Some time back I reviewed Kevin Wignall’s novel, The Hunter’s Prayer. I like Wignall’s work, and judging by my review, it was an interesting story that took a somewhat shopworn premise in unexpected directions. We’re used to stories about hit men who have a crisis of conscience and decide to save a target. In this book, a hit man saves a young girl, but then their paths diverge, going in surprising – and shocking – directions.
The movie version, which I watched on Amazon Prime the other night, does not follow the book very closely. It starts right – a teenaged girl in a private school in Switzerland (Ella Hatto, played by Odeya Rush) is attacked in a nightclub along with her date, but they are suddenly rescued by an efficient professional killer, Stephen Lucas (Sam Worthington). They go on the run, but contrary to the book the boy soon bails out. And the story after that runs along conventional action movie lines. The climax, though featuring plenty of violence and shooting, is pretty predictable.
My own judgment, as a storyteller only peripherally connected to the movie industry, is that the filmmakers had the choice of being faithful to the book and doing something dangerous and unconventional, or sticking to tried and true patterns. They chose the safe route, and came out with an adequate action film that no one will remember much a few hours after it’s over.
Cautions for language, violence, and adult themes.
‘Nothing happened. I just decided to change.’ He said no more, and yet he wanted to warn her that it wasn’t that easy – something he and Bruno Brodsky and her own father all would have testified to. Once in, there was always a route out; staying out was where the difficulty lay.
Another novel by Kevin Wignall. Again I was impressed, but in a somewhat different way. The Hunter’s Prayer is equally well executed, but it’s much darker than The Traitor’s Story. It contains, I must warn you, one of the most shocking scenes I’ve ever encountered in a work of fiction.
Ella Hatto is an American college student, on vacation in a small Tuscan town with her boyfriend, when they are suddenly attacked by hit men. Just as suddenly a rescuer appears, an efficient killer who dispatches the assassins and spirits Ella and her friend away in a taxi cab. This is the end of Ella’s old life. From now on, everything will be different for her. At the beginning she gets some support and advice from Lucas, her rescuer, a man who is trying to overcome his social isolation, to break out of a lifetime of separation from humanity. “You don’t get it, do you?” he says at one point. “See, I am the bad guy.”
Then their paths separate and they take very different roads. One road culminates in the truly awful moment I warned you about. Another leads to a kind of redemption. If it weren’t for the redemption angle, I’d probably have panned this novel as just too nihilistic. But it works in the end, in a somber way.
I recommend The Hunter’s Prayer, with cautions. Not only for language and the other usual stuff, but for the shock. I’m finding Kevin Wignall’s books profoundly moral – but the morality isn’t precisely Christian.