Anyone who has read Jacamon & Matz’s graphic novel, The Killer, may be able to understand that David Fincher’s film doesn’t even scratch the surface of the book’s narrative. It feels like the film’s writers have only adapted the names, places, and basic premise and forgot to pick up the juicy part of the first volume of the book. If one were to explain the story of The Killer in layman’s terms, it would be what we saw in David Fincher’s film. But if we go down the rabbit hole, then there is a lot more to unpack. I have recently read the first few chapters of the book and was expecting an engaging narrative from the Netflix film, but alas, it was a total bummer. Nevertheless, I will try to explore all the major differences from the book so that the readers can understand what actually happened in the text and what we saw on screen. In the case of The Killer, it wouldn’t be wrong to say that a lot was lost in translation.
The Paris Hit
The Hitman waits for some 12 days for his target to arrive at a Parisian hotel. The target’s name is Martini, who is an elite doctor who smuggles drugs to rich businessmen, politicians, and professionals. The details and whereabouts of the target aren’t revealed in the film because the Hitman never reaches that part of the conspiracy, and the film ends even before the juicy part of the narrative is introduced to the audience. A major difference from the book is that the Hitman never botches up the assignment. Instead, he makes a mess of it. He ends up shooting a whole bunch of people, along with Martini.
The Assault on Magdala
As the Hitman tries to escape, a police officer catches sight of him and follows him all the way to his safehouse in Venezuela. In the film, our Hitman made his humble abode in the Dominican Republic. Later, through some locals, the Hitman finds out about a foreigner keeping an eye on his house and quickly gets alerted. He confronts the police officer and ends up killing him in the jungle. Everything is perfect until the Hitman decides to pass this information to his manager, Hodges (originally named Edward La Streille in the book). Hodges probably informs his client about it, who doesn’t want to leave any evidence behind, and therefore asks Hodges to take care of things. The manager first sends three assassins to kill Hitman at his safehouse, but he isn’t there as he is on another assignment. In his absence, the ruthless assassins assault the Hitman’s girlfriend, and when the Hitman finds out about it, he swears to take revenge.
After a failed attempt, Hodges tries to kill the Hitman once again and sends him on a mission to kill a target, where the target himself is an assassin. The Hitman quickly finds out the secret and not only kills the assassin but also emphatically kills his old college professor, Hodges, for betraying him. The killing, however, is different from what we saw in the film. The Hitman is known for making deaths look like accidents, and therefore, in the book, the lawyer or manager attempts suicide rather than having his body chopped into pieces (as seen in the film).
Secretary Dolores and the Coded Intel
As far as I remember, in the book, the Hitman never directly found out about the assassins who assaulted his girlfriend. So, the character of Dolores wasn’t really explored. She just made an appearance once or twice. The entire sequence where Dolores helped the Hitman locate “The Brute” and “The Expert” was written for the film, and even these assassins had much more screen presence than they did in the book.
In the original text, a man named Mariano Schloss paid a visit to the Hitman at his safehouse in Venezuela. The Paris Hit, Martini, was working for a Colombian drug lord, El Padrino, who had planted Martini, along with his two other friends, into the Paris elite circle so that they could sell his drugs to the rich. Technically, Padrino should have gotten the Hitman killed for shooting his man, but he didn’t. Instead, he asked him to cover up for the losses, and in return, Mariano helped the Hitman find out about the three assassins who hit his girlfriend. Additionally, there weren’t any taxi drivers in the scene like the ones that the Hitman had killed in the film.
The Death of the Assassins
After the Hitman gained the trust and favor of the Colombians, Martini revealed to him that they had captured the assassins who assaulted his girlfriend. He took him to an undisclosed location, where the Hitman found these men tied to a chair and brutally thrashed. He didn’t waste a moment killing them all, as Martini had already taken all the necessary information from them.
The Client: Claybourne
There is no such character in the book. Instead, we come across a man named Biscay, who was Martini’s friend and Padrino’s partner. So Biscay wanted to double-cross Padrino and had asked Martini to do the same, but the man was loyal to his previous partner, because of which Biscay ordered the hit. Though it was Biscay who had asked Hodges to take care of things, he didn’t want any evidence tracing back to him. The Colombians were probably being investigated by the Feds, but they were still powerful and menacing. Biscay didn’t want to declare war on them directly and, therefore, wanted to keep things as discreet as possible.
David Fincher’s film ends at the point where the Hitman locates the person who tried to harm his girlfriend, but in the book, it is just the beginning of a deeper conspiracy that ties all the loose ends. Biscay had shaken hands with a high-class businessman, Henri Worms, who promised to launch their political careers. Biscay and his other partner, Jouen, feared that if the Americans started investigating the Colombians, then the entire drug chain would go down with them. So, in order to secure their position, they started importing drugs from the Worms, who promised them much more than just money.
After botching the Paris assignment, the Hitman decided to take his money from Edward so that he could retire. But Edward never paid him back. Instead, he sent goons to attack his girlfriend. The Hitman only helped the Colombians for two reasons. First, he needed money to retire. Secondly, he wanted some connections to find out about the assassins so that he could kill them and not live in fear anymore. In David Fincher’s The Killer, the Hitman is able to locate these assassins, which is why, in the end, he is able to return to his safehouse to live a peaceful life. But he will never be able to. The reason is, for the Hitman, killing is not a job. It is a part of his existence. Throughout the book, he expresses his desire to retire and live a normal life, but every time, he ends up taking a new assignment because pulling the trigger and shooting people is what makes him feel alive.
If we assume that David Fincher’s The Killer has tried adapting the entire revenge arc of the Hitman seeking justice for his girlfriend, then it would be safe to say that the writers have only taken the first five chapters of the graphic novel. There are a total of 13 chapters in the book, so a sequel to The Killer is certainly possible. However, if the team is going to adapt the book in this manner, leaving so many loopholes and loose ends, then it would be better if they didn’t make a sequel and spared the book from another mediocre adaptation.
In the sequel, if there is one, we can expect the introduction of important characters like Padrino, Mariano, and the Hitman’s best friend, Antoine, an ex-cop whom he met in Paris. In terms of the story, the Hitman always finds new assignments to try new guns and shoot new targets. Hence, it would be safe to say that if the key characters are introduced in the sequel film, then Padrino is going to hire the Hitman to do some assignments for him, which will bring new locations and new conflicts to the screen. We sincerely hope that if David Fincher and his team make a sequel to the film, then they should really focus more on the story and character growth, as in the end, it is what engages the viewers and leaves them satisfied.