David Fincher’s latest feature-length project is The Killer starring Michael Fassbender alongside Tilda Swinton and Charles Parnell. Based on a graphic novel of the same name by Alexis Nolent and illustrated by Luc Jacamon, The Killer features the thrilling aftermath of a job gone wrong by a gun for hire. Fincher has reportedly kept The Killer’s cinematic adaptation alive as a passion project for the past 20 years, but I was unable to turn up any concrete evidence of that statement.
The last time audiences saw a Fincher project was 2020’s Netflix original Mank (which is one of the first movies I ever reviewed way back in the day). Since then, Fincher has produced and directed several episodes of Love, Death, and Robots. For those unfamiliar with LDR, I suggest you get familiar because it is fan-flipping-tastic. Fincher’s feature catalog includes venerable classics such as Fight Club, Se7en, Zodiac, and The Game. He’s one of Hollywood’s best and brightest because of how intense and brutal his movies can be. The Killer certainly isn’t Fight Club but it is a damn good movie in its own right. And while some viewers may complain that it’s not nearly action-y enough, I’m glad it’s not John Wick either.
The Killer is a gun for hire in a world of assassins and hitmen. He’s not the only one out there dropping bodies as Tilda Swinton’s character delivers a monologue to the contrary but he is clearly the best – despite the missed shot that causes the story to transpire. However, as the movie goes on I can’t help but wonder if it was truly an accident and not done on purpose. More on that later.
The Killer certainly isn’t Fight Club but it is a damn good movie in its own right.
The Killer frequently apprises the audience on the strength of his routine and his attention to detail but also reminisces about more personal jobs. At one point, he tries to recall the last time he had worked on a good old-fashioned drowning. This leads the audience to believe he’s truly a master of his craft. However, immediately after the missed shot, he confesses that he doesn’t know what he’s feeling. It takes him a moment but he recognizes it as fear. It’s obvious that it’s something he has forgotten due to his exceptional skill.
As the Killer reconciles his missed shot with his employer, he discovers his family – someone I’m assuming to be his love interest – is put on the chopping block as collateral for the person who put the hit out initially. Now self-tasked with seeking revenge, the Killer tracks down his employer and learns the identity of the ones who harmed his loved one. He employs every trick of the trade that he possesses in order to get even.
This is accomplished through several more monologues and musings from Fassbender as he sneaks around gyms, parking garages, storage units, and airports. Burner phones are dropped as often as shell casings. Fake IDs with sitcom character names are slid across more ticket counters than I can keep track of. Through it all, Fassbender wears his floral shirts, ankle-length jeans, and tourist hats to blend in.
…he recognizes it as fear.
While Fassbender is solid in this role, it’s more of a credit to the source material and the adaptation being written by Andrew Kevin Walker than his skill as an actor. The strong, silent type has been a staple of quality action movies since before Clint Eastwood in his many spaghetti westerns in the 60s. This is just an updated version of it – with more voiceovers. Swinton and Parnell are small parts of this story, serving as an adversary and catalyst respectively. Their performances are short but reliable for actors of their caliber.
Now on to my theory. I think that he unconsciously missed the shot on purpose to try and bring some excitement back into his life. His routine and insufferable mantra about patience and working dispassionately would have the audience believe he’s too good to be off the mark by any significant amount. It can’t simply boil down to bad luck, more so it’s the Killer creating his own excitement.
The thrill of the hunt far outweighs the actual kill for a guy like this. He wants a challenge again, whether he knows it or not. It’s that hubris, whether by unconscious decision-making or bad luck, is what leads to the Killer’s potential undoing. And it’s the strength of his routine and attention to detail that saves him.
Fincher’s The Killer was an incredibly enjoyable action flick. I think it’s one of the better Netflix originals I’ve seen in the past few years. Fassbender is kind of an enigma to me as I can’t quite nail down what or who he is. He strikes me as somebody who will try any genre of movie at least once, with varying degrees of success. I think he succeeds in a movie like this where actions speak louder than words.
Directed by: David Fincher
Starring: Michael Fassbender, Tilda Swinton, Charles Parnell