As the only literate Reject, it’s my duty to find the latest, the greatest and the untouched classics that would make great source material for film adaptations. I read so you don’t have to. This week, Print to Projector presents:

Columbus

by Derek Haas

“If you’re asking me to look back on my life and find answers to your questions, or if you’re hoping for an explanation or an apology for my actions, you are going to be disappointed.”

Synopsis

Trained assassin Columbus deals with a beautiful Italian woman, his usual case load of targets and the new sensation of having a price put on his head by a powerful unknown source who wants him dead.

Print

In full disclosure, I’ve never read “Silver Bear,” the first novel featuring this highly trained killer, but Derek Haas’s follow up didn’t seem to have any pre-requisite reading. It’s a pulp story that reads easy and delivers action that’s been whittled down to the bone.

In a way, it reminds me of how Jeff Lindsay writes his “Dexter” novels (which I fell in love with thanks to Luke Mullen). There’s some repetition that exists for readers new to the story, but overall it’s uncomplicated, first-person narrative that gives us the view from the world of a killer.

Columbus is fascinating because he’s perfect at his job. He’s a Silver Bear – the topmost part of the top shelf of hired killers who always gets his target. With that spotless record, it’s a sure bet that if you lay down money, whoever you want will end up six feet under. That’s a good thing in these turbulent times where we never seem to get exactly what we pay for.

Luckily, his latest big kill was a bit dirtier than usual, and there was some collateral damage. Will it effect his budding romance with a gorgeous rare books dealer named Risina? Will his fence, the man who gets his information on targets for him, end their contract? Is it the reason someone mysterious is sending wave upon wave of trained killers to take him out?

Potential Problems

The novel itself would fit fine into the cinematic mold. It’s a potboiler with some thrilling chases, some interesting (and educational) hunting (and killing) techniques, and a main character that exists in a state of pure cool even when he gets existential. Even the locations are tailor-made for postcard shots of Europe and the United States.

Not only is it perfect for an adaptation, it’s also perfect for a franchise – a blend of Bourne, Bond, and “Dexter” without the parkour, parkour, or the pathology.

The Pitch

Who do you hire to take on the best in the world?

Writing:

No surprise here. Derek Haas is a screenwriter known for writing 3:10 to Yuma and Wanted with his ever-present partner Michael Brandt. With their talents, and Haas’s intimacy with the character, they seem like the obvious choice. In this case, the obvious choice is the correct one.

Directing:

There are several names to choose from here. The text isn’t too difficult to handle, but it would need to be someone who could handle noir without being too campy. There’s a breeziness here, a lightness that most noir gets bogged down without. Names like Liman, Greengrass, and Forster come to mind easily because of the connections I made earlier, but because of my intense love of Confessions of a Dangerous Mind, I see George Clooney taking his balance of humor and darkness to this simply to launch the character and send him out into the wilderness for other directors like Tom Tykwer to take a crack at.

Starring:

He told you not to like him:

Clive Owen as Columbus: After seeing Sin City and Children of Men there is no mistaking the acting power of Clive Owen, and even though he’s already cut his teeth with The International, I think he’d be the perfect lead to turn Columbus into an icon. He’s steely but charming, and Owen would be able to turn the quick comebacks and one-liners into something effortless. He could also do a hell of a narration that didn’t come off as unnecessary or melodramatic.

Caterina Murino as Risina: Risina plays a vital role in the novel as a rare book seller that Columbus begins to fall for. She’s the dame that might steal him from the game, the thing that keeps him up at night while he should be worried about the next bullet with his name on it. Murino is a solid actress, is stunningly beautiful, and is due for a breakout American role after appearing as Solange in Casino Royale and in a smaller role in St. Trinian’s.

Laurence Fishburne as Archibald Grant: Grant is a Fence – a middleman who secures contracts and doles out extensive information to killers about their targets. For some reason, he feels a connection with Colmbus that goes slightly beyond the job. Or he just wants Columbus owing him a favor. He’s a layered character that would be fantastic under the authority of an actor like Fishburne.

Taraji P. Henson as Ruby: Ruby is Archie’s little sister who cuts a striking, confident figure herself. She puts up a thick front so no one can see her insecurities. I’m guessing Henson would need to muscle up for the role, but she’d be strong in the role considering how subtle all of the emotions need to be played there. Playing a guarded character is incredibly difficult, and Henson has already shown vulnerability in her characters, so I imagine with her talents, she’d be able to take on what seems like a simple role and turn it into something memorable.

Timothy Spall as William Ryan: I honestly have no idea how old this character is supposed to be, but Spall is a great candidate for playing a serious, “stoic businessman.” He could pretty much play any role with his training, but I like the idea of him being no-nonsense up against the swagger of Columbus.

…with Lambert Wilson as Coulfret: So you need a frightening Frenchman for your movie? Wilson is your guy. He, oddly enough, even has a specific facial feature that matches the novel’s description of Coulfret and plays an integral part in the story.

Who Owns It:

I have no idea. These are relatively new books, but Haas did mention in an interview recently that he hoped a studio would pick them up. Actually, he said he hoped there would be an announcement soon, and that cryptic answer probably means someone has bought the rights already. It’s hard to say – the nature of cryptic statements, and all. However, if the rights have been bought, there have not been any major public announcements yet.

Projection

A pulp story about a fascinating, charismatic killer, this book seems perfect for the big screen. With a third book on the way, Haas has a head start on anyone looking to adapt which means plenty of source material for years to come. At worst, it would make a solid thriller, and at best, it would make a solid base for a flourishing franchise.


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