviction. There’s a quiet earnest quality to it that makes it work. There’s not a single pretentious flourish to the script. There’s a scene where Mack goes to talk with a professor, an author named DAITZ, who lays out the idea of Suspect Zero, which ties in to the symbol that O’Ryan carved into Mack. Daitz asks Mack if he’s ever seen a fifty foot shark. Off Mack’s confused reaction, he continues:


I assume the answer is no. The largest predatory shark ever caught was twenty four feet. But does that mean a fifty foot shark does not exist? A group of biologists tried to answer this question. You see, sharks only come near humans if they run out of food. For a fifty foot shark, the ocean would be a never-ending buffet table. He could feed off whales, octopus; he’d never have any need to surface or come to shore. So these biologists decided that if there was a fifty foot shark, we would never know about it. And as a result of this conclusion, these scientists decided that there are fifty foot sharks. We just never see them.


Suspect Zero is a similar theory. It posits that if a serial killer were smart enough and had the means at his disposal, he could conceivably kill for an indefinite period of time without being caught. Swimming under our radar, so to speak.

Mack finds himself becoming obsessed with the idea of Suspect Zero and whether or not he really exists, even as he finds himself drawn to the mystery of O’Ryan, determined to track him down and figure out who his next target is. That leads him to Virgil Ray Starkey, who just might fit the profile for Suspect Zero, and who has just been released on a technicality.

Keep in mind, what I’m describing is the script that sold. Zak Penn’s script. And there’s a reason for this. I’m trying to paint you a picture of what might have been. I’m trying to explain to you why people like Steven Spielberg got excited when they read the script, so that when I explain to you what Cruise/Wagner and Intermedia have done to the script in their recent draft, the shooting draft that Elias Merhige is preparing to put in front of the cameras, you can understand the level of the travesty. You can get some sense of how you’ve already been sold out as an audience, and just what sort of pretentious prattle they’re going to try to pawn off on you.

In Penn’s draft, O’Ryan is a haunted man, determined to find Suspect Zero. He hunts down Virgil Ray Starkey before he can do anything terrible, and their encounter is brutal, sudden, and shocking. O’Ryan kills him, saving the life of a hitchhiker who was about to be raped and killed. When Mack hears her testimony later, he is hit by his first pang of moral conflict: if O’Ryan’s doing something for the greater good, how hard should Mack be chasing him?

Mack’s even more conflicted when he learns the truth about O’Ryan’s background. O’Ryan was one of the first generation of profilers with the Behavioral Sciences division of the FBI, and the pressure of it supposedly made him crack. He vanished, and some letters to his wife led everyone to believe he had killed himself. Mack’s work on the case leads to him being promoted, and he falls into O’Ryan’s hall of mirrors, wrestling with the notion of Suspect Zero and the ethics of the chase. In the end, he has to cross into O’Ryan’s way of thinking entirely if he plans to catch O’Ryan. He has to believe in Suspect Zero without question.

There’s a wild third act, breathlessly told, and it ends with the same kind of dark, hard edge that I love in films like TO LIVE OR DIE IN LA or SE7EN. It doesn’t pull back from where it’s headed, doesn’t compromise at all. It’s almost like UNBREAKABLE in terms of where it leaves its lead character. It’s about obsession being passed from one person to another like a virus, and it really is about how lonely it must have been to be Van Helsing. The fact that the subtext is made text here is effective because of the grace with which Penn does it. He strikes just the right balance between commercial and challenging.

And if they start shooting the script they have now, you’re never going to see the movie I described. Because what they’re making bears no resemblance to it.

When the spec originally sold to Universal, Tom Cruise flirted with starring in it. As part of that flirtation, Cruise/Wagner Productions got attached, making them co-producers with Penn. Remember... Penn got a hard education early in this business. He was around 22 when he and his writing partner sold INCREDIBLY VIOLENT to Sony, the spec script that became THE LAST ACTION HERO eventually. He went through an insane rewriting process on that film. He has rewritten other writers since then. He’s been on both sides of the process, and he’s made a real place for himself, something I always find impressive. I just read another script of his recently that I’ll be writing about in the weeks ahead, an amazing, taut little action/SF piece called JOHN DOE. I feel for a guy who went into this process, ready to fight for what he believed in, who found himself outmuscled on the film. In the end, I’m sure it was more important for Universal to keep Paula Wagner (and, by implication, Tom Cruise) happy than it was to keep the writer happy. Writers get replaced all the time. I’m not sure what happened between when Cruise/Wagner came onboard and when Intermedia got involved, but I know several writers had their hands on it. Most recently, Billy Ray took a shot at the script. I don’t know Billy Ray’s work very well. I know he was one of the many writers who worked on VOLCANO and HART’S WAR and THE COLOR OF NIGHT, and that he’s been attached to various projects over the past few years like Fox 2000’s remake of THE PAPER CHASE (produced by Jan De Bont), Richard Linklater’s film about Texas high school football, FRIDAY NIGHT LIGHTS, A.W.O.L., the Bruckheimer picture that might star Will Smith and Ben Affleck, and a project I’ve got a particular interest in called THE NAPOLEON OF CRIME, based on a non-fiction book about the real-life figure who inspired Arthur Conan Doyle to create Professor Moriarty in the first place. Maybe Billy Ray is a great writer. Because I haven’t read his other work, and because I don’t know what notes came from Intermedia and what notes came from Cruise/Wagner and what came from Ray himself, all I can say is that the draft of the script with his name on it is an abomination. Elias Merhige also has his name on the front of the script, and it’s obviously a Director’s Shooting Draft. I’m sure that Merhige had enormous input into this version of the film, and that this is what he wants to make.

And that’s what scares me.

Right away, what strikes me about the new version of the film is a level of pretension to the overall reconception of the film. This film wants to be something serious, something eerie, something both dreamlike and frightening. But it’s thrown out almost everything that made Penn’s original script so interesting and replaced it with what William Goldman would call “Hollywood horseshit.” The difference is apparent right from the beginning. At first glance, it looks the same. Harold Speck. Diner. Middle of the night. O’Ryan across from him. But there’s little details that are different. O’Ryan doesn’t check Speck’s finger. He gives him drawings instead of photographs. There’s a real different vibe to the whole thing.

Mackelway is still new to an FBI office, but this time he’s been busted down from a better job because of a screw-up in evidentiary procedure. He screwed up and someone terrible went free. As he’s getting settled into his office, someone starts sending him mysterious faxes of missing persons reports from around the country. As he works to figure out why, he catches a case. It’s Harold Speck, dead in his car. Parked on state lines so it becomes federal. And when Mack starts to investigate, lime on the trunk leads him to open it so he can discover...

... nothing. No dead bodies. Instead of a major clue that leads to detective work, Mack is suddenly struck by a strange psychic vision of wheat fields and gunfire. Meanwhile, in a motel room somewhere else in Texas, O’Ryan is having the exact same psychic vision. O’Ryan begins to draw, and ends up with a picture of that wheat field, of the muzzle-flash. And of Mackelway.

Okay... what the fuck? Psychic visions? Are you people out of your minds? It was already as high concept as you ever need a film to be. A serial killer who only kills serial killers chasing the serial killer to end all serial killers. And the best part of Penn’s script was the research. It was accurate. That thing with the elongated finger... that’s true. I heard Spielberg went home after reading the script to check his children’s hands. It’s creepy and effective because it’s real.

But psychic visions? For one thing, it removes any and all tension from the detective work in the film. In Penn’s script, Mack was a good detective, and he managed to piece together enough information to find O’Ryan. He’s a great profiler, and that makes him a worthy adversary for O’Ryan, the best profiler, even while gripped by madness. In this new draft, these mysterious faxes do all the legwork for Mack, rendering him inactive, and whatever blanks are left open are filled in by his psychic visions that begin to come more and more frequently, along with blinding headaches. And those visions... they keep him linked to O’Ryan, who the FBI says never existed. Because, you know... the FBI can just erase one of their own from existence. Happens all the time. All of a sudden, Quantico and a university and someone’s family and friends are all just convinced to not remember that someone exists. The way that Mack begins to track O’Ryan down in this new script is ludicrous, based on luck and magic. They weren’t content to just have one set of preposterous coincidences in the film. Instead, every new beat seems to be built on another coincidence.

For example, the case that got Mack busted in the first place was the Virgil Ray Starkey case. He sent some evidence to the wrong lab, and so Starkey walked. O’Ryan hunts Starkey down and viciously murders him, and of course, it’s Mack that catches the case. Now, instead of Mack being led to Daitz because of the symbol carved into his skin, Mack just happens to stumble onto the work of Daitz and decides to visit him. And Daitz just happens to be O’Ryan in disguise. And now Mack’s involved in an affair with a secretary from the Bureau, and she just happens to have a friend who may have been abducted by Suspect Zero, and her case may just contain the clue that only Mack would be able to pick up.

I mean, my god, they don’t even reveal the truth about Speck until page 60. It’s a serial killer film, but they’re afraid to use the term. They hold it off as long as they can before revealing it. It’s coy and it’s phoney, and it means that there is all sorts of awkward, unsuccessful restructuring going on, decisions that just plain hobble the film instead of helping it. Mack spends an inordinate amount of time not only trying to prove the existence of Suspect Zero, but also of O’Ryan, which seems like wasted energy.

And when the whole monotonous subplot with the mysterious faxes comes to a head, it has got to be one of the most anti-climactic, nonsensical, pointlessly arty decisions I’ve ever read in a rewrite. Mack ends up with thousands of missing persons in his file, and he gets a wall-sized map of the US, putting a black pin in every spot where someone was abducted. What he ends up with is described like this:

And those black pins, seen from a distance, form a patter we weren’t expecting – something that never quite took shape when the pins were yellow.

Looks like a big black WAVE. And that’s just what it is.

1,000 black dots conspiring to form the exact same shape that O’Ryan had painted onto the wall of his room – massive wave of darkness, gathering strength.

But this black wave is consuming America...

Huh? A black wave? That’s the big scary reveal of the film? An abstract wave shape made of black pins. We’re supposed to believe that a killer has been intentionally creating an Impressionist painting with the pattern of his abductions? This is where the script really lost me, but it manages to get worse as the plot continues to get overcomplicated by things like a secret government program called Icarus, designed to promote the development of psychic talents like remote viewing. Somehow, this has linked O’Ryan and Mack, and what plays out is like a really, really silly version of the big confrontation with Leo Crow in the hotel room in MINORITY REPORT. It’s supposed to be a shocking and provocative climax, but it’s the exact opposite. It’s insulting and stupid and a completely ridiculous place for the film to end.

There are so many things wrong with this draft that there’s only one way for it to get better: pull the plug, go back to basics, and start again. Someone has overdeveloped this film, and it’s time to just accept that. I know how it is when execs become determined to justify the money they’ve spent on a film. They have to have something different, something that completely breaks from the original.

But I always thought the point was also to have something good.

I’ve met Elias Merhige. It was at the premiere in Westwood of THE EXORCIST: THE VERSION YOU’VE NEVER SEEN BEFORE. I was with Harry, and Merhige approached us to talk about SHADOW OF THE VAMPIRE, which we had both already written about on the site. He was pleased by the support we’d offered the film and he seemed very genuine, very proud of the movie he’d made. I’m not sure if he’s going to read this and take it as an attack. I’d hope not. I think he’s got ability as a filmmaker. If it were some near-mongoloid directing this film like Renny Harlin or Tarsem, then I wouldn’t bother writing any of this. I’d just shrug it off and assume that the film was never meant to be. But Merhige has a good film in him. I’m sure of it. I wonder if he’s even seen the older drafts of this thing. I would urge him to take a step back before film rolls later this month and look at what made this story worth telling in the first place.

One way or another, it looks like SUSPECT ZERO is about to finally find its way onto film.

Let’s just hope and pray that someone takes control of this out of control 18-wheeler, someone who can make it work before it flips and the whole damn thing goes up in flames.

"Moriarty" out.

Readers Talkback
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  • July 2, 2002, 10:44 a.m. CST


    by Eminenema

  • July 2, 2002, 10:58 a.m. CST

    Damn, this script looks like it had so much potential!

    by CoolDan989

  • July 2, 2002, 11:02 a.m. CST

    Sounds like Milennium

    by Howard_Roark

    Serial killers, supernatural visions of the crimes, secret government programs conspiracies and projects studying people with extra-cognitive abilities... Throw in a little old skool religion (like a thousand years old) and some Nazis and its all there. QUICK - someone call Frank Black!

  • July 2, 2002, 11:21 a.m. CST

    no reading in hollywood

    by BurlIvesLeftNut

    Executives actually have paid douche bags to read scripts FOR them. Its an excellent system. They have said douche bag read the script and then give a one page critique of the script. This one page critique is what execs and producers read. Oh and the douche-bag is usually some shit for brains college student whose most important moving going experience was Last Action Hero, because that's the film that made him want to be a director... ugh. Hollywood is creatively bankrupt. The best plan for future filmmakers to actually create something honest to their vision is to inherit, like, $4.8 billion dollars and then do whatever the hell you want.

  • July 2, 2002, 11:26 a.m. CST

    What DirkBelig has said brings up the whole issue of what us pas

    by scorpio2nd

    Bottom line is that if you want Hollywood to finance your films then you have to abide by their rules and allow them to change the direction of your project whatever way they see fit. As far as most studios are concerned (there are exceptions and if anyone wishes to point them out and hail them then please do so), cinema is not an art form or a way for creative people to tell a story in the visual medium the way they want to, it's an expensive buissness, the buissness of 'show'. I understand that the acqusition of wealth is an incredibly important factor but i don't understand why, with the increase of cinema ticket prices, it seems more important to studios than ever. With the money he made from Diamonds are Forever, Sean Connery started a trust in Scotland to help finance the pet projects of all types of Scottish artists, completley free from creative control. I'm not plugging Scotland, or Sean i any way but it'd be nice to see more of that type of thing. The question is, if ticket prices were raised even higher, would it change the way films are made in America, would more gambles be taken with original films, and would any of you guys be prepared to make that sacrifice.

  • July 2, 2002, 11:34 a.m. CST

    I'm just reading the latest Empire magazine and it makes a f

    by scorpio2nd

    then we could arrest the scum who pollute this otherwise wonderful medium. Come on people, who would you arrest (don't say Schumacher or the bloke who directed the Avengers, i forget his name, too obvious)

  • July 2, 2002, 11:57 a.m. CST

    The 3rd act of a film doesn't matter. The 1st Act hook is w

    by Ralph Cifaretto

    $Money$ is made on the opening weekend. Audiences go see a film based on the concept (spelled out in the adds). By the time they are learning what happens in the 3rd act, they've already paid. Look at Scooby. $100 million in 2 weekends, with a %50 something drop-off in week 2.

  • July 2, 2002, 12:02 p.m. CST

    Quality Street

    by reni

    Man I'm happy just reading the scripts, let's pass on the films.

  • July 2, 2002, 12:04 p.m. CST

    Oh, one more thing. If you're an executive, what are you ge

    by Ralph Cifaretto

  • July 2, 2002, 12:06 p.m. CST

    down the door.

    by Ralph Cifaretto

  • July 2, 2002, 12:19 p.m. CST


    by NOONAN

    And everybody knows it; yet if they did anything about it, eighty percent of Hollywood would be out of work. I mean, you sell a script, okay? Then anywhere from five to fifteen producers/"creative" execs give you notes on how to make the script better. Sometimes these people are smart, sometimes they are not. But no matter what, they always tell you to change stuff. Why? Because if they didn't, how would they justify the existence of their job? So you, the writer, try to make everybody happy, including yourself (impossible), and rewrite your script over and over until the studio is happy or sad. If they're happy, they bring on a high-profile writer (someone who's suffered through the process and managed to get a credit on a financially successful movie) to make themselves feel better and give the project some "momentum". If they're sad, they bring on a high-profile writer to make themselves feel better and fix what's wrong with your script ("what's wrong" almost always has something to do with you, the writer, trying to implement everybody and their mother's awful notes). After high-profile writer does a draft or fifty, the studio goes after a director. Once he or she signs on, they want changes and usually bring on another writer. Then they get an actor, who wants changes, then another actor, who wants changes, and then maybe, just maybe, your script, at least what remains of your script (a word, sometimes two) will be shot. And that's if your lucky. I guarantee you-- GUARANTEE YOU-- that if you eliminated the development process and shot the selling script, 99 out of 100 times the finished product would be superior. The sad thing is, everybody knows this; but the system is so ingrained, that they just try to move forward, fight the good fight, hoping for a miracle (a great movie, hell, a good movie) that almost never comes.

  • July 2, 2002, 12:33 p.m. CST

    The Fountain

    by DannyOcean01

    Hey M, not to sound pushy, but what happened to your Fountain script review. This movie sounds great.

  • July 2, 2002, 1:13 p.m. CST

    Hey Mori, how about this:

    by durhay

    You pick one of the newest must-read scripts. You read it, we get a link to it so we can read it too. From then on you update us from time to time with who is interested in the script, like producers, directors, actors and so forth. Like Elston Gunn's recap only for this one script. Basically so we can follow the development (in real time) of a film from script 1.0 to opening night. If it takes years, so what.

  • July 2, 2002, 2:36 p.m. CST

    It's the Director's fault.

    by Prankster

    Seriously. For all the complaints about power being taken away from creative people, the director can generally get the movie he wants made. If the studios really hate it they can demand reshoots, but even then the director is capable of fighting for the film he wants to make. The trouble is, way too many directors only care about the aforementioned "Hollywood horseshit"--flashy images, over-the-top twists, sentimental pap, or "dark" nastiness for nastiness's sake. Directors often don't care about solid story construction, believable characters, or some kind of overriding theme (let alone heart or morality). Obviously there are plenty of talented directors (duh) but only a handful of them genuinely think like writers; most of them just know enough to get out of the way of a good script. And those are the GOOD directors. Ironically, the writers always get blamed for the crap that gets foisted on the film by the director. Directors truly do deserve the blame for crap films. There often seems to be a point where films bottom out before getting rewritten into something decent (if usually rather generic). So I'll give Merhige the benefit of the doubt. But I thought "Shadow of the Vampire" was pretty silly in most ways, showing a reckless disregard for what actually happened, for the sake of, yes, pretentious artsiness. I don't think he appreciates any of this stuff that Moriarty advances--which, ironically, sounds a hell of a lot more interesting than the usual "serial killer" crap. I mean, a police officer with psychic visions tracking a serial killer? Give me a freaking break! That's the kind of shit they grafted onto "From Hell", thereby ruining it. So often, movies people think are merely OK were once great stories that got mucked up like that, and which would frustrate people no end if they knew what they were missing. Kudoes to Moriarty for getting this stuff out in the open.

  • July 2, 2002, 2:40 p.m. CST

    You see, this is what's wrong with this site

    by Billy Talent

    I haven't read any drafts of 'Suspect Zero'. If and when I see the finished film, I'll judge it on the merits of what's up there on the screen. Scripts go through a development process, sometimes for the better and sometimes for the worse. The average movie goer (and critic) is only concerned with the final product, and that's as it should be. This whole business of reviewing scripts seems kind of seedy and unfair to me. I'm not convinced one way or another. Cruise and Wagner have demonstrated superior instincts in choosing projects ('The Others', 'Vanilla Sky', 'Minority Report') and I wouldn't be surprised if the completed film turned out to be excellent. That it might not be the movie Moriarity wanted to see is completely irrelevant.

  • July 2, 2002, 2:43 p.m. CST

    If Cruise is attached to this in any way

    by Caine

    I a surprised that the Scientology angle was not mentioned. Or perhaps how all the serial killers were linked to Xenu, or how L Ron Hubbard was one of the first profilers. I do not mean to pick on him, but he lost all credibility for me when he claimed that Scientology cured his Dyslexia. *** This COULD be a really, REALLY good script, but the whole concept of the FBI profiler has become somewhat stale. It goes back AT LEAST as far back as "Manhunter" and that was in the mid-1980's. Do we even WANT to see what this piece of dreck will turn out to be? And the concept about the 50' shark parable is reminiscent of the supposed 'ritual satanic abuse cults' nonsense of the 1980's. Because there is no proof that somethign does exist, then we can conclude that it does exist because it is so good at avoiding detection. What a crock. It sounds good in the script - sort of - but it is a ridculous concept when you extract it from the movie. At least IMHO.

  • July 2, 2002, 2:45 p.m. CST

    Speaking of TARSEM, that pretentious hack...

    by Neil MacAuley

    Great article, Moriarty. Now here's my post on the Cell, from the Texas Chainsaw thread, in case you've moved on and missed it. I hope this silences you idiots who love The Cell, but it won't because you won't even understand my points... *******SERIOUSLY, pi, and other defenders of this film -- I'm even more adamant about this being trash than Texas Chainsaw. Becaues it had a good budget and decent talent but yet was completely misguided from the getgo. Ideally I'd want to go back through the film but to do that would be so angering I can't even describe it, so here's my take on its major faults, off the top of my head, which derail the whole damn thing from the getgo: **The premise falls apart in the second half of the film, especially the ending. It just doesn't make sense, logic goes out the window. Because they never b bother to clearly explain the RULES of the dreamstate. In fact, there are no rules, so the story loses focus and merely goes wherever the director wants it to go; again, in the name of STYLE. By the time Jennifer Lopez is killing him with the sword I have so many unanswered questions it's mind-numbing. Questions the filmmakers didn't bother to address, because, guess what, STYLE was more important than story. The whole idea of "killing" someone in the dream state is not clear at all -- what exactly is this achieving and why is Lopez, someone whose entire GOAL and main motivation of character is anti-violence (e.g. to save the abused children) resorting to violence in the end?!! It makes no sense in terms of character motivation and story (like the one scene of child abuse that's supposed to explain the killer's whole dementia and incredibly ornate mental fantasy world. And I'm sure a country hick like this boy has hundreds of progressive works of cross-cultural art in his mind, down to the nth detail, right?! Jeez.). **Vince Vaughn actually finds the kidnapped girl in the end, not Lopez, which just doesn't work at all because we never invest any emotion in him and the subtle sexual thing between him and Lopez goes nowhere and is completely limp. And the whole attempted murder of this innocent girl by drowning is sick and exploitative as it's drawn out. Overall... **The content with the kidnapped girl is absolutely disgusting and atrocious and unnecessary. Yet another grisly sexual serial killer in a movie for exploitative reasons *only*, wherein the moraity of the situation is never called into question. In The Silence of the Lambs Clarice questions Lecter's motivations, his sickness, and we feel real emotion for the victims of Buffalo Bob (not the Senator's daughter but Fredericka Bimmel and others we hear about). Not here. It's just irresponsible bullshit; not just morally but in terms of story and filmmaking; it's lacking theme and credibility and focus. **The performances: way over the top and it's OBVIOUS as hell that Lopez and especially Vince Vaughn are WALKING THROUGH this movie. Paycheck time. Vaughn must have been taking time off from rehab to shoot this, he's never looked worse. And again, his sallow eyes, unshaven beard, and frumpy appearance is NEVER ADDRESSED. Because the director doesn't understand this is a story about people, he just wants to find opportunities to put in his cool shots. **When we cut to the dream sequences, THE STORY STOPS. Dead halt. They are not CRUCIAL and they rarely advance the story. That's just bad writing and bad filmmaking. **The art: If it were actually a good film, I'd see the insertion of other artist's work in the film as an homage. But since the film is shit, it just amounts to stealing. The idiots on this board who don't understand film seem to think that just because something is remotely clever or new it's automatically "cool." But it has to actually WORK in the film. It's like if your song was sampled by Dr. Dre into a really great hip-hop song, you'd be cool with that. But if Vanilla Ice sampled it and didn't bother to do anything new with it, you'd be pissed. The very idea of sampling doesn't make something automatically "cool," just like here Tarsem's "sampling" of art in his film isn't used logically or to dramatic impact so it fails. I'm not going to lie; sure there were some striking images in the film, visually stunning at times. But most of the time I'm sitting there going "Why?" and it pulled me out of the movie. Make sense? Maybe if you studied story and film more, it would. And I know Ebert loved the film -- but Ebert loves anything that breaks new ground because his life is seeing 10 bad movies a week. And remember, he had "Babe: pig in the city" and "Dark City" as number ones in their years just as he picked "The Cell" number one in its year. So he ain't the most reliable there. Ultimately, Tarsem can't hold the jock of the artists he's ripping off and I bet they're embarassed to be associated with the film. I saw the exhibit at the Brooklyn Museum with the sectioned cow -- the thought of Tarsem standing where I was, looking at that exhibit and saying "I'm going to put that in my movie because it's cool," irregardless of logic, motivation, theme, or story, pisses me off to no end. I think I've said enough.

  • July 2, 2002, 3:17 p.m. CST

    Thanks a million for this awful warning tale, Moriarty

    by WarDog

    I could hardly believe as I read it, but it's true: what you described just got worse and worse...and WORSE! Like a Twilight Zone nightmare that never ends. Fucking Whoreywood never gave a damn about writers anyway, unless they happened to be the star or director or producer with all the power needed (aquired beforehand) to make their own film. Well, that may be oversimplifying things. I would love to sell the film rights to a major blockbuster novel, but with the codicil in my contract: that, if I didn't satisfactorily approve of the final cut, the credit "Loosely based on a novel by..." would HAVE to be in the movie print.

  • July 2, 2002, 3:22 p.m. CST

    I've never seen a fifty feet shark, but I've seen a fift

    by moderator

    The scientific theory is that fifteen inch penises are rarely seen because guys with such long shafts don't need to show them off, they get so much non-stop pussy that bragging would seem irrelevant to their already over-inflated ego.

  • July 2, 2002, 3:32 p.m. CST

    It's the directors who have too much power.

    by Wee Willie

    Give screenwriters final cut. The Auteur Theory is bullshit.

  • July 2, 2002, 3:33 p.m. CST

    The original doesn't sound that good to begin with.

    by FatPaul

    The "serial serial-killer killer" idea isn't exactly fresh, either. The concept was mentioned in an episode of Tales From the Crypt with Eddie Izzard, I think it was called The Confession. Then there was a low-budget picture with C. Thomas Howell about a serial killer who killed serial killers. The idea is tempting in a cute sort of way, but it negates any real tension because the audience can't be all that disturbed by the killings. After all, these guys really deserve to die. Remember, in Hannibal, how Dr. Lector only killed people who messed with him or who were "bad" in some way? He wasn't a serial killer; he was a superhero. And that's what our friend O

  • July 2, 2002, 3:45 p.m. CST

    Once again Moriarty sets the standard....

    by Manaqua

    great piece Mori. That was an insightful real life example of how a great script can go to sh$t by coming in contact with the hollywood system. Painful. Sheesh I was sucked in by the setup. I'm gonna track down tha original and at least get a good read, even if it never makes the big screen. And whats up with the lame psychic crap? WTF?

  • July 2, 2002, 4:07 p.m. CST

    I don't know about "Suspect Zero"...

    by PhlegmBrulee

    ...but I've tracked down "Patient Zero" and his name is Mark Ebner.

  • July 2, 2002, 4:10 p.m. CST


    by black sprocket

    ... pulled the same shit with the upcoming Renny Harlin film, MINDHUNTERS. They gutted the original script (I can't remember who wrote it) which was gritty and really fucking scary... and brought on a whole slew of writers to do a Hollywood hack job on it.

  • July 2, 2002, 4:20 p.m. CST

    Great script review, but what I'm really looking forward to.

    by glippyglipson some word on a movie called MORTAL KOMBAT 3: Domination. I mean, come on, Moriarty; this is your chance to REALLY explain to us how this whole Hollywood-thing works. Did people try to steal your ideas? Do you have a studio-exec voodoo doll in your closet now? Did you get paid at all? If you can, please let us know! Thnx.

  • July 2, 2002, 4:46 p.m. CST

    Great script, I love it, now let's change it!

    by mascan

    What a bunch of dickheads these studio execs are! They think that the only way to justify their enormous salaries is to throw money into rewrites of a script that didn't need them (see Monkeybone . . . or better yet, don't).

  • July 2, 2002, 4:53 p.m. CST

    This is What's Wrong With Hollywood

    by StubePT

    Why can't Hollywood take a step back and look at themselves? Hollywood and movie making is a business. The goal of any business is to put out the best product possible so that consumers will buy it. So why would a studio ever put out crap? Why, for instance, would you take a sure-fire goldmine like the Tomb Raider franchise, and have it bomb because you couldn't spend an extra million dollars on a halfway decent script? It's called "GOOD BUSINESS"! A good script for Tomb Raider would have meant repeat business. Repeat business would mean millions of dollars more in profit. Good marketing will make movie goers see a film once. A good movie will get them to see it twice. Why not put out a good movie everytime? If you're going to make a Scooby Doo movie, why not find someone to make it good? I just find it hard to believe that after completing Scooby Doo, they showed it to the studio heads and at the end they turned to each other and said, "this is the best movie we could have possibly made." Sad. Who wants to start a new production company where the WRITER is just as important as the director and the stars?

  • July 2, 2002, 5:13 p.m. CST

    Dreamworks fiddles with scripts to get them RIGHT...

    by Neil MacAuley

    but then not everyone has the story sense of Spielberg and Katzenberg. E.g... I read an early draft of Saving Private Ryan that was horrible, it read like a Sgt. Rock comic book. A friend told me he read an early Gladiator draft and it was terrible. American Beauty got much better as it was developed, shot, edited, and then re-shoots were added (the big change was ditching the framing device of the kids on trial for Lester's murder). Minority Report is just a damn well-written film. Shrek went through extensive development to get the script right, with respect to the legends it draws from. What else? They just know story. I remember when I was reading scripts for a major director based in NYC; I recommended he buy Memoirs of A Geisha; he didn't and Spielberg snatched it up. I recommended a dark, powerful thriler named "Girls," by Frederick Busche. Again, my bosses passed and Dreamworks grabbed it. I really liked Cold Mountain, they passed and now Minghella's making it for Miramax. These bonehead execs and big egos should listen to their Readers more often!!! Not all readers are idiot film school students, but most of them ARE film lovers and passionate about writing.

  • July 2, 2002, 5:27 p.m. CST

    Hey Hollywood! I'll polish this one for a small fee.

    by Christopher3

    Say, $50,000 against half a point of the gross. You know you're nothing without me.

  • July 2, 2002, 7:01 p.m. CST

    Isn't Failty about a serial killer serial killer?

    by TheChronic

    Isn't this plot basically Frailty, but without the cool suspense and flashbacks about what is really going on? I mean the whole plot of Frailty is this guy convinced that he is "hunting demons" in the last days. It is totally the vampire hunter theme, but with you never sure if he is crazy or not. Don't get me wrong, this might have been good if it really played up the police stuff and did it serious. Going the Frank Black route - well the problem is that its all been done. If you are going to go with it you really have to go with the ethical issues. But really, haven't serial killers been done to death now? Come on. Other than Frailty has there been an original serial killer movie in years?

  • July 2, 2002, 7:09 p.m. CST


    by brian O' blivion

    Is Thomas Mackelway 'Suspect Zero'? That would make sense.

  • July 2, 2002, 7:30 p.m. CST

    So Dirk -- you saying David Franzoni and Scott Frank and all the

    by Neil MacAuley

    Gladiator is a very tight, focused, epic action thriller, and Minority Report is a fantastic S.F. concept drama with the spine of a noir thriller. Not a single piece of information in M.R. goes unused in the story. Both films are examples of top-notch filmmaking and strong writing -- if you analyze Gladiator in terms of goals, theme, two running lines of action, multiple characters, epic scale, showing character through action, structure, etc. it's strong in every department. It's not a serious "issue" film, it's a sword-and-sandals epic; and it's better than 90% of Hollywood fare. And oh hey, in regards to M.R., you sayin' Philip K. Dick doesn't know how to come up with a strong S.F. premise?

  • July 2, 2002, 7:34 p.m. CST

    Yes, The Fountain!

    by wasp

    I am not going to forget that you have this script, Moriarty. That probably won't make the slightest bit of difference, but I'm still not going to forget. Both drafts of this Suspect Zero movie sound lame. I need The Fountain, and nothing else. I apologize for my whining.

  • July 2, 2002, 8:06 p.m. CST

    Phew! After reading that! I am fucking Exhusted!

    by MentallyMariah

    middle fingers, serial killers hunting other serial killers...Is Britney Spears going to do a cameo as a the hitchiker cuz honey thats the only way I'll see this piece of shit! The Original sounds like it Could rock but really does any one in Hollywood have the balls to make films like that anymore? Or are we going to Ashley Judd it all the way til 2010 with lame ass serial killer movies co-starring Morgan Freeman? High Crimes indeed!

  • July 2, 2002, 8:29 p.m. CST

    Well, Moriarty, you sure know how to bring an aspiring script-wr

    by lostoptimist

    Makes me think I shouldn't invest too much imagination or creativity or logic into my future projects. *SIGH* Maybe I SHOULD aspire to be a script-hack instead. Then I wouldn't care if my words got butchered. I could smile inwardly and say, "Ha, you Fucks! I didn't even give you the good stuff and I still got paid me!" Heh--And the sad thing: I'm only half-joking.

  • July 2, 2002, 9:32 p.m. CST

    please, please,please

    by schulerbop

    As a guy who simply loves a good detective thriller type flick, and who loved everything Moriarty desribed about Zak Penn's draft, I am begging anyone who might have the power to go with the Penn version. Didn't Seven ans Silence of the Lambs prove that this type of thriller is bankable. Somebody seems to have the idea that any movie containing physcic spookiness will make money. Hey, didn't anyones notice "the Gift"'s box-office take? All I want is a solid thriller, not some crappy flick from a director who is capable of more.

  • July 2, 2002, 9:33 p.m. CST


    by Billy Talent

    Okay, I want to back off a little from my earlier post. I know that writers get a shitty deal in Hollywood, and I didn't mean to sound callous about that. But all scripts go through a development or editorial process, and it's worth noting that that keeps a lot of writers employed. If a studio only purchased the twenty or so properties a year that it produced, if they only filmed first drafts, a whole lot more writers would be going hungry. It's inevitable that actors, producers, directors and others look at a script and say "Yeah, that's good, but what if... ?" And you know what? Sometimes (not always) that can make a script better. Harry passionately hates 'Scooby-Doo' because it doesn't live up to the supposed promise of an early draft, whereas I can't imagine any version of 'Scooby-Doo' that I'd want to see. Moriarity has a hate on for 'Suspect Zero', but then he adored 'The Green Mile' and 'The Patriot'. His taste is not my taste. Most people don't read first drafts, they watch finished films. That's what matters.

  • July 2, 2002, 9:46 p.m. CST

    Like We Need Yet Another Serial Killer Movie

    by Son Of Batboy

    This crap was tired to begin with. It shows its age. Not that any of those changes made it better, but this reads like yesterday's news, if yesterday were six years ago. Real scientific that shark theory. "Hey we can't disprove it, so it must be true." Sure, and I've got an invisible rabbit named Harvey and it talks to Elizabeth Smart. That middle finger gimmick sure wouldn't help weed out the likes of Dahmer, Bundy, or Gacy. Sure would help for flippin' off assholes in traffic though. One other thing. Van Helsing was too obsessed with his work to ever get lonely. Loneliness is for people with nothing to do.

  • July 2, 2002, 9:53 p.m. CST

    My God... That was an amazing read

    by Tsunami3G

    The original script was pure genius. Reading how it has become a bastard step-child of it's original self has really pissed me off. Wonderful article Moriarty. Keep them coming!

  • July 2, 2002, 10:04 p.m. CST

    hungry writers isn't always a bad thing.....

    by Manaqua

    maybe if a few more writers were going hungry, instead of hacking up great scripts, then a few of them might have reason to turn out original works! But I guess I can't knock 'em for getting paid! The Hollywood system and its idiot execs don't care about great scripts anyway, just marketable movies. You can tell 'em no, no, no, but a dog will still eat its own shit and slurp a pool of vomit........

  • July 3, 2002, 12:56 a.m. CST


    by burtonesque

    sorry to say this, but none of you know JACKSH*T about writing scripts. i am a CREDITED, LEGIT, ACTUAL HOLLYWOOD SCRIPTWRITER. maybe you heard of a little gem in the theaters a few years back that i crafted: KRULL???? yes. it was mine. i got my start as a "script doctor" putting on the finishing flourishes onto that now classic "THE LAST STARIFGHTER". as an example of what WE PROS go thru, john boy and some of the other actors tried to alter some key lines during the shoot. well, that's why we ATTEND THE SHOOTS. after i bitch slapped him he thought he was back on walton mountain. ok it's true, i haven't had much work since then but a friend of mine wrote "THE SKULLS". i helped chisel and flesh out some of the lines. "COME JOIN ME, KEVIN, AND BRING IN A NEW GENERATION OF SKULLS INTO AMERICA".

  • July 3, 2002, 4:32 a.m. CST

    "Now you startin

    by Max Rockatansky

    "...About fuckin

  • July 3, 2002, 5:08 a.m. CST

    Shane Black

    by Max Rockatansky

    Can anybody out there tell me what the heck happened to Shane Black? I think he is one of the best dialogue-writers araound and I am missing his hardboiled banter. Please, no "killed by the Predator" quips. Goon aiming gun at Joe:" Where do you want it? Head or gut?" Joe:" Your wife asked me the same question."

  • I mean isn't there anything practical that can be done (besides hoping they read this article) to influence these Hollywood twats? Because if there isn't, I would rather not have known about this whole sorry mess at all. Jesus wept. That was a good story in the making. And telepathy/dream links with the killer? Um ... The Gift, From Hell, Hideaway, 30% of X-Files shows ... that's for starters. For fuck's sake. What a heap of steaming kak they all were. Somebody do something!!!

  • July 3, 2002, 9:39 a.m. CST

    Fucking pathetic.

    by EvilNight

    Am I the only person who thinks a good script is the ONLY thing that matters about a film? I can forgive bits of bad acting, or bits of bad score, or shoddy camera work. I cannot forgive a shitty plot. If I'm not interested in the film on an intellectual level I don't really give a whoop in hell about special effects, direction, or any other aspect of the film. It's so depressing what they do to good writing now that it saps the strength from my fingers just to type about it.

  • July 3, 2002, 3:02 p.m. CST

    Dirk, you're sinking your own ship...

    by CaptainFantastic

    I'll agree with you that CT,HD was a triumph of beautifully choreographed action sequences, but if you think the "story" is superior to Gladiator, or MR, (regardless of how you feel about the film itself) you're only losing credibility. There was a running joke in Hollywood that the movie should have been called, Crouching Tiger, Hidden Story, and it was right on. Whatever you're feelings are about Gladiator and MR, they are well-made films, and you have to respect that - you don't have to like it.

  • July 3, 2002, 4:07 p.m. CST

    The last sort-of-cool serial killer flick I saw was "Copycat."

    by Christopher3

    Good script, nice plotting, no outlandish twists, real clues, actual sleuthing, no supernatural psychic anything. The female-female lead pairing was inspired too. Better than Brad Pitt-Morgan Freeman. Or Monica Potter-Morgan Freeman. Or Ashley Judd-Morgan Freeman. Or Ashley Judd-Samuel L. Jackson.

  • July 3, 2002, 4:15 p.m. CST

    Good points, Dirk Belig, but there's just one flaw:

    by SleazyG.

    "Starship Troopers" IS, in point of fact, the "Citizen Kane" of vacuous teenagers in space fighting critter flicks. Seriously: I challenge anyone here to name a better "teenagers in space vs. unstoppable alien force" movie. Otherwise, though, you make some excellent points.

  • July 3, 2002, 6:07 p.m. CST

    the thing with the hand,'s not true

    by devil0509

    I'm a doctor, and that middle finger thing is utter BS. Studies have shown that the prevalence of 47 XYY phenotype males in prison is higher than that in the general population. However, this genotype is not defined by long middle fingers, rather by tall structure, a tendency toward cystic acne, and problems in motor and language development. Further, studies of these males have not proved that they are more inclined toward antisocial behavior, and any such conclusions are inappropriate to make. Check your facts before you write garbage like that, Moriarty. Hollywood types love to take a fragment of medical information (or a complete misinterpretation of medical infomration), spin it into a huge wad of misinformation, and puke it into the public imagination to sell a story without any thought about what they are doing. I love the idea that morons like Spielberg are checking their kids for that telltale finger - what's he gonna do, get the kid in with a shrink if the finger is too long?

  • July 3, 2002, 9:04 p.m. CST

    Ah crap and I thought this was going to be good

    by MaxCalifornia.

    I too was aware of the "hot" nature of this script and I thought we were in for a cool flick with Merhige(sp?) and Aaron Eckhart and Ben friggin' Kingsley starring in it but...eeew I lost all hope at the psychic cop thing. That instantly takes the film out of realism and into "Cinemax presents..." territory. Yucky.

  • July 3, 2002, 11:40 p.m. CST

    Another great job, Mori

    by Johnny Ahab

    You truly rule this site, Professor. In laying out the first script, then the second, I shook my head at the BULLSHIT d-notes that derailed what coulda been a cool film. The fucking wave. What d-girl/boy thought up that shite?? Or maybe it was the brilliant Mr. Cruise himself? The same creative genius who thought up "Days of Thunder". Hey, pretty boy, stick to acting, okay?? Let the writers write, and not dilute them with your or your legion of lackeys' crappy notes. When actors get too uppity and want to write films, look out, here comes another "Hudson Hawk"!

  • July 4, 2002, 12:19 a.m. CST

    The movie was "To Live AND Die in L.A."

    by choprz


  • July 4, 2002, 12:55 a.m. CST

    Sounds like it could have been really really good...

    by TheMatarife

    But, the new version sounds like cliche shit. Give the new version a good trailer and pre release press and it might make 50-100 million with a good date and strong opening weekend. Youd better believe itd drop like a rock. The original version had potential to be a real hit. No one wants to take chances anymore, it sucks.

  • July 4, 2002, 5:57 a.m. CST

    Dirk, you dumbass...

    by Zefram Mann

    Attacking the intelligence of people for liking Gladiator is first and last act of a desperate man screaming at the top of his lungs because nobody is listening. All you do is make yourself sound like a pretentious asshole. No one here wants to here how they "lack a single firing nueron" because they liked Gladiator. It must really suck to be you if you can't enjoy a movie through its faults, but I guess you can, because CT,HD had faults as big as China itself that you neglect to mention. You're nothing but a lame-ass flamer troll with too much free time and a half-assed opinion that nobdy gives a crap about in real life, so you torture people on the net with it.

  • July 4, 2002, 7:33 p.m. CST


    by Billy Talent

    I've come to an interesting conclusion; in real life, Freddie Prinze Jr. is almost certainly a more pleasant, likeable and hygienic individual than Harry, Moriarity, or most of my fellow talkbackers. I happen to like 'Minority Report', 'Gladiator', 'A.I.', 'Starship Troopers', 'Attack of the Clones' and lots and lots of other films. And based on your incomprehensible rantings, I'm willing to go out on a limb and say that I'm smarter than you are and I don't need to defend my tastes to your like. Undoubtedly your favorite movies encompass what I would consider to be some real crap. But that's neither here nor there, what matters is that I like what I like and you like what you like and everything's coming up sunshine and lollipops and none of us has any particular monopoly on good taste.

  • July 4, 2002, 10:56 p.m. CST

    I hate it when psychics show up in movies!

    by Megaladon

    There's nothing that ruins a movie nore than when a psychic shows up. I don't mind ghosts, goblins, or monsters. But when film makers use psychics it not only ruins the film, it's a real sign of laziness. For example, I really liked Jeepers Creepers, until the psychic showed up! She was a lazy way for the writer to explain everything about the bad guy. This original script for Suspect Zero sounded great. Why did they have to stick all this psychic crap into it? Hollywood execs are such morons!

  • July 5, 2002, 11:15 a.m. CST

    State Line?

    by Heffaloo

    Did he push the car to the middle of one of those big-assed bridges? Because that's the only way to be on the state line between Texas and Oklahoma. And those bridges are so damned busy it's ridiculous. No, wait, it could be a panhandle state line. Yeah, that could work. Never mind.

  • July 5, 2002, 12:20 p.m. CST

    Christ! Lipnick can't read... you gotta TELL IT TO HIM!

    by coytuck

    I believe reading scripts in Hollywood is the equivalent to Butt-Head's reading anything at length. "Uuuhh... words... words... uuuhhh... This is too long. Let's go!" That's what coverage is for. The CliffNotes of modern Hollywood. They probably thought the "Middle Finger" image was merely gesture of flipping off someone. "We've seen that a thousand times in movies. Cut it!" Heaven forbid we ask these "Industry Wheels" the allegorical references in these stories. "What's this script have to do with reptiles?!!"

  • July 5, 2002, 5:32 p.m. CST

    He doesn't check the finger? WTF?

    by HallowedBThyName

    Highlights from another rewrite that almost happened: Yeah, we like this story, Mr. Spielberg, but we're thinking of going a different way. We're gonna go without a shark. Now, here's how we see it ...

  • July 5, 2002, 7:35 p.m. CST

    Dirk, Dirk, Dirk...

    by Neil MacAuley

    I'm not going to bother to refute every one of your asinine points one by one, even though I can, because it's a holiday weekend and I've got better things to do. Just two small examples of how much of an idiot you are: ****1) the ENTIRE POINT of the ending of Minority Report ***begin spoilers*** is that ultimately the system does NOT work! the final Max Von Sydow shooting proves that. And we were told this earlier by the 'inventor' herself: sometimes the pre-cogs disagree. Thus, there are flaws. That's the point. Sure, they could have ended on it being absolutely infallible, but that would have reinforced the same point we learned when Anderton ended up shooting Crow! Thus, no turn in direction, no surprise in the end, static plot, boom, it's over, how boring. You might want to learn something about screenwriting to know that it's kinda a good thing to end on a climax that SURPRISES the audience! Dillweed. ***end spoilers*** 2) And your Gladiator rambling about how the Emperor should have ASSUMED his bumbling son would MURDER him the moment he told him he wouldn't succeed him to the throne?! Yeah, of course, why wouldn't he assume that, considering the kid has never fought in a single war and by all accounts is a clueless fuckup. Why would an Emperor with absolute power NOT assume he'd be smothered to death spontaneously by his own son in his tent 20 feet from his guards and the entire Roman legions? Dirk you idjut: the whole point is WE didn't know Commodus would do that on our first viewing of the film, it was a surprise to us. The point is to make the audience feel the right emotions for the story at that particular moment. And on that basis, that scene (and pretty much every other one in Gladiator) was a success. Something Spielberg excels at (most of the time) because he understands story. ********And now, in light of earlier posts, I leave you with a fantastic quote from Roger Ebert from the final paragraph of his RIGHTFULLY GLOWING review of Minority Report. Geeks take heed: "American movies are in the midst of a transition period. Some directors place their trust in technology. Spielberg, who is a master of technology, trusts only story and character, and then uses everything else as a workman uses his tools. He makes "Minority Report" with the new technology; other directors seem to be trying to make their movies from it. This film is such a virtuoso high-wire act, daring so much, achieving it with such grace and skill. "Minority Report" reminds us why we go to the movies in the first place."

  • July 7, 2002, 1:24 p.m. CST


    by smokinyoda

    OK everyone, I'm looking for the title of one of the coolest damn Martial Arts movies I've seen. It was made over seas a few years ago and it has amazingly badass fight scenes. At the end of the movie, it is a duel between 2 masters,1 from Japan, the other from China. They battle with swords on a cliff next to the ocean. They jump to amazing hieghts by bouncing off of their swords. At the end, the Japanese warrior dies, but before he does, he stabs his sword through his foot so he dies standing, facing Japan. The movie pits Shaolin monks versus Japanese Ninjas. It has the word Death in the title. WHAT IS THE NAME OF THIS MOVIE? please tell me. I'm dying to know. I just saw a clip of it in the Bruce Lee AMC documentary, so thats what made me think of it.

  • July 7, 2002, 7:13 p.m. CST

    About the finger thing...

    by Schnorbitz

    What happens if you have a middle finger that's an inch and a half SHORTER than the rest of your hand? (I'm missing two bones). Does that make me a really nice person?

  • July 7, 2002, 11:54 p.m. CST


    by Lobanhaki

    Plainly put, Minority Report's ruminations work because although certain events are predictable, their significance is not, and other events in between bring new understanding to the audience. The collaborators on that project figured out what the important elements of the arguments for and against were, and then made their case for why it wasn't such a good thing not by giving us more of their opinion, but instead giving some notion of just why, despite all the lives saved, the system was ultimately a faustian bargain. even in a system of seeming predestination, things like minority reports (which suggest alternate futures, just as possible), ambiguities in information (the man outside the window), and the machinations that the plot ultimately hangs on creep up to make the point: because the system involves humans, involves our informal capabilities of thought, it cannot be reduces to perfection. That is the same thing as how the movies are. Too many executives have some idea of formal (meaning predestined) success, which they attach to certain kinds of plots, like those with psychic flashes and everything. And what they don't see is that at the very heart of what movies are about is that step the writer took that set the ideas of the movie apart. The idea of someone being predestined to become a serial killer, of a serial killer hunter, of some serial killer being practically unstoppable are ideas that haven't so saturate the marketplace of ideas like the "psychic flash" notion. Because of that, there is more that a filmmaker (and an audience) can explore with these concepts than just the tired old supernatural manhunt idea. I agree with Moriarty's opinion on this one- return to the old script. It sounds twice as interesting as the supernatural thriller that's been developed from it.

  • July 8, 2002, 12:42 a.m. CST

    Playing by the rules.

    by Lobanhaki

    A while back, the guy who directed The Contender was considering whether or not to put music behind the end of the speech that he has the president make at the end of the film. Spielberg asked the guy whether he believed in what the guy was saying. The director (I think his name is Rod Lurie) said yes, and Spielberg said that's your answer. There are some who would disagree with him, who would say ambiguity would serve the story better, but does it? The point of what Spielberg said was pretty simple: at some point, there is a necessity to make a point, to take some kind of stand. All too often, films either offer muddled mixed messages, or make points that are just formalities of the kind of story that is offered there. This relates to some of the criticism that Minority Report has garnered for not leaving Anderton in the lurch he is in near the end of the film: Some said that it wasn't true Film Noir. And they'd be right. However, that shouldn't count as a cut against the film, because Spielberg wasn't willing to take the pessimistic worldview of such films that far. You see, film noirs are quite heavily steeped in a sense of existentialism, the problems of living a life just to exist from day to day. No right, no wrong. But Spielberg did not make his movie with such ambivalence towards morality. Instead he made a film where morality itself was a matter buried in the subjective experience of the story, that in order to get through the story alive, he had to change from the person who believed he had a good system going. Spielberg, for better or worse simply refuses to take an existential attitude towards the way his films proceed. He instead proceeds with moral ideals in mind, and acknowledges the complexity of how they play out as he elaborates the story.

  • March 25, 2003, 4:20 p.m. CST

    Let's wait and see

    by bigcleverturnip

    I know, this script does sound cheesy and too hollywood, but there are a few other things to take into consideration: 1. As someone else on this board mentioned earlier, I judge a film by the finished product, what I see and hear when all is done. That is a problem with this site, great as it is, you do try to pre-empt things a bit too much. Lots of valid points are made about the state of the business in this article and it's responses. But let's give it a chance, see what comes out of the machine. I like the look of the cast very much, and if its done properly, it may well be pulled off. 2. that psychic thing, it may be wierd and stupid, but it actually happens. I know a member of the cast who went to see how it is done. The FBI use it, but don't make a big fuss of it. They use it to find missing kids and stuff. that week, theyd found a girl buried under someones garage apparently. Now for some down sides 1. E. Elias Merhige is, apparently, a bit of a wierdo. Sometimes that's a good thing, other times, it can just result in a wierdo's film. 2. I've heard people say that they were a bit worried it would turn out to be 'just another' serial killer film. Anyway, we'll see, I've got mixed feelings, I'll probably go and see it anyway! Ferdie

  • May 16, 2003, 7:58 p.m. CST

    remote viewing

    by abk24

    M, In reference to Suspect Zero: The "psychic" part in this movie is referring to Remote Viewing. Remote Viewing is a real science. Do your research. The Pentagon created RV and developed it for the soul purpose of spy work. It was used during the cold war to locate nuclear subs and did so with shocking accuracy. Even that part of the movie was well researched. I heard they used actual Remote Viewers in the movie. Very interesting plot and intelligently put together. Not expecting to be disappointed. Hell_Kitten

  • May 28, 2009, 4:20 p.m. CST

    Hey, an old article, and That psychic thing

    by JackPumpkinhead