David Fincher’s newest film The Killer is a character study of a meticulous assassin as he reverse-engineers his last job, one he failed, after his employers attack too close to home in retaliation. It has all the pieces to be a film I should love and while I did very much enjoy the methodical journey of this quiet killer, the film was also a bit…underwhelming. The Killer is a very good film and strong in many aspects. The acting, the story beats, the subtle but imposing score, and the looming atmosphere Fincher is able to build are all fantastic. Yet the film falls short of being one I would consider great.
To his credit Fassbender is perfect in this role as a contract killer with a complex approach to his work. He has a disarming charm but at the same time he’s unflinching in his dispensing of victims. Through his narrations we get inside the head of this man and visually we see the calculation of every move he makes. So, without question Fassbender gives this film the commanding and compelling character it needs. Fincher’s imprint is also present, giving this story a moody vibe, it can thrive in as it explores the inner workings of high-price assassin work in a much less glamorous light than films such as John Wick.
It’s also the interesting little nuances of this story that are able to capture the procedural approach to the work we don’t often get, that I do think work very well. Such as supply stash locations, the collecting of aliases, and the underground means of communication. It’s all intriguing and frequently captivating which is why I think The Killer is a very strong film. The main issue I had was with the actual meat of the story because at times it feels like a plot fit for a Jason Statham actioner rather than the art-house action film it clearly is attempting to be.
Fassbender, known in the film only as The Killer, decides to take revenge on his employers and those who hired them after a near-miss results in a failed contract. So, he works his way up the ladder getting more information at each rung before reaching his final target. It’s a tried-and-true action movie plotline. And at the same time, it’s also a basic plotline. When you peel away the narration of our lead giving context to his actions, the polished dialogue, and the atmosphere from Fincher, The Killer for long stretches feels like a routine action flick…with minimal action.
Now don’t get me wrong when the violence strikes it comes from nowhere. It’s unrelenting, startling, and it instantly elevates the intensity. There’s also one extremely gritty fight sequence in the middle that will have you on the edge of your seat. But outside of that our main character finds minimal pushback resulting in little fear or concern which in turn gives long stretches of the story a wash-and-repeat feel that drags the pace down considerably. I enjoyed the grounded approach this story takes when playing inside the world of hitman cinema, and I can appreciate its unique aspects. The Killer will certainly appeal to some, but others may find this man’s unspectacular mission of revenge feeling a tad anticlimactic. However, it’s still quality cinema, and worth checking out to see what side of the fence you fall on.
CAST: Michael Fassbender, Tilda Swinton, Charles Parnell, Arliss Howard, Kerry O’Malley, Sophie Charlotte DIRECTOR: David Fincher WRITER(S): Andrew Kevin Walker, Alexis Nolent, Luc Jacamon DISTRIBUTOR: Netflix RUNNING TIME: 158 minutes RATING: R (For strong violence, language and brief sexuality) YEAR: 2023 LANGUAGE: English GENRE: Action/Adventure/Crime
Anthony J. Digioia II © 2023 SilverScreen Analysis