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Screenplay Review: Assassination of President Duke

In Xi Ren’s historical thriller, The Assassination of President Duke, Ren explores a 1980s dystopian reality where former Klu Klux Klan leader, David Duke, wins the presidential seat of the United States, and spreads a white supremecist reign of terror while one rebel group known as AAA, the All American Army, plots his assassination. It is a cautionary tale of white privilege halting the progress of social justice.

Norman Howard, a Jewish man who dyes his hair blond to whitewash his identity, joins the ranks of his crush, a Chinese woman named Yu LinLin, and an African American man named Sam Young, and the visionary who leads the AAA, a Latino man named Diego. They are introduced as oppressed individuals who have all faced societal rejection in their own specific ways, and through a series of murders, find themselves closer to ending Duke’s presidential reign once and for all.

In this despicable world, anyone who does not meet the criterion of white American is at risk of harm from restaurant rejection to full-fledged lynching. The United States is still entirely segregated. The Assassination of President Duke is structured like a classic action film, where the perspective shifts between each character’s backstory and how they joined the AAA.

Though the story shifts perspective, Norman is largely the protagonist, the one on the fence about the entire operation. He is a lovelorn individual, pining for LinLin secretly through poetry, who cannot seem to express his true feelings, and finds himself between love and jealousy.

Though Norman is the man of the hour, Yu LinLin is the character of most depth and interest. She is the moral compass of the story, capable of independent thought and complex feeling. She puts misplaced faith in Norman, that really sends the message of the story home. Supporting characters Diego and Sam felt like they could have had more depth, but they were still given some moments to shine and spread justice.

The shifting perspectives provide an opportunity to sympathize with each character of the story, even the villains. While it is an innovative structure, it can also lead to slower pacing and less urgency in the story. Though the structure was unique and some of the scenes and dialogue ran long, the overall concept of the piece was gripping.

One could see the Assassination of President Duke also functioning as a television spec or speculative fiction novel which would allow lots of time to live with each character kind of like The Man in High Castle.

Xi Ren, the writer of Assassination of President Duke


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