Genre: Action & Adventure, War Adventure, Drama, Period Drama, War Drama
RICK BLAINE has adventures around the world, running guns in Africa and fighting in The Spanish Civil War before going to Paris and meeting ILSA LUND in the years leading up to “Casablanca”.
“The Winning Side” is an entertaining, engaging screenplay, and while pitching a prequel to “Casablanca” on spec is a daunting task, if not impossible, on its own merits this is a an interesting story, with some fun adventures and memorable characterizations. Rick Blaine is done justice here, and even without the context of the timeless classic this precedes, he stands out as a complex and compelling antihero. Rick is a somewhat cynical pragmatist who doesn’t believe in sticking his neck out, but remains fiercely loyal to his friends, such as Sam. In his colorful and unpredictable international escapades, Rick demonstrates both an admirable tenacity as well as his signature attitude. The line “Redemption’s for chumps”, in response to the moral reaction of the more empathetic Captain Tamburini, embodies where Rick is now, and where he has to go for the great story ahead of him to work.
The structure of the plot is episodic and sometimes rushed. Perhaps this is simply the nature of Rick’s unfettered life, but it often seems that the story is lacking in direction or a strong driving motor. This is a series of adventures, some more entertaining than the others, and while it is engaging to watch, it’s not always clear where we’re going or why. The biggest problem this story faces in relationship to the timeless classic it precedes is that it needs to justify its own existence. An audience would understandably be skeptical about a prequel to “Casablanca”, and while we do get some entertaining escapades here, this script doesn’t really give us anything more about Rick we don’t get from the original. Let alone Ilsa, for that matter, who doesn’t even make an appearance until the very end. The modern mature content also takes us out of the general classical tone. The profanity is conspicuous, as is the crude humor, such as Rick making an oral sex joke after seeing a pair of busy camels.
“The Winning Side” is an entertaining and engaging script that unfortunately has little chance of getting made. Along with rights issues, the general public would naturally be skeptical, if not outright hostile, to the idea of a prequel to one of the most beloved classics of all time, however affectionate. Certainly Humphrey Bogart’s legendary shoes would be hard to fill, and the general sentiment might be that it’s simply unnecessary. The 1930s international adventures are fun, if meandering, and perhaps turning Rick into a similar pragmatic and tenacious antihero might be a worthy idea for a standalone film. Overall. this could make for an enjoyable movie, but the prospects on spec are limited.