"Deadslinger" has many strong suits--it's confidently and cleanly written. For me, the greatest strength is the concept or premise. The least strength is audience identification, which is what I'd like to focus on.
Unlike your model "Rio Bravo," Deadslinger never builds an interior tension that could prevent the protagonist and supporting characters from resolving the exterior conflict. You've replicated the shell of Furthman and Brackett's script, but not its heart. Yes, Hardmann has an exterior arc that's capped by donning his guns near the end, but how is he internally different, and how are his relationships different (the B and C story)? You bring out lots of back stories (too many, in my view), but these stories simply extend the plot, not the characterization. The lack of an interior journey makes the script more frenetic than dramatic.
The lack of an internal plotline hampers the development of the external plot (The A story). Essentially, the structure is additive (one scene, plus another scene, plus another scene) without being cumulative, without gaining momentum (the violence grows but not the stakes). As a result, there is no closure at the end, no need to come full circle because the theme hasn't gone anywhere. A move forward would allow (if not require) you to let Hardmann resurrect Clem before destroying the totems. But you seem to be trying for a dark spin on the Western archetype. For me, that approach doesn't work--a western isn't a western because it takes place at a certain place or time, it's a western because it embodies certain ideals, even if those ideals lead to tragic consequences for the protagonists (e.g. McCabe and Mrs. Miller). And that's not too far removed from the zombie genre, which typically promotes life values over death values in its themes. Here the message just seems to be "keep on keeping on" (which ironically is what zombies do).
You state the theme on page 88, which is way too late, by the way--midpoint would be better--but nothing in the story or back story draws that theme through the plot. Hardmann's statement "I'm not worth it" on p. 76 comes across as contrived arc-building, because there's not a before or an after to flesh out that arc. Until this point, where is the loss of pride that Dutch mentions on p. 25? I never get the feeling that Hardmann (or Clem) is fighting against something in himself, like the Dean Martin character in Rio Bravo (or even the John Wayne protag).
To build on the interior and relationship stories without bloating the storyline, I'd recommend cutting some of the external drama, no matter how well-written or interesting these scenes might be in themselves. You've also got one more sidekick than you need (my recommendation for the cutting room floor is Remy, whose role could be combined with Dutch's or Bishop's, or Running Fox's since he proves significant). You might consider deleting more than you add. Because of the rather tight line height (spacing between lines), the script is actually denser and longer than its page count would indicate). A little white space on the page would also add a little breathing space to the reader's experience of the story.
In a leaner draft, you might experiment with having the crew rounded up and on the road by the end of Act I.
Dialog's usually terse and snappy, with only a few clunky or expo-laden passages (e.g. expo: top of p. 33; clunky: p. 40). The action descriptions are a little heavy for my taste (but that is a matter of taste--except for "IN A JAW DROPPING FEAT OF ATHLETICISM" on p. 82 and a few other all-cap expressions).
The story is very clean with only a few errors (which you'll no doubt catch yourself, except possibly the lie/lay mistake on p. 101).
There's nothing missing in terms of talent or inspiration here. This is excellent conceptualizing and writing--simply bring the reader in using whatever story development methods you think most appropriate and you'll have a winner on all counts.
Review of: DEADSLINGER (revised)
reviewed by AlCielo on 08/26/2008
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