‘The Writer with No Hands’ reviewed

❉ This engrossing film investigating the death of Hollywood screenwriter Gary DeVore sucks the viewer in.

“An interesting and layered piece of filmmaking, Westaway’s documentary follows writer/researcher Matthew Alford as he attempts to reposition the apparently accidental death of DeVore as an assassination by the United States government as part of a conspiracy involving the military’s control over Hollywood’s depiction of warfare and it’s obvious that Westaway and Alford both feel that there’s way more to the story than what’s been reported by authorities….”

The odd murder mystery surrounding estimable Hollywood screenwriter Gary DeVore has been turned into an engrossing and spookily conceived documentary titled The Writer with No Hands, and this micro-budget effort certainly raises the pulse and offers up some lingering questions about this utterly bizarre story.

DeVore rose to industry prominence during the 1980s, penning witty, action-heavy scripts like The Dogs of War and Raw Deal for Jon Irvin; Running Scared, Time Cop, Sudden Death, and The Relic for Peter Hyams; Showdown in Little Tokyo for Mark L. Lester; Passenger 57 for Kevin Hooks; and countless uncredited rewrites and polishes of major blockbusters that have proved popular over the decades.

He was at the top of his game, pulling in the big bucks, but clearly, he was a man with some secrets and a complicated personal life (four marriages). Director William Westaway has been working on this project for the last few years, and it has the ability to easily suck the viewer in, and make you question many items in retrospect.

Westaway’s documentary follows writer/researcher Matthew Alford as he attempts to reposition the apparently accidental death of DeVore as an assassination by the United States government as part of a conspiracy involving the military’s control over Hollywood’s depiction of warfare. In June of 1997, DeVore disappeared one night while driving New Mexico to California, prompting an extensive search and rampant media speculation. A year later, he and his car were discovered submerged below a bridge over the Aqueduct in Palmdale, California. Once the police had retrieved the vehicle from the water, it was found that his laptop, which contained a new script titled The Big Steal, had been stolen, and that his hands had been cut off, and his gun was missing. This was considered very suspicious as the aqueduct was searched when the disappearance was reported, and it had showed no signs of impact. To this day, DeVore’s murder has not been solved.

So, given that there’s no finality to the case, The Writer with No Hands becomes an even more interesting and layered piece of filmmaking. It’s abundantly clear that something strange did happen to DeVore, and it’s obvious that Westaway and Alford both feel that there’s way more to the story than what’s been reported by authorities. But because we’ll likely never know the truth, there’s a frustrating quality to the entire endeavour, which ultimately has to be extraordinarily painful for DeVore’s family and friends, all of whom are entitled to the truth.

This was a talented man who seemingly had his life ended in a very abrupt and surprising manner, and the facts of the case simply don’t support the notion that this was an accident caused by DeVore’s poor driving skills. The obsession over the story that consumes Alford is palpable, and you can see the toll it’s taken on him and his own family.

Chilling and provocative and filled with tons of unanswered questions, this is one of those Life Imitates Art situations, and it doesn’t seem like the truth concerning this incident will ever be revealed.


❉ Directed by William Westaway, ‘The Writer with No Hands: Final Cut’ (2017) is available now, streaming free on Scottish broadcaster STV’s free VOD service STV Player. STV Player is also available UK-wide in the app stores on all other major platforms..

❉ Nick Clement is a journalist for Variety Magazine and motion picture screenplay consultant, as well as a critic for websites We Are Cult and Back to the Movies. He wrote the introduction to the book Double Features: Big Ideas in Film, which was published by The Great Books Foundation, and is currently working on a book about the life and work of filmmaker Tony Scott. He lives in Connecticut with his wife and son.

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