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The Killer ★★★



Directed: David Fincher

Cast: Michael Fassbender, Arliss Howard, Charles Parnell, Sophie Charlotte, Tilda Swinton

Release date: 10th November 2023 (Netflix)

“It’s amazing how physically exhausting it can be to do nothing”, the un-named titular hitman of David Fincher’s The Killer muses while lurking in the shadows of a Paris WeWork office space. Stationed across the street from a luxury hotel where his target resides, he goes through Patrick Bateman-esque yoga poses, throws out factoids, apathetic mantras and pines for his last ‘nice quiet drowning’. Adapted by Andrew Kevin Walker from the graphic novel by Alexis Nolent, this chilling yet understated opening is just a shade of the cold, stylish thriller that awaits. 

Despite the tedium of waiting and his pre-kill insistence to ‘stick to the plan’, when it’s finally time for the hitman to act and send a bullet to the head of his mark, something goes wrong. His failure to complete the job then triggers a retaliation that sees him travel the globe to seek answers and settle scores. 

Played to gripping effect by Michael Fassbender, The Killer is a welcome return to form for the actor whose last feature was 2019’s X-Men: Dark Phoenix. Silent and menacing, economical with his few words of dialogue but no less threatening, Fassbender perfectly exemplifies a man who deifies detachment, soundtracking his savage exploits to The Smiths as one would a jog in the park. Fincher ramps up this atmosphere of clinical brutality through a pulsating score by Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross. Synthes hum, and throb as Fassbender’s kills escalate in brutality, and he powers through the chain of command with ruthless, bloody efficiency. A gruesome fight scene in Florida is particularly captivating and worth the price of admission alone. Tilda Swinton also makes a small but memorable appearance as a fellow assassin, cooly accepting of the business she’s in and the inevitable fate it beckons. 

The Killer exhibits many of the Fincher hallmarks fans love. Peering at the seedy underbelly of humanity, Fincher fascinates with characters who provide a perspective of the unflinching darkness and philosophical cynicism that courses through the world and lives side-by-side with our veneer of performative joy and satisfaction. One is only partially removed from the absorbing events of the film by the questionable notion you can order a fob copier from Amazon in a matter of hours. If there is anywhere that Fincher (much like our hitman) misses the mark, it’s in the closing 15 minutes. Once the trail leads to the Bitcoin bigwig who ordered the initial hit, the resulting confrontation leaves question marks. This resolution compounds the underlying feeling that for all the insight into the hitman’s ponderings on fate, death and agency, none of it quite translates into the taut social and psychological commentary previous Fincher entries have boasted. And perhaps that’s okay. The end product is sleek, precise and endlessly watchable; yet for those to whom a Fincher feature is often a delectable 3-course meal, The Killer delivers a somewhat leaner offering.

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