Directed by David Fincher, The Killer stars Michael Fassbender as a new kind of “modern hitman” who doesn’t miss. Until now.
At first blush, David Fincher’s new action thriller, The Killer, doesn’t appear all that unique. It’s essentially a Hitman movie made by someone who actually wants to make a Hitman movie, complete with a setup reminiscent of a John Wick movie, in which a competent assassin unexpectedly botches a job and then finds himself hunted by the people who hired him. As our mysterious, unnamed killer (played by Michael Fassbender) frequently says in his internal monologue, you can’t trust anyone. But maybe you can trust David Fincher.
It doesn’t take long to see what Fincher and screenwriter Andrew Kevin Walker (who previously worked with Fincher on Seven) have in mind to spruce up this otherwise business-as-usual Netflix release based on the eponymous French graphic novel series written by Matz (Alexis Nolent) and illustrated by Luc Jacamon. Right away, the unnamed killer we follow is eccentric in unexpected ways. His internal narration happens in real-time, making it capable of interruption. He’s apparently neurodivergent, but not in the exaggerated Hollywood way, at least for the most part.
He’s a man who uses the trinkets and modern mores of polite society to accomplish his heinous, deadly tasks, such as choosing an empty WeWork office in Paris as his sniper’s nest, which he trusts more than AirBnB. We see him eat McDonald’s and pontificate upon the money-to-protein ratio of its breakfast. He deftly capitalizes on the same-day delivery perks of Amazon in order to hack into a secure apartment complex. He’s not just an unnamed killer, he’s an unnamed consumer, one wholly recognizable to everyone watching as someone they could easily run into on the street. Terrifying, right?
This all basically makes The Killer sort of the anti-John Wick, in the sense that the film wants us to buy into a real world, not a mythological fantasy version of our contemporary one. Capitalism is scary enough without having to think about how assassins can make use of it, and so on. The action itself is visceral, but gritty, which Fincher and his longtime cinematographer Erik Messerschmidt accomplish with their usual swift, human-centric camera movements and frenetic, precisely-timed editing, without relying too much on special effects to deliver the actual thrills.
The bottom line.
But as a psychological thriller, The Killer can be somewhat lacking and thin. Much of the film is spent following Fassbender along a one-note cat-and-mouse game devoid of a memorable mouse, save for the late-in-the-game arrival of Tilda Swinton as a rival assassin who dines upon her ten minutes in this film like it’s her last performance ever. It’s amusing to watch Fassbender glide along an international Rubik’s cube of assassination challenges, each one as engaging as the last, but as a film with a beginning, middle, and end, The Killer doesn’t opt to leave you with much to chew on besides its egregiously overt messaging about the line between consumerism and the shady underbelly that keeps it all moving along.
In other words, David Fincher sticks to the “plan,” albeit sometimes to a fault. Still, if that’s the film’s only real miss, then like its titular character, The Killer is definitely one to watch out for.
The Killer is now playing in select theaters and will be available to stream on Netflix starting November 10. Watch the trailer here.
THE KILLER (2023) - 8/10