They slip through shadows, hidden from view. Walking softly, to sneak up on you (Hey, that rhymes!). The silent killers of the fantasy world: Assassins, paid in gold to cut someone’s throat. They are a formidable foe both in rumor and in action. But do they have a proper place and function in a fantasy world?
The difficulty with assassins is the lack of moral clarity they engender. I read a book once (I think it was The Assassin’s Apprentice by Robin Hobb) about the life of an apprentice assassin. It was interesting enough, as far as it went; the assassins described were in the direct employ of a king, and that, I guess, gave them some legitimacy—or, at least, that was how the author intended to give them legitimacy. For myself, I would probably avoid making an assassin a protagonist in a novel. There is just something too cold in taking money for killing that prevents me from using them as such. Still, although Robin Hobb did a good job and everything, it was always in the back of my mind … yeah, this guy really isn’t a good guy (of course, maybe that’s the pot calling the kettle black considering how my novels are progressing … wink, nod), even though this is a fun read.
Anyway, I like using assassins as weapons of the antagonist. They’re great for developing political intrigue. The nobles are plotting against each, jockeying for power and position, one hires an assassin, the others respond in kind, and all hell breaks loose. People dropping dead left and right. Great stuff. My favorite type of assassin is, of course, the legendary ninja of Japan. Trained since birth as the ultimate killing machine. Woo hoo! I based my own super-assassins known as bloodseekers on the Japanese ninja. I intend to introduce one in the next book. It’ll be great. More chaos. More blood.
Anyway, those are my thoughts on assassins in fantasy literature for today.
“Alex Cross” is a movie based on the fictional character created by James Patterson in a series of books (a series of books I have not read). The title character, Alex Cross, is played by Tyler Perry. He’s a tough cop and a brilliant psychologist with an uncanny ability to get in the head of the perpetrators of numerous crimes. He’s accompanied by Thomas Kane (played by Edward Burns) a tough cop in his own right, but not quite so brilliant as the esteemed Cross. This time, though, they are pushed to the edge by a ruthless assassin named Picasso (played by Matthew Fox). It’s a deadly game of cat and mouse, where life and death are on the line.
The story begins well: it gives some backstory for Cross and his team and shows the assassin making his first hit. He starts in an underground mixed martial arts tournament where he maims the reigning champ. Of course, his mark decides to take him home with her, whereupon he drugs her, kills her and her bodyguards, and leaves a drawing behind as his calling card. That’s when Alex Cross and his team are called in to investigate. Cross deciphers the drawing and determines where the assassin will strike next. A confrontation ensues, which ultimately comes to something of a draw. The mark is saved, but the assassin escapes. From there things get really hairy and Cross must decide if he’s going to cross that line between justice and revenge when the assassin begins to threaten and kill those closest to him.
Strengths: I thought Tyler Perry did a wonderful job as Cross. I’ve never seen him in anything else before—I know he’s something of a comedian, but this was straight-up solid acting on his part. The other actors did well, too. There were no gaping logical flaws in the storyline that I saw. They developed the characters well and pulled off an entertaining movie. Weaknesses: The second half of the movie just seemed to evolve into a standard cop-type movie. It was okay, but not truly strong. Also, the main protagonist and antagonist were just too … awesome. Cross figured things out too quickly and just seemed too smart for human. Ditto for the assassin. He was just too brutal and effective. Plus, there was that bit where the assassin maimed the MMA champ, but had difficulty fighting Cross whose hand-to-hand combat skills were never stated as being anything above ordinary. That, perhaps, counts as a logical flaw. Regardless, Alex Cross and the assassin seemed almost superhuman, and that detracted from the film.
Overall, I’ll give “Alex Cross” a rank of three and a half stars out of five.