The Killer maybe David Fincher’s most Fincher-esque movie, as one can’t help but compare the protagonist, a precise assassin, to the director himself. Yet, to an audience that doesn’t much care for perfection or anything cinematic and is just looking for a crime thriller like any of the mastermind’s previous hits, this film will come across as lackluster. The Killer, based on a French comic book of the same name, is a tale about the mundane life of an anonymous… killer. Set in the present day, The Killer makes it abundantly clear how easy it is to be an assassin in the 21st century. Completely banking on leading man Michael Fassbender’s performance and appearance, the film is 2 hours of mostly the protagonist and his thoughts. Fincher made his mark in the industry through his crime thriller Se7en back in the day. Ever since his name has been synonymous with the world of said genre. The Killer, though, lacks the thrill of his previous work because it focuses on showcasing the mundane.
Just as Fincher is to his films, the protagonist is to The Killer. Fincher is said to have worked on this project for 10 years, and that’s something that translates very clearly to the screen as it comes across as a massively personal project. Minimal dialogue, dimly lit scenes, and impeccable perspective all exist in The Killer, but it’s the script that ultimately leaves us hanging. Even so, the film is an immersive experience that takes a deep dive into the mind of a 21st-century assassin, his daily routine, and what makes him so “perfect”. No, but if you like The Killer, you’re going to like this film. The Killer is divided into six chapters of about 20 minutes each, out of which two stand out the most. One is the first chapter, which creates a fascinating build-up and sucks you in completely, and the second is the one with Tilda Swinton’s character. She comes in for about 5 minutes and proves how incredible she is as an actor, working the dry dialogue.
Fincher teams up with his Se7en collaborator Andrew Kevin Walker for this one, and yet the dialogue is a little wonky and the humor is niche (but terribly entertaining). It’s quite clear that Fincher doesn’t concern himself with the character and the plot as much as he does everything else in The Killer. Fassbender has no business looking this ridiculously cool as a corny assassin who eats McDonald’s McMuffins for breakfast minus the bun and brings his own bananas on the job, and of course we can’t ignore his perfectly sultry voice that is music to our ears. Slack-jawed appearance, cat-like strutting, and mechanical weapon arrangements all seemed to be made for the cool guy. I can imagine there are about 60 seconds in this film without Fassbender in the frame (maybe this is an exaggeration), which might be exhilarating as an actor. It helps that he’s in perfect shape, with a stoic face, a man of fewer words than his body fat percentage (which is probably 0 at this point). The film sometimes does feel like a mockery of us as an audience and Fincher himself, as a director who always has unerring direction.
The Killer doesn’t have anything new to give us, so it repackages an age-old story with new and improved non-sentimental, non-moral-stance-taking packaging. I did mention that there were two chapters of the film that were the best, but I’ve missed out on the best one, which includes a phenomenal action sequence between Fassbender and a man who might be twice his size. This is the most thrilling sequence of the film, after which things pretty much fizzle out. Before I’m misunderstood, I’m in no way trying to say this is a bad film. The Killer is a film that tells the process, and no one does the process better than Fincher. All I’m saying is to manage your expectations accordingly.
This might be Fincher’s most digital-looking film, with a very modern appearance and stylization. My one qualm is that one action sequence that is shot pretty much in the dark will be extremely hard to watch at home in daylight. Watch this one at night, for sure. The background score mostly comprises The Smiths but the sound design is a highlight of The Killer. Fincher uses the perspective of the assassin in every bit of the way, including the audio-sensory experience. If you don’t have surround sound, wear headphones for the full experience. As Fincher does so well, the film doesn’t try to dive into why this man is the way he is or what made him become a cold-blooded killer. It just shows it for what it is. There’s no psychological aspect or moral ground here; it is what it is.
The Killer is never trying; it’s exactly what it’s set out to be. Personally, maybe because of my high expectations, I found it rather forgettable in comparison to the rest of Fincher’s filmography. For film academics and cinephiles, though, this film warrants only praise. At the end of the day, Fincher can do no wrong; it’s all about subjective taste. Are you interested in knowing the inner workings of a slack-jawed killer? If the answer is yes, then The Killer will not disappoint. If it’s not something that interests you as much, leave your Fincher-tinted glasses behind and watch this one with a grain of salt. The tongue-in-cheek nature of the film may not be for all. There is a mantra that the assassin uses throughout the film, reciting it in his mind every time he’s on the job, and it almost feels as if Fincher is giving us an insight into his own mind. “Trust no one.” He even keeps himself laser-focused by constantly telling himself that he should fight only the battles that he had been paid to fight. It sounds ridiculous when I say it out loud, but it definitely works in context.
Old sitcom characters, The Smiths, and McDonalds are all defining characteristics of The Killer, but it is the scene where he stretches his body and awaits the arrival of his target that is the most captivating. At the beginning of the film, the protagonist says that being a killer requires a lot of patience, and I would like to say the same for the film. There’s no special climax or any high stakes here; it’s just the simple life of The Killer. I’d give The Killer 3.5 stars out of 5. The film is rated R. It contains graphic scenes of violence, some sexual content, and profanity.