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A first-time director and writer struck out hard with a pair of recognizable action stars and what could have been an interesting story.

Rough Draft

A hard-on-his-luck journalist chases a dangerous story chronicling the actions of a serial killer. Let’s dig into 1998’s ROUGH DRAFT, directed by Joshua Wallace!

As I See It

Rough Draft (aka Diary of a Serial Killer) started out seeming like it would be an oddball little thriller that I had never heard of.

Gary Busey at a drag show… I think. I’m not sure what the opening was, really. It could have been a fashion show. Regardless, it was quite an introduction and a nice way of getting across the old Twain adage, “Write what you know.”

Busey’s character Nelson is an out-of-work writer trying to find his next hit story, and he really commits to the research. His last hit was about seeing life through the eyes of an alcoholic, and he was so dedicated he himself became one. So sets the stage for him to explore life through the eyes of a serial killer.

It seems like a natural, hard-hitting story that makes sense for a film. It’s interesting, it’s dangerous, and it’s sexy. The only problem is putting a first-time director behind the camera with a first-time screenwriter plotting the details results in a half-assed film.

Busey’s acting isn’t strong enough to make up for the poor direction, though Busey is surprisingly coherent, even post-motorcycle accident.

His character, though, is never put under enough pressure to cover up a murder. Whether it is a result of rewrites or a lack of editing the script, it doesn’t matter. Nothing ends up on the screen that warrants pushing Nelson from one step to the next.

The killer, Stefan, played by Arnold Vosloo, who is pretty decent as an ancient monster shortly after this, has moments of power but never enough.

It was a clever element to have him equate murder to sex, stating they are one and the same for him, but it is never expounded upon as part of this murderous psyche that should be terrifying.

Terrible, unintentional screen flares and unexplained flashes to black and white highlight the messy production.

However, it was fun seeing some pagers, voice recorders, and Nokia bricks with telescoping antennas.

Famous Faces

Gary Busey (Nelson) first entered the mainstream with the bad guy role in Shane Black’s Lethal Weapon and continued his action film success in Predator 2 and Point Break (Swayze and Keanu together for the second time — Youngblood being the first — is a must watch). He suffered a brain injury in a late eighties motorcycle accident that seems to have had a deep effect on his behavior, which brought him to the infamous level on celebrity rehab shows and quirky comedy central reality shows that featured him berating and abusing an assistant.

Michael Madsen (Haynes) is a Quentin Tarantino regular (Reservoir Dogs, Kill Bill, Hateful Eight, and Once Upon a time… In Hollywood).

Arnold Vosloo (Stefan) played Imhotep, the resurrected pharaoh in the Brendan Fraser Mummy films.

Of Gratuitous Nature

Shooting the climax in an attic filled with mannequins is way beyond derivative; it’s plagiarism, but it’s also super lazy. Maybe they could have focused on writing a stronger story and ending rather than letting the set dressing do all the work for them. It wasn’t enough.


My heart is black and wilted today.

Ripe for a Remake

Actually… yes. I can see a very dark character study turning out to be a great film. Not as whimsical as The Rise of Leslie Vernon and not as honest as Dexter. It would be intriguing to feel like an insect stuck in a spider web listening to the killer weave a tale of death and motivation as we watch from just enough of a safe distance (but not TOO safe, of course).


No progeny to report.

Where to Watch

There is no US high-definition release (you would have to go to Germany for that), but you can track down a DVD, or you can stream it on The Roku Channel.

Overall Rating (Out of 5 Butterflies): 1

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