David Fincher and Michael Fassbender troll the dark side in The Killer
For over 30 years, there have been few other filmmakers with a more negative view of society than David Fincher. Almost all of his films, starting with 1992’s Alien3, have featured dark stories, with crime and murder an especially favorite topic. He’s re-teamed with Andrew Kevin Walker, the writer of Fincher's 1995 film, Se7en, for another look at murder in The Killer.
Instead of a serial killer, the film is about a hitman (Michael Fassbender), who when we meet him is on a stakeout for a job in Paris. Although, through voiceover, The Killer (who is never given a name) appears to be meticulous about his preparations and mindset, the job does not go as expected, and he is soon on the run to multiple points around the world.
Laid out in chapters, the film has The Killer encounter a variety of people in his travels, including The Lawyer (Charles Parnell), who sets up the hits for clients; The Brute (Sala Baker), who goes after the Killer’s girlfriend at a hideout in the Dominican Republic; The Client (Arliss Howard), who ordered the original hit in Paris; and The Expert (Tilda Swinton), a fellow assassin.
Fincher upends expectations multiple times during the film, starting with the opening credits, which fly by at super speed, as if he can’t wait to get to the story. But that rapidity is immediately juxtaposed with the opening Paris segment, a nearly 25-minute scene that emulates Alfred Hitchcock’s Rear Window as The Killer slowly prepares for a hit in the building across the street.
While The Killer is constantly on the move throughout the rest of the film, Fincher and Walker always take the time to set up a sequence properly, grounding both The Killer and the audience before getting down to business. This methodical nature pays dividends as we get to know The Killer’s state of mind – and his faults – as he tracks down everyone involved with the job and its aftermath.
The film naturally contains a fair bit of violence, although most of it is quick and to the point. The one exception is The Killer’s encounter with The Brute, an extended fight scene that is as intense as they come. The difference between The Killer’s precision and the sheer force put on display by The Brute is striking.
Fassbender – starring in the first of two 2023 films after a long absence – is fantastic in the title role. Although the character is almost devoid of any outward emotions, there’s a strength in Fassbender's ability to remain as focused as he does throughout the film. The film doesn’t stay with anybody else for too long, but each of the supporting actors makes an impact in their limited time.
The Killer is perhaps not top tier on Fincher’s filmography, but even Fincher at a slightly lower level is still engrossing. His continued fascination with the darker side of society makes for compelling viewing, and getting another great Fassbender performance is icing on the cake.
The Killer is now playing in select theaters; it debuts on Netflix on November 10.