David Fincher returns to a genre he knows well with The Killer, only this time he pulls his serial killer into the spotlight for a methodical, intense, and gripping revenge thriller.
The Killer Review
In Paris, France an unnamed assassin (Michael Fassbender) is holed up in an abandoned WeWork building. He is there waiting on his next target to arrive at the hotel across the street. To stave off boredom and thereby not get sloppy, he does yoga, assembles and dis-assembles his weapon, eats McDonald's, and lectures himself (and the audience) on the proper way to be a killer. Despite his no-nonsense and self-proclaimed perfection in hitting marks, something goes horribly wrong. Disappointing a client is a big no-no, which means retributions must be paid. WWJWBD: What Would John Wilkes Booth Do? But when someone he cares for is hurt instead of him, the killer works his way through the corporation of murders, killing everyone he finds in order to exact his revenge.
Adapted from the French graphic novel Le Tueur by writer Alexis ‘Matz' Nolent and artist Luc Jacamon, The Killer is a gripping revenge thriller that takes audiences inside the mind and world of a methodical and brutal man. Director David Fincher, who has a score of fascinating titles that feature serial killers, finally brings them into the spotlight. Andrew Kevin Walker (who previously worked on Fincher's SE7EN) pens a script that is simple, direct, and effective. Don't let the by-the-numbers aspect of it all fool you, Fincher and Fassbender deliver an experience that works to slowly lure you in, gaining your undivided attention before showing off its adrenaline pumping violence.
The Killer takes a cue from its graphic novel roots and breaks the film into chapters, named for the links in the chain he must deal with if he wants revenge. Fincher builds out this world with the precision of a skilled assassin. Cinematographer Erik Messerschmidt is up to the task of following Fincher's plans to the letter, the two have worked together before after all on Fincher's “Mank.” Everything feels intentional, from the framing to the composition of each shot. Finches draws from his past works; the cynical narration of Fight Club, the persistent and purposeful routines of SE7EN, and although the violence isn't quite as brutal as The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo, it does work to jar the audience out of the trance the killer's intonations put them in.
Each action scene is built to showcase an aspect of the killer, intending to prove this is a man batting 1000, despite that mishap in the beginning. It's thrilling watching him race through the streets of Paris, deftly disposing of the random items he used on this botched job, including a well timed throw into a garbage truck. Then there are the cleverly used items from the home improvement store, and no he didn't buy your run-of-the-mill rope and cement. No matter the situation he finds himself in, he has thought of every possible outcome and has prepared for it. You can't help but be excited as you wonder how he is going to handle each chapter and the person he encounters within them. Walker's writing, Fincher's eye for details, and Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross' score certainly contribute to the hype of it all but the heavy lifting falls to Fassbender.
There is no empathy for our killer to be found in this story, not even when the person he cares for is hurt in his place. It's a feat that Fassbender accomplishes thanks to his wholly unsympathetic and clinical demeanor. Sometimes his icy delivery of lines sounds like a note to those watching, while others sound like his internal monologue. “Stick to the plan.” At first it comes across like directions but as his cold, professional, uncaring veneer slips, it sounds like an admonishment. The subtleties in Fassbender's performance–eye shifts, head tilts, and the like that signal him veering further away from his steadfast routines are incredible to watch, though not surprising. Fassbender is known as a great actor who specializes in intricate interpretations of his characters– see David in “Prometheus.”
Though the story centers around the killer he does encounter some interesting people along his journey to find out who hired him. Each acts as a catalyst to strip away the facade he has built around himself. His carefully planned attack against The Brute (Sala Baker) for instance goes awry, leading to an exciting and well-choreographed fight sequence. Then there is an opponent of wits, The Expert (Tilda Swinton). She manages to cycle through all the stages of grief while he sits blank faced across from her. Here is a woman, an assassin, who still has managed to live her life despite her occupation, something our killer has failed miserably at. The Expert proves the fallacy in his machine-like ways.
Just like the killer lives his life, this film plays out in a by-the-numbers way. From the moment he visits his boss, The Lawyer (Charles Parnell) to when he sits across from The Expert at a fancy restaurant, everything feels inevitable but never in a boring way. It's efficient storytelling (something sorely missing in a lot of movies today) that is as methodical as its main character. What makes it work and keeps you fascinated are Fincher's keen eye for thrillers, Fassbender's impeccable acting skills, and both's commitment to the story itself.
In a sea of fake passports, storage units, and countless dead bodies, The Killer stands as a gripping, methodical, and violently entertaining revenge thriller. Fincher proves once again why he stands tall in this genre. His fresh approach to the serial killer world combined with a concise script and a performance by Fassbender that is sure to be talked about for years to come, makes this one stand out in a sea of revenge stories.
The Killer will release in limited theaters on October 27 before streaming on Netflix November 10. It is rated R for strong violence, language and brief sexuality with a runtime of 118 minutes.