The Anti-Hero Police/Cop Script
January 25th, 2014
by Harry Caul
James Ellroy is legit. Straight up one of the best writers. Period. But in particular, he writes edgy material and writes the hell out of the crime genre. Let’s go back to 2002 and DARK BLUE. A gritty story by Ellroy (screenplay revisions by David Ayer) that successfully produces a pleasing anti-hero story. The anti-hero script that centers on detectives or cops are so rarely done well as they are hard to pull off.
Since this place (SU) is into opening scenes lately, here’s a one from DARK BLUE (note: format of the script had to be changed from original):
Super over a BLACK SCREEN: Monday, April 27, 1992 EXT. AVALON BLVD - SOUTH CENTRAL - SUNSET A Spring sky glows pink as the evening sun dives into the Western horizon. Evening traffic fills these troubled streets of dingy storefronts a few miles South of downtown. ANGLE ON LUCKY LIQUOR a corner store with a battered Buick parked out front. Two men inside, driver, ORCHARD, is black. He pulls on his Newport and flicks it out the window. Orchard swigs from a pint of vodka and passes it to the passenger, SIDWELL, a white guy. Both are in early 30's and just plain vicious. They watch the street. Check the mirrors. A scanner on the seat monitors LAPD RADIO TRAFFIC. SIDWELL They ain't gettin'off. Jury's got motherfuckin' eyes. Rodney King is gettin' his ass whupped. ORCHARD Ain't one brother on that jury. Simi Valley. Good decent white folk up there, they suckin' them cop's dicks. SIDWELL Should'a had the trial here. Verdict'd be in already. And four cops'Id be selling ass in Tehachape. ORCHARD That's why they moved the venue. Cops're protected. Orchard CLICKS his tongue in disgust and pulls silenced Ruger .22 pistol. And dons a skimask. SIDWELL That shit's on tape. You can't fuck with that. They goin' down. ORCHARD They go down, I'll buy you some pussy. But if they walk, you spottin' me a ho. They shake. Both men put on gloves. Orchard exits the car with a heavy canvas bag. Sidwell follows, slipping on a skimask and sunglasses, his own silenced .22 held against his thigh. INT. LUCKY LIQUOR - SAME The KOREAN WOMAN tending the till SHRIEKS with surprise as Orchard charges with his autopistol ... POP-POP-POP-POP -- She swats at the bullets like bees, hands flinging blood, then three in the face drop her like a rock. Sidwell positions himself just inside the entrance, watches the street, weapon ready. Orchard vaults the counter. Charges through a bead curtain to stairs in back that lead to the owner's modest apartment. INT. PARKER CENTER - CONFERENCE ROOM - SAME TIME A warm sunset casts itself across the LAPD Command Staff, five solemn, serious men line a walnut table, among them: DEPUTY CHIEF BARCOMB, number 2 in LAPD, he's the senior officer present and tapped for Chief when Gates goes. The big Mick cop leafs through reports. ASSISTANT CHIEF ARTHUR HOLLAND, the only black in the room, is imposing from years of 'weigntlifting. A tough old veteran, he fought his way to the top of a segregated LAPD. DETECTIVE BOBBY TEDROW, 27, sits before these imposing inquisitors. Dapper and cool, tailored and crisp, he reeks competence and confidence. BARCOMB Detective Tedrow. If you had a little time machine and could travel back to the day of the shooting, to that afternoon when you killed Mr. Robertson. If you could do that, I'd like to hear what you'd do differently. The beautiful STENOGRAPHER'S fingers dance across her keys. She trades a look with Tedrow and blushes. INT. LUCKY LIQUOR - LITTLE GIRL'S BEDROOM - SAME The squat safe has been fully exposed. It's secured to a steel beam with four huge bolts. Orchard locks a gunpowder powered boltcutter on the head of a bolt ... BAM! Shears it clean. KERSHACK! --He shucks the fired cartridge from the tool, drops in a fresh one. ANGLE ON -- A security monitor in the hall outside the bedroom. INSERT MONITOR -- A high angle view of the store entrance. A YOUNG WOMAN enters, past Sidwell, aiming at her head ... OVER: BAM! KERSHACK! Another bolt is cut. The Young Woman crumples with a slug in her medulla. INT. PARKER CENTER - CONFERENCE ROOM - SAME Barcomb gathers papers with finality. BARCOMB I think we've kept Detective Tedrow here long enough. HOLLAND Chief Barcomb. I have a few questions for the detective. BARCOMB Fire away, Chief Holland. HOLLAND It's been a long day, and I know too well these chairs aren't padded, so I'll be quick. INT. LUCKY LIQUOR - SAME INSERT MONITOR -- Now a Hispanic WOMAN enters. Sidwell aiming at her head. Her DAUGHTER, 7, runs in the store and grabs mommy's hand. ON ORCHARD BAM! KERSHACK! The final bolt is sheared. He tears the safe free with gloved hands. Exits the bedroom with his tools and THUDS down the stairs. INSERT MONITOR --No one in view. Just three blood trails leading to a pile of feet peeking from an aisle. EXT. LUCKY LIQUOR - SAME Orchard runs out, the heavy safe cradled in his arms. Then Sidwell -- His sunglasses fly off his face, he collided with a black OLD MAN with grey hair and beard, overalls. The Old Man lands on his backside, finds himself staring into Sidwell'S BLUE EYES ... POP! -- Sidwell shoots him in the throat. He and Orchard hop in the Buick. And SQUEAL down Avalon.
Pay attention to the detail... the word choice, the pace of the narrative. The beats of the scene and how it flows. There's not just beats in your story, but in each and every scene you are a poet, a freaking rapper of words. Painstakingly ponder your word selection and use an active voice in your writing. There's a pace and word selection here that is visceral and so powerfully visual.
"POP-POP-POP-POP -- She swats at the bullets like bees, hands flinging blood, then three in the face drop her like a rock."
The above piece is brilliant. I can't think of a more visual bit of description of someone getting greased as that.
The last decent cop flick I saw was END OF WATCH and guess who wrote (and directed) it, David Ayer who is in the 10% group of writers who can pull that off. It wasn't an anti-hero story, but it was intense and had a very edgy, bleak ending that I loved.
I don't know if this doesn't make any sense and you can't see how the construction, word choice, and beat (it's flow) is so wonderful, then I can't help you!
About the Author
I am a professional screenwriter with some years of experience, but I'm gonna say some shit on here that might piss some people off so I am the Mystery Screenwriter.