Review of: Redemption Song 

reviewed by stephjones on 04/01/2012
Credited Review
stephjones
Redemption Rap. Credited Review
Wow. Great read. I couldn't stop once I started, which is bad cause it's a beautiful day and I want to go swimming but now I want to write this review while the story is fresh in my head.
I saw this is your only screenplay on the site right now, you've uploaded more short stories, but I didn't get the impression you were new to screenwriting--at all.
Your action blocks are longer than most folks seem to think is optimal for a spec script and it seems like a shooting script from what little I know about it-- but I loved your writing style.
Here are a few thoughts I have about stuff:

page 1--I wasn't sure at first about whether the VO was necessary. But I got to thinking it was a great way to layer Ray's character. No one is all one way or the other and Ray, at first, seemed to be a guy with a serious, world weary chip on his shoulder and some major 'tude, but the VO gave us some sympathy for him because we knew somebody, somewhere in the world thought he was a really nice, cool guy. so good job.

Page 2- you could lose further description of the 'nice people' and we wouldn't miss anything important.

I loved the sidewalk scene. I loved the shoulder slam.(I'm a menopausal 50-something but everybody who knows me thinks I'm a cool, really nice person.:) I totally get where Ray is coming from. Good thing I wasn't there with him or I'd have taken that MF DOWN....just kidding--kinda.

page 4 The transition "REVERSE" is new to me. I've only been writing about three years so it might be fine but I didn't think it was necessary.

Okay, it's page 10 I'm caught up in your story--it's exciting, interesting and feels real. The dialogue is great and you've introduced your main characters but I haven't noticed your theme stated directly in any of these pages. I think a great opportunity would be during Ray's 'rant' . to me you sorta set it up by the 'suit' telling Ray he had some problems he needed to work on but it didn't nail it for me. I think your theme is no one is either "all good" or "all" bad. bad people do good things, good people do bad things--we can all gain redemption if we try. You kinda show us that with your VO/Ray's 'tude but I think it would work if Kenny said something directly about it, like: Damn, dude, that ain't you. That diarrhea musta been worse than I thought'. Ray could just say, "yeah, sorry" then Kenny could nail it with something like, "no worries, we're all saints or psychopaths on any given day."
or you could tell me to go take a hike.(just don't forget about the menopause thing)

okay, maybe I'm dense--no, no, I think I might be...but you have this rant about rap music and the title of your screenplay is the name of a Reggae song?

Structure is good with the inciting incident on page 12. Ray making the call to go to the hole and sealing Kenny's fate--Damn.
page 14--meeting Ronnie. what a great character and Sheila, whoa.
I loved the cellphone scene. It might have been a tad long but was really great.

page 21 back to the hole. I have to tell you that was some hard core stuff. Ray has a longggggg way to come back from. I think it's almost too much to be honest. In order to buy the "good person doing bad stuff because of circumstances" angle you have to have Kenny more than just gut shot. He needs to be almost dead when they get there. Kenny needs to GASP his words. right now it seems like he'd totally have a chance to live, they could pass his wound off as a hunting accident and cross state lines to go to a hospital. It doesn't really seem like an irretrievable moment. and Sophie's response? a pregnant woman who just winces slightly when her man kills their friend? didn't fly for me, sorry.

page 26--we bust into act II when Ray tells Jimmy he's going to rob banks. right on the money--good job

re: Jimmy reveals he's in trouble. I don't think you mentioned this again, after they got the money, and when Jimmy did pay the guy off wouldn't the guy wonder where he got the money? he might put 2+2 together and blackmail Jimmy--could keep the tension rolling in the back half of act II when Jimmy isn't doing much.

The AA monologues were a great way to reinforce your theme. Nice comedic touch, as well.

page 41--I like that Ray is struggling with what he's doing by having trouble sleeping and "fuck this life" but there is no sense of humanity in that sentence or remorse about involving Jimmy-- i think we need to see, specifically, that Ray is really conflicted about involving another person he loves--he almost got another loved one killed--I think that needs to be shown in the getaway car when Jimmy is shot.
Maybe have Jimmy say--"we never talked about what we'd do if something like this happens". that way the audience knows that 'the hole' is no longer an option in this scenario.

page 47--midpoint- ray goes into the mission. I had to ask myself if this was set-up organically enough. his moment on the bus, walking the street...did I really feel like he had reached this point in his journey? I'm not sure. no suggestions.

when Ray spells out the plan I'm kinda thinking he's telling the audience too much. Maybe just have him specify he needs a hundred guys dressed the same. It'll be fun for the audience to see what he does with them.

page 52 oh, you did mention paying off slim..ok, forget the suggestion above..

page 53--that was what I was looking for to show Ray's arc is underway-- Ray- "I'm tired...

bringing Buddy back was genius--he opens the door for the back half of act II and the road to redemption. He's the first character who changes his life in a positive direction.

The priest opens the door for Ray's redemption to begin. I kinda feel this should be before you have Ray enter the mission--it would seem more organic to me.

okay, I was just re-reading over when Ray tells Abbie about How Ice T used the ' N word' and changes it into something positive. A title suggestion for your screenplay popped into my head---"Redemption Rap" it's plays off the rap music idea AND 'beating the rap' aspect of them getting away with robbery? no? yes? just an idea.

page 79 a rare typo -- they're should be their

and that's it from me.

I thought your concept was good but it was your characters and the story that knocked it out of the park for me. Dialogue was great, structure was spot on. Very well done.
The suggestions I made were just that--so I hope I didn't offend.

best of luck to you with this and I hoped I helped.

Other Reviews by stephjones 84

  • A review of The Enemy
    by stephjones on 03/18/2013
    Hey Tony, I thought this was a powerful character driven story. It will stay with me for a while. Since character is everything here, there's just a couple of things I think can make your characters even stronger. You seem experienced and are able to make things happen in a meaningful way on the page, also, I get the sense you might plan to film this yourself so my basic screenwriting... read
  • A review of Zombody to Love
    by stephjones on 09/30/2012
    Richard, you are definitely onto something here. I'm amazed this is a first draft. It's hard to find anything wrong with it. The set-up on Tapper was great. You've created a monstrously compelling character. Despite how despicable he is, the fact you lobotomized him absolved him of a lot. Smart move. For some reason I pictured Dane Cook in the role of Tapper. This is good--... read
  • A review of The Cannibals
    by stephjones on 09/22/2012
    Harriet, you are a clever boy. I checked out The Cannibals and I'm glad I did. Your dialogue inspires me. I now want to reconsider every sentence I've ever written... So decided I'd give you a quickie critique vs. a long, slow one cause I've a caffeine headache... Here goes: Fabulous opening hook. Love the farcical aspect of their conversation. My first problem is this:... read
+ more reviews