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The Protagonist (Arrest of a Stone Buddha)

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Villain Overview

A nameless contract assassin, only known as the Protagonist, is the main villainous protagonist of the experimental indie shoot'em up Arrest of a Stone Buddha.

Biography

In the November of 1976, a lonely contract hitman marks a specific date on his calendar as an important one.

As the month begins, the game follows his usual routine, showing him sitting on a bench in a Gothic cathedral, with no context as to why he's there or what's his goal. He leaves the bench and slowly walks towards a figure of a praying elderly man, kneeling on the floor. The killer raises his pistol and shoots the man in the back of his skull, then turns around and heads to the exit. He maintains the same unbothered walking pace, even as he's ambushed by the numerous armed men, either his target's bodyguards or simple goons, who constantly come at him from both sides. Totally unfazed by their numbers and the determination to kill him, the assassin fends them off with an uncanny elegance, landing each shot perfectly and stealing the weapons of the ones who were unfortunate enough to get too close to him. He exits the cathedral and passes through the nearby cemetery, while dealing with the inexhaustible hordes of henchmen. Once the supply of his enemies is depleted, the assassin seemingly hijacks one of the cars parked near the cemetery and leaves the scene.

The next day, he's seen sitting on a bench in an unnamed park, having an awkward conversation with a man in a white trench coat. From the dialogue's tone and the man's demeanor, he appears to have known the protagonist for quite some time and fancies himself as the assassin's friend. The trench coat-wearing man talks about a certain person with a moniker Lanky getting murdered, however it seems as though the hitman didn't even remember the victim, despite him playing a large role in his past. He brings up the topic of the next assignment and his torturous insomnia, then mentions how the pills don't help. The protagonist leaves the pointless conversation, with the fast action giving way to the unbearably slow, mundane life, devoid of any real progress or purpose. During the peaceful episodes, the assassin practices various methods of killing time, such as smoking, going to the local café to drink his numbness away, buying tickets at the cinema to watch an empty, forgetful show, updating his wardrobe for no obvious reason, visiting a museum just to stroll through its hallways, going to the apartment of a certain woman for a few hours to leave without even trying to know her better, exercising on a pull-up bar in his flat, and taking copious amounts of his sleeping medication to experience the bliss of rest and an unbothered oblivion. Regardless of the method, none of them really achieve much.

After two days of a meaningless break, the assassin is tasked with his next long-awaited mission. He readies his shotgun and fires at the man, whose figure is obscured by a curtain, sending him flying through the window. The protagonist leaves the target's expensive hotel room, triggering another wave of identical bodyguards. He takes a shortcut through the hotel's restaurant and uses the elevator to get to the ground floor. Once outside, he deals with all the persistent henchman no problem, just like he always does, and employs the similar scheme for a getaway plan, simply taking someone else's unoccupied vehicle.

In the same park and on the exact same bench, the hitman's informant provides him with his assignment, while simultaneously trying to get through the cold killer's unwillingness to open up. He casually mentions the mission, implying that it has to be carried out at the sea, then offers him to take a boat together and hunt some seagulls for old times' sake (although the employer might have meant something else entirely by that), with the assassin declining in his usual manner, which in turn leads to his informant bringing up the hitman's extraordinary marksmanship, thus ending another strained dialogue. Once again, the protagonist is forced to resume his civilian life for two grueling days.

Just as instructed by his informant, the assassin arrives to a pier, enters one of the yachts and snuffs out a man lounging on a couch, despite him trying to plead with the ruthless killer. He effortlessly wipes out every henchman who attempts to prevent the hitman's escape, passing by a multitude of vessels. The protagonist finishes the last of the bodyguards while on the sea coast and drives off on someone's unsupervised motorcycle.

In a planned fashion, the hitman's informant introduces him to his next target, handing him a picture and asks whether the assassin's already aware of its identity. When the assassin replies negatively, his informant becomes confused, stating that the target is all over the news, then gets even more astonished, realizing that his so-called friend doesn't care about keeping in touch with his environment by reading newspapers. He sets the next meeting at the movie theater, but the assassin insists that the "park's closer". Not deterred by the killer's stubbornness, he still changes the meeting place to the museum and the dialogue concludes abruptly with the protagonist getting up and walking away. Three days later, his sanity is saved by yet another mission.

The game focuses on a particular car standing in the parking lot. Its side window and windshield are splattered with blood of the killer's target, who then calmly leaves the vehicle and continues on foot, and the whole parking lot, of course, is soon crowded with the countless henchmen. The assassin passes through the streets and ends up on the train station, where the enemies eventually stop coming after him and he accepts a taxi ride from the driver parked near the location of the massacre.

The protagonist's informant, due to either not being in the mood to talk or offended by the hitman's rude behavior during the previous meetings, arrives at the park, hands him over a note with the information and proceeds to just sit there without uttering a word. The assassin, however, doesn't pay much attention to this sudden change in his usually outgoing comrade's attitude and goes on to spend two days of self-reflection and sorrow before the date of his fresh and new assignment.

Positioned in a vacant apartment, the killer erases another unfortunate soul sitting next to the window of a nearby building by sniping them, then recklessly abandons the sniper rifle in an empty flat and uses one of its windows to reach the fire escape ladder, which he climbs all the way to the roof. Inexplicably, even being so high up and in such a secluded area doesn't matter to the killer's foes, as they swarm him as soon as he gets there. Moreover, several henchmen can be seen already waiting for the assassin on several flights of stairs that he has to take to exit the building. Nevertheless, no amount of enemies stops the hero from walking out of the building and descending into the metro across the street.

This conversation with the informant goes a bit differently than the others, as the hitman decides to show a little more appreciation of his friend's presence in his life by offering him to change the next meeting location to the museum. He agrees and the hitman is once again left wandering the city's streets for three days, longing for any available mission.

The target of this assignment decides to quietly admit his fate, as the killer aims his weapon at the man's chest and pulls the trigger with no resistance from the latter. With the construction of the grey anthill-like buildings going on full swing in the background, this mission's scenario mimics the previous ones, only this time the assassin is so nonchalant about the getaway routine he just sits down at the bus stop and waits, surrounded by bullet casings and corpses.

The two buddies contemplate the beautiful paintings at the museum. The cultured amusement sparks the informant's memory of trying to get admitted into the Arts Academy, but failing. The assassin comforts him, saying that at least he gave it a shot, however, in the informant's opinion, it only shattered his confidence. The hitman's friend expresses desire to continue admiring the art pieces, while the assassin gets on with his uneventful ordinary life for two days.

After seemingly arranging a faux date with his target at a small restaurant, the killer isn't impressed when the elderly man displays some sort of curiosity and defiance by leaning closer to the assassin with his elbows on the table, as if daring the protagonist to bring it on. Predictably, he receives a bullet to the face, which triggers an endless stream of eager bodyguards. The hitman exits the restaurant and heads straight through a tiny park, promptly traversing to an unspecified bridge. Descending the ladder leading beneath it, the assassin operates the motorboat left there for a swift escape.

During this ultimate meeting, the informant sadly announces that he might have inherited the hitman's insomnia from the grim conversations they've been having. The protagonist doesn't pay much mind to it and requests a cigarette, then the informant wonders how his friend deals with this kind of suffering. His answer is simple, being that of work. The informant's question is just as simple, but not any less crucial; what if there's no work? Never before has the assassin considered this possibility, so he ignores the frightful option altogether. The informant bashes him with another insightful remark, stating that they both probably imagined their adult lives differently when they were younger. The informant leaves, seeing how reluctant to talk his partner is. The assassin wastes two more days before embarking on his final mission.

The hitman comes face to face with an inhabitant of an extravagant mansion on the city's outskirts, a clearly high-ranking individual who doesn't fret when his being is threatened, so he whips out his own pistol. Nevertheless, the protagonist's quicker reaction grants him yet another successful hit and he's soon assaulted by the target's bodyguards, some of whom attempt to ambush him in the mansion's yard. The assassin meanders his way through the autumn forest and comes out at the train platform. He's overcome with his usual sorrow and adrenaline decline as he guns down the remainder of the henchmen. He enters the first arriving train and takes a lengthy somber trip with no one else on board.

The last two days of the protagonist's life add nothing to his experience. As if the assassin has envisioned this outcome, the date on the calendar that he's marked was a date of his death. With his informant gone and no assignments in the foreseeable future, the hero is stripped of any valid goal. The assassin shoots himself in the head in the solitude of his own apartment.

Appearance

The assassin is an Asian man in his late thirties of medium height and build with well-groomed black hair and an ever-present expression of someone who's deep in thought. He wears a white shirt unbuttoned at the top with a grey jacket over it, grey pants, brown shoes, a wrist watch and usually supplements this outfit with a long black trench coat and wide sunglasses, although he can purchase a white or a muddy-grey coat and leaner sunglasses as an alternative.

Personality

Informant: Might take some time off, what'd you think? We'll take the boat, remember the good old days.
Assassin: Winter's almost here. What boat are you talking about?
Informant: Could shoot down some seagulls.
Assassin: I've got enough of them over here.
Informant: You do, right, but I've been sort of down lately.
Assassin: This ain't my thing, you know that.
Informant: One wouldn't last long in this without your talents.
Assassin: Your choice.
Informant: Easy to choose when you can hit the bull's-eye at twenty meters.
Assassin: Yeah. It is.One of the dialogues between the protagonist and the informant that capture the essence of the hitman's personality.

The protagonist is a lost, disillusioned and nihilistic professional who often comes off as cold and emotionless, but it's hinted that deep down he longs for genuine human interaction and lasting happiness that he's unable to find in his repetitive, miserable life.

While talking to his informant, he's portrayed as rather laconic and uncaring, even harsh on a few occasions, often ignoring his partner's remarks and questions or answering them with short, ambiguous lines. He's particularly stubborn when it comes to changing the course of his activities or trying something new, like when his informant suggests they move their meeting place to the movie theater or the museum or when he offers the protagonist to hang out, stating that the "park's closer" and that it's "not his thing", seeing no meaning in making the matters complicated when there are much more reliable and time-tested solutions. The same tendency can be observed in his lack of appetite and interest in the state of the world around him, as he always refuses popcorn from the snacks seller at the cinema and never reads any newspapers or uses other types of social media, which points to his depressed, self-isolated nature.

The assassin's disconnected and antisocial attitude is shown to be the result of being fully engrossed into his only passion - his job. While he's never presented as outwardly sadistic, the only senses of belonging and satisfaction emerge during the assassinations and the consequent escape from the crime scene. The hitman's always eager to take any available mission, despite its difficulty or the target involved. In fact, the challenge of a dangerous fight with an unfair advantage on the enemies' side appears to give him the enjoyment that he so desperately misses during his civilian life, so it's possible that he intentionally moves at a rather slow speed even while on the assignment to savor the moment of feeling alive and to give his enemies an actual chance of killing him, considering his veteran-level combat skills.

On the other hand, the hitman's proclivity to explore the extension of his mortality might stem from his perception of a peaceful, quiet life as unfulfilling and pointless. As mentioned above, not only does the assassin suffer from chronic insomnia that severely affects his mood and distorts his outlook on reality, but he also perceives every activity he can occupy himself with during the mundane episodes merely as a way to advance time towards the next assignment, to the point when even drinking and having sex doesn't have any prolonged or profound impact on him. He still acts politely to the very few people he interacts with while purchasing something and even softens up a little towards his informant, agreeing to meet with him at the museum instead of the park, however ultimately he always keeps a bottle of sleeping pills in case he's too tired of enduring the sluggishness of his daily routine and the unnecessary conversations. As inclined by one of the dialogues, it's easier for the assassin to shoot something with excellent precision from a distance than to form a sincere and fruitful bond with another person.

In the end, it's revealed that the protagonist has planned his suicide from the very beginning, marking the day on the calendar with the intention to carry out the deed on a specific date, also giving himself some time to figure out whether he has any real place or purpose in this world, which is the question the hero has been trying to answer throughout the game's events. It partially explains the assassin's lack of preparation to some of the missions and his risky escaping methods that seem to solely rely on random luck, since it's no use trying not to get caught or covering up his tracks when the hero knows that he's already sealed his fate. In addition to that, the final nail in the coffin comes with the realization that his job is the only coping mechanism that helps him bear his painful existence and that even the assignments slowly lose their emotion-evoking properties, thus making the tragic outcome inevitable.

Powers and Abilities

  • Deadly marksmanship and Sharpshooting: As expected from a man with such an occupation, the assassin is a masterful marksman, who's able to hit moving targets from great distances, with all sorts of weapons and under various circumstances, whether while walking, shooting someone behind him without being fully turned in their direction, firing a shotgun using only one arm, shooting with both hands on the gun or one and, of course, handling two pistols akimbo-style, which allows him to kill enemies coming from boith sides at the same time. In one mission he demonstrates the sharpshooting skills by using a sniper rifle with a telescopic sight, although the exact extent of his proficiency with this weapon is never further touched upon after this assignment.
  • Hand-to-hand combat and Strength: The hitman is just as lethal in close combat as he's with firearms, using powerful and accurate kicks to disarm his opponents, as well as strong and quick enough to grab his enemy's arm and break it at the elbow, creating an open fracture and snatching the gun in a blink of an eye. He can also perform dozens of pull-ups on the bar in his apartment.
  • Driving skills: The assassin can effectively operate a multitude of vehicles, including various types of cars, a motorcycle and a motorboat. He also seems to posses some knowledge of how to hijack all this complicated machinery.
  • Luck: Supernatural or not, the assassin still has an uncanny amount of luck working in his favor. This observation becomes most obvious if one's to consider that for his foes it almost always takes multiple shots to hit the protagonist (except for the Insane difficulty, but it's most likely non-canon), giving him the opportunity to survive despite being shot at by several trained henchmen. Furthermore, the layout of the missions' locations appears to be frequently predisposed towards the successful completion and a guaranteed getaway, with the available vehicles and passable escape routes situated in a relative proximity of the hero, which is quite remarkable as well.

Trivia

  • The game's protagonist might have been based on Ah Jong (also known as Jeff), the villainous protagonist from John Woo's 1989 action film The Killer, which is reinforced by the game developer's own admittance that he has been inspired by the Hong Kong cinema and some other classical pieces of media. Both are extremely proficient contract hitmen with similar appearances and clothes, however both characters are quite different from each other. While Ah Jong is presented as a man who follows many codes of honor and still has principles and the will to change his life for the better, striving to achieve higher goals and redeem his crimes, the game's protagonist is nihilistic, constantly submerged in his own thoughts, living from one assignment to the next one, with his job being the only thing that justifies his existence, thus he cannot imagine his life without violence and gives up in the end, while Ah Jong fights until his last breath, refusing to bow down to the feelings of despair, persevering against all odds. In that sense, the protagonist is more similar to Meursault from Alber Camus' The Stranger, a book that is also referenced inside the game.
  • If the player hesitates for too long while holding the gun to the protagonist's temple, they can unlock an alternative ending that shows the hitman dropping the pistol, unable to follow through with the suicide, sobbing and cradling his head, fully submitting to his despair.
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