David Fincher’s new film is definitely a sleek and captivating watch for those who are interested in the methodical and precise nature of all things Fincher. The subject matter isn’t something new, and the character study comes across like many films we’ve seen before, Drive or American Psycho being the first that comes to mind. The film is a stylized study of the days of a killer after something goes terribly wrong, leaving him to defend himself. Michael Fassbender stars in and as The Killer, and the Irish actor is a delight to watch. The film begins in Paris in the first chapter. The assassin awaits his target’s arrival and goes about his boring day as we hear his inner voice (in very Fincher style).
Chapter 1 begins with the anonymous killer waiting for a week for the arrival of a target. He talks about getting McDonald’s for breakfast and states that his job requires patience because it’s quite a boring task to wait. It’s beautiful Paris, but the day begins late, and the killer has no choice but to wait. On day 6, he gets an ultimatum to finish the job in the next 24 hours. Fortunately for him, the target arrives that same night, but he’s with a woman. The woman dances in front of the window while the killer waits for his heartbeat to slow down to the perfect rate in order to take the shot. In his wait, the variable, i.e., the woman, ends up coming in the way of his shot, meaning he’s completely botched the job. The Killer doesn’t believe in silly things like luck, karma, or justice and has a mantra he recites just before taking his hit. These rules include not trusting anyone, fighting the fight only if it’s paid for, anticipating over improvisation, never giving the other person an advantage, and most importantly, never empathizing because it’s a weakness. According to the killer, this is the key to success (at least in his line of work).
After missing his target, the killer has lost the window of opportunity, but not just for himself; of course, said victim is going to be well protected with a target on his back. The killer returns to his secret hideout in the Dominican Republic, only to find his hideout in shambles and his girlfriend missing. Now this movie goes from a huntsman thriller to a tale of revenge. How dare they touch my girl? They will have to pay for this. Magdala, the killer’s lady love, looks awful in the hospital, terribly bruised and assaulted. She promises the man that she didn’t say anything about him, though. Magdala has a brother, who worries for her and gives the killer the details of the two people who conducted the assault. Through his connections, the killer finds the cab driver who drove the two people to his home. Leo, the cab driver, gives him all the details he needs. A man who had too much adrenaline and needed to be leached and a woman who looked like a Q-tip were his customers. They asked him to wait an hour at the house he drove to and take them back to the airport. The man was hurt in the house, bleeding from his leg, but Leo drove them to the airport. After hearing him out, the killer shoots Leo cleanly through the head.
New Orleans is where the killer goes next. This is where it all began when the killer was hoping to be a lawyer but ended up becoming a cold-blooded assassin instead (not too big of a difference, no?). Hodges is the guy who gets the clients, and the killer executes for him. By now, we know that the killer is already breaking his rules, thanks to things getting very personal after the chaos of the missed target. He makes it into Hodges’ office rather easily and gets the assistant Dolores (who looks curiously similar to the mom in Confessions of a Shopaholic) to do the tying up. Hodges has two laptops on the table, which contain all the information about the clients, etc., and the killer nails them to the table without saying a word. He uses the same nail gun to pop some nails in the chest of the 60-year-old man, expecting him to last long enough to give him the names of the people who hurt his girlfriend. Ah, but he’s messed up again. So much for being perfect and all. Hodges dies too soon, and Dolores is the killer’s only answer.
She takes him to her home, where she has the information on paper, and gives it to him. She knows she’s going to die, but she begs for him to leave her discoverable so her children can get the insurance. You know how these ice-cold killers have that one moment where you’re meant to feel like they’re human? This is as close as it gets for this guy because he snaps Dolores’ neck and makes it look like she’s fallen off the stairs (so the kids can get the insurance).
This is where the killer has the most fun as he travels to Florida to get the big guy who assaulted his girlfriend. There’s a moment when it feels like he’s going to harm the poor innocent dog for existing in the guy’s house, but he just feeds her something to make her rest. They call this guy “the brute” because of his massive size and overly energetic body. A John Wick-style action sequence ensues, and it almost feels like this massive guy is going to get the no-fat, perfectly shaped killer, but in the end, the killer manages to shoot him dead. The killer gets chased by the dog, and just as she’s about to catch him, he manages to escape (definitely the most thrilling scene of the film). He sets the massive beachfront house on fire and escapes as another sitcom character (in his disguise) yet again.
The killer arrives at the Big Apple to finally meet Q-tip. She’s entirely the opposite of the brute, and the killer meets her at a restaurant where she seems to be a regular, knowing all the waiters. The Expert, as she’s called, is certain what the unnamed man is going to do and uses her last minute to tell a joke. The expert tells the joke of the bear and hunter, essentially telling the killer that he’s destroying himself by taking up this very personal job. In the end, when he takes her out to the water nearby, she tells him that she hopes he remembers her in his dying minutes. She falls over and asks the killer to help out a lady, but he shoots her bang in the middle of the head (a very detailed shot) because she was really trying to knife the guy and escape her fate (so much for destroying oneself, eh?).
Does The Killer Get The Client?
Chapter 6 is the final chapter of The Killer. This is when he travels to Chicago to meet the rich client, Claybourne. We’re shown how easy it is for a man to pick the most expensively “safe” home with a simple purchase from Amazon (Netflix approved of this?). When the killer reaches the man who set this all up, Claybourne thinks he’s there to rob him. He spends a good amount of time trying to figure out who the killer is, and when he does, he apologizes for the collateral damage. According to him, it was Hodges’ idea to mop up loose ends without knowing what that actually meant. Claybourne, who was startled by the mishap, agreed to Hodges’ plans, leading to the killer’s girlfriend paying the price. Somehow, the killer believes the billionaire hedge fund manager with the stock market channel playing in the background on his large TV screen. He leaves him with a warning that if he were ever to try anything again, he’d give him a painful, slow death.
In an epilogue, the killer returns to his home in the Dominican Republic and reunites with his now (almost) completely healed girlfriend. In his voiceover, he mentions how his work entails him being “one of the many” and not standing out and being unique. Just like all of us watching. We can guess that the film is determined to showcase the process of a killer’s mind; when he’s not in the right shape, even if he’s cold and calculated, he can make mistakes. According to the killer, “fate” is a placebo, and the only path in life is the one that we leave behind. Eventually, the killer is free to do what he likes and be with his girlfriend. It doesn’t seem like he can stay away from his work for too long. We’d say there isn’t anything deeper to this story, and the underlying theme is only “process,” which we see plenty of in The Killer.