As a script consultant I tend to come across writers that fall into two camps. Those that can do excellent dialogue and those that often struggle with how their characters communicate with each other.
I’ve always found that problems with dialogue tend to come from either not knowing the character well enough, or the fact that the character isn’t well developed enough to have a speaking voice of their own.
So, if things come down to character development, then the writer must know the character intimately. However, just because you know exactly at any one time what your character is thinking, it doesn’t mean that the character should come out and say it.
Knowing your character doesn’t mean that they say everything that they actually think. Just as in life, we don’t say everything we think, in fact we hardly ever say what we’re actually thinking.
I often find that I learn more about my own characters by seeing how they react to the twists and turns of the plot. That is, character revealed through action. You never know, your characters might surprise you.
This brings us nicely into Narc from 2002. It’s essentially a cop film, but one that owes more to the old school flicks of William Friedkin and Sidney Lumet from the 70s.
The film is an investigation that gradually gets darker and darker, and as the characters we’re investigating come more and more into focus we realise that this film isn’t going to have a very happy ending.
The photography and direction are excellent. I’m sorry to see that the director hasn’t really had anything like the career I’d expect from this film (although The Grey does have some fans).
The real genius of this film is the performances, Jason Patrick does well, but Ray Liotta is outstanding as the cop who becomes central to the story. It’s a tough, troubling performance that provides most of the suspense of the film.
A lot of people have compared this film to Training Day with Denzel Washington. Training Day is a little trifle compared to the real meat and gravy in Narc.
So, 22 films to go…
Matthew Cooper has written for Emmerdale, Eastenders, Hollyoaks and Family Affairs. He was winner of the first ever Lloyds Bank Channel Four Film Challenge and the Oscar Moore Screenplay Prize. His first short film starred a then unknown Ewan McGregor and was picked up by Channel Four when Matthew was 19 years old. He’s been a script consultant, script writer for hire and filmmaker for hire for over 20 years.