Locations: Globetrotting – NYC to Paris to Africa to Spain
Genre: Drama, Adventure Drama, Period Drama, War Drama
In this prequel to CASABLANCA, RICK BLAINE flees the wrath of a Harlem gangster and winds up using his skills as a smuggler in a globe-trotting adventure across Europe and Africa.
While “prequel to CASABLANCA” may sound like peak IP-mining to some, the premise actually has some potential – Rick Blaine is such an iconic character that it’s easy to imagine the events in the 1942 film being just the latest in a long line of exploits, and that’s more or less what the writers are trying to accomplish with this story. They do well to load the script up with Peter Lorre-esque supporting characters – Saint Exupery, Captain Tamburini and Timoteo all provide unique energies that play off of Rick’s hard-boiled demeanor.
It’s difficult to even begin discussing the story and characters of THE WINNING SIDE because the writing style in this draft is so poor it undermines everything the writers are trying to accomplish. Simply put: they display an inability to understand visual storytelling, making even the simplest story elements either underwhelming or downright incomprehensible. The very first scene is a great example – it’s a jarring cut-in on Saint Ex’s line, with absolutely zero description of the setting or characters. Elsewhere, the writers lazily include backstory without thinking about how to communicate it to the audience – how will the people watching this movie know Rick’s history with Art and Alice? Presumably dramatic moments like the gassing montage on pg. 35 are rendered almost comically inert by the lack of detail – this montage needs to actually SHOW what is happening, not just reference gassing. Entire set pieces are squeezed into a few short lines of scene direction – the nationalist trap on pg. 77 is a great example of the way the writing sucks drama out of compelling ideas. Broadly speaking, the writers don’t feel like they’re honoring Humphrey Bogart with the Rick character – he doesn’t feel like the same man less than a decade earlier in life, and he has a distractingly anachronistic way of speaking.
To be frank, it’s too early to discuss THE WINNING SIDE’s commercial prospects. This draft is not professional work, and is unlikely to be taken seriously by anyone in the industry in its current form. A lot more research and practice on the part of the writers is needed in order to communicate the narrative they’re envisioning in an appropriate way. Even if it is rewritten, a prequel to CASABLANCA at this budget level (while it’s hard to tell because of the poor writing, there would seem to be some real scale to the action scenes and locations) is going to be a truly tough sell. It will only make sense as a full-blown A-list project with famous stars and studio backing, and it really doesn’t feel like there’s significant demand for this world to be revisited.