The Killer is quintessential David Fincher. A cold, meticulous dissection of a professional hit man that is riddled with suspense and peppered with a level of dark fascination that has become synonymous with a filmmaker who always does things his own way.
The Killer (Michael Fassbender) is on a mission to assassinate someone in Paris. But, despite his intricate planning something goes wrong and before long he finds himself a target for termination.Turning the table on his would-be assailants he goes on a globe-trotting mission to take out those who would look to destroy the life he has built.
Like so much of Fincher’s work, The Killer is jet black funny at times. A brooding sense of irony nestled neatly in the scientific execution. A scene with Tilda Swinton in particular is a macabre delight. It contains the sort of dialogue that, like its lead character, will have a wry smile slowly etching across your face.
In Fassbender, Fincher has found a living embodiment of himself. A laser sighted, terrifyingly focused individual who will stop at nothing to get the perfect shot. Fassbender is happy to often do nothing, and in doing so becomes a metronomic machine designed for one purpose only, to take life in the most effective ways possible. That we are given key insights into The Killer’s mind via a sometimes robotic, sometimes deeply glib voice over allows us to essentially step into Fassbender in this assassinating odyssey.
In many ways this feels like a very personal film to Fincher. Him living vicariously through his protagonist. The opening sequence taps directly into his fascination with the viewer as voyeur as he puts us through the scope of a hitman. Think Rear Window but with a high-powered rifle and ice in the veins rather than broken limbs.
The Killer reminds you how ruthlessly Fincher does action. It’s fleeting here but when it happens, my God does it erupt, like a ferocious juggernaut of kinetic energy that in one fight sequence takes your breath away it’s so relentless. But it’s also the way Fincher is able to build to something, there are sequences here that are tension fuelled, adrenaline rushes masked as action sequences but often, there is little actual action taking place on screen. The Killer running through a house looking for someone, blood spattered everywhere is chilling in how, like the character, it dials up and down according to the pace of The Killer himself; rest, analyse, act, kill, repeat.
The Killer is a Netflix film, meaning it is getting a limited cinema release before it is available to view on the streaming platform. As such, it feels like quite an intimate, low-budget (comparatively) film for Fincher. In Netflix he seems to have acquired a producing partner who is happy to let Fincher be Fincher. The Killer is the perfect representation of this, a film that harks back to hitpeople films of the ‘70s in its cool, slick execution but, crucially, with just enough delicate charm to keep you truly hooked. Indeed, while there is a typical Fincher Neo-Noir nihilism here The Killer’s main motivating factor is a beating heart that tugs you through the second and third acts.
An immersive, chilling and darkly funny film, The Killer is an intimate insight into the mind of a professional who might just have more heart than you give him credit for. Fincher is likely to smile at the parallels he’s intentionally conjured.