Claybourne In ‘The Killer,’ Explained: Why Did The Client Want To Kill The Hitman In The Book?


I believe a powerful antagonist is imperative to the hero’s journey. The lack of healthy competition can make a protagonist lazy and utterly boring. In such a case, he doesn’t face any external conflict that robs him of the chance to evolve into a better or more powerful person, and that’s exactly what happens in David Fincher’s The Killer. The Hitman is kind of a superhero in his line of work. He is an ace with all the tricks up his sleeve to pull off a perfect kill. He keeps repeating those mantras so that even the audience will know why he is the “Ultimate Killer.” In short, he has no flaws at all except for the fact that he is afraid of dogs. But what’s worse is that there is no powerful opponent in the entire film. The film begins as he screws up an assignment. His longtime handler (or manager), Edward La Streille (or Hodges, in the film), had assigned him a target named Martini at a Paris hotel, where our Hitman waited for some 12 days before pulling the trigger. Unfortunately, he missed the mark (in the film). In the book, he had successfully shot down the target along with a few other people, because of which a policeman tailed him to his hideout in Venezuela (yes, that’s also changed in the film). However, he had messed up the entire mission and made some powerful enemies who wanted the Hitman dead at all costs.

Spoiler Alert

Who Tried To Kill The Hitman? & Why?

After a series of events, the Hitman found out that his longtime friend and professor from the school, Edward (or Hodges), had hired a killer to silence him because the Hitman had made a lot of noise among the cops and his clients didn’t want to leave a trail behind. The Hitman, on the other hand, just wanted his money so that he could retire with his bruised girlfriend, Magdala, who had been assaulted by three miscreants who arrived at the hideout in the Hitman’s absence. Long story short, the Hitman killed Hodges at night and made it look like a suicide, but he never got the details about who tried to kill him and assaulted his girlfriend. Out of the blue, Mariano Schloss, the right-hand man to a Colombian drug lord, El Padrino, paid him a visit and gave him details about the Paris hit and why he was so important to the Colombian Mafia.

So, the Colombians found three rich, young, and ambitious men, Martini, Biscay, and Jouen, who were eager to become a part of high-class society. Padrino helped these men enter the elite circle in Paris and launch their careers, and in return, these men had to sell Colombian drugs to the Jet Set crowd. Everything was going perfectly until the sales started to fall. A mysterious person had intervened in El Padrino’s business, but he couldn’t find out who. In the midst of it, the Hitman killed Martini, giving another fatal blow to his already declining drug trade. It was the reason why Padrino sent Mariano to meet the Hitman so that the Hitman could pay back his debt and compensate for the damage he had done. In exchange, Mariano helped the Hitman find out about his girlfriend’s assaulters, who happened to be three men hired by none other than Biscay, a high-class doctor. So, Biscay had contacted Hodges to put a price on Martini, and when the job went haywire, he was the one who asked Hodges to take care of the Hitman so as to leave no evidence behind. But they obviously underestimated the Hitman’s survival instinct, who didn’t waste a moment to pull the trigger on his adversaries.

If we consider David Fincher’s The Killer a revenge story, then the character of Claybourne is inspired by Biscay, who had been in direct contact with Hodges and had hired the assassins who beat up Magdala at the safe house. We want to call it a simple and straightforward revenge story because, in the books, it’s much more than that. The Hitman wants to retire and spend some time with his girlfriend, but he can’t do it until he knows that he is safe, and no one is looking for him. For that, he has to wipe out all his enemies. But the core issue with the film is that its narrative is not even the tip of the iceberg, and Claybourne or Biscay is not even the real threat. In the book, he was just a puppet and a middleman who was following the orders. There was one other gentleman hiding in the shadows who had been pulling the strings all along.

Why did Biscay want to kill Martini?

Biscay, through his sources, had found that the Americans were on the Colombians’ back and had been monitoring their trades. It was a risky situation because if they had captured El Padrino, then the entire operation in Paris would have gone down with him, as Martini, Biscay, and Jouen had no other suppliers. So, Biscay and Jouen came up with a solution to safeguard their positions, but Martini didn’t agree with them. He wanted to stay loyal to Padrino and let things remain as they were. Biscay tried to convince Martini for some time, but he wouldn’t listen to any of it. The man feared that Martini would snitch on them and inform the Colombians about their doubts. At this point, Biscay was left with only one option: to remove Martini from the equation, which was why he contacted Hodges. However, the Hitman had left a messy crime scene, because of which Hodges had to hire another set of assassins to handle the situation, and that was how the entire ring became the Hitman’s enemies. Unfortunately, he wasn’t the best person to beef with, really.

Who was Biscay working for?

Biscay informed the Hitman about a man named Henri Worms, who, according to his name, really stayed in the shadows and knew his way around things. Before Worms entered the picture, Biscay and Jouen were just running their clinics and smuggling drugs, but Worms launched their political career, because of which Jouen became the elected member of parliament, the kind of power these ambitious men craved. Worms even had connections in the justice system, because of which the police force stayed out of their business and would even provide them protection from time to time. So, Worms was the perfect deal for them if you look at the financial angle of it.

Worms had been smuggling drugs from Afghanistan through the Russians and even had US clients, which increased the cash flow tremendously. It was because of Worms that the Colombians were slowly losing their trade, which had El Padrino really worried. And now, if you compare the entire fiasco with David Fincher’s The Killer, then you will understand that yes, indeed, there wasn’t really anything in that Netflix picture. Style and substance can hook an audience but cannot move them emotionally or mentally. You need a story like this—something that we didn’t find in the adaptation.

What Happens to Worms and Biscay in the End?

Henri Worms had been severely damaging the drug trade business, and therefore, the Colombians wanted him out of the picture. So, El Padrino once again contacted his friend, The Hitman, and asked him to make it look like an accident—a fatal one indeed. The Hitman tracked Worms down and observed his daily activities to make a perfect plan to kill the man. He used armor-piercing incendiary rounds, through which he hit the fuel tank of Worms’ Mercedes and blew him up in the middle of a busy street.

As for Biscay, Mariano and the Hitman had held him hostage at his own lonely house in the countryside. After finishing Worms, the Hitman paid Biscay one last visit, who, like a fish out of water, begged for his life. He even tried to buy the Hitman’s loyalty, but he wasn’t looking for money. He was looking for revenge and some security. So, like a classic hero, he aimed the gun at the villain’s head and shot him point blank, telling the world that it is what he does best: shoot to kill. If only we had a similar adrenaline-filled ending to David Fincher’s The Killer!

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Shikhar Agrawal
Shikhar Agrawal
I am an Onstage Dramatist and a Screenwriter. I have been working in the Indian Film Industry for the past 12 years, writing dialogues for various films and television shows.

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