This assessment of David Fincher’s The Killer was initially printed together with the movie’s premiere on the 2023 Venice Worldwide Movie Pageant. It has been up to date and republished for the movie’s Netflix debut.
David Fincher’s newest film — a Netflix adaptation of the French graphic novel collection The Killer — is nihilistic in probably the most recursive, reductive sense. Its seek for that means hits useless finish after useless finish. Whereas that’s a part of its creative credo, it’s extremely irritating to observe it meander round quite a few bends, discovering solely the tiniest handful of thrilling or bleakly humorous scenes. What’s particularly unusual about The Killer is that Fincher achieves nearly all the things he units out to, however he units that bar dispiritingly low.
The one actually electrical factor about The Killer is the live-wire opening credit. The sequence is a throwback to the form of dirty, impressionistic montages of textures and particulars that Fincher cemented within the standard consciousness with Seven, which ultimately grew to become shorthand for “it is a procedural.” From there, the film shortly transitions right into a methodical, observational first act, following an nameless murderer (Michael Fassbender) on a job in Paris.
There, he perches in an deserted WeWork workplace, throughout the road from a lavish penthouse. Along with his goal nowhere to be seen, he finds methods to cross the time, as he recounts his meticulous methodology in ritualistic voice-over, not in contrast to Concord Korine murderer film Aggro Dr1ft, sans the hallucinogens. Sitting alone, he tells the viewers how he severs himself from empathy and keenly retains his eyes on the prize.
However his assertions have loads of holes. He’s consistently distracted whereas surveilling his topic’s dwelling — his gaze falls on different home windows and folks on the road — and his thought of nutritious protein is a breakfast McGriddle. He wears low-cost, loose-fitting jackets and shirts with tropical prints; he rattles on about mixing in, however his look is totally conspicuous. (It’d be onerous for witnesses to neglect his floppy bucket hat.) Additionally, his model of a Bond-esque spy gadget is a collapsible espresso cup.
At first, The Killer looks like a pitch-perfect satire of murderer dramas, particularly when it reveals that Fassbender’s character form of sucks at his job. A minimum of, this explicit mission goes awry in a fashion that deflates each facet of the MO he’s walked the viewers by. That’s a improbable place to start out, however all the strain and sense of wry remark shortly evaporate. When the hunter turns into the hunted in a world cat-and-mouse chase, the movie drips with the form of intense paranoia Fincher lathered throughout the display in his thriller The Recreation, however not one of the setup of the primary half-hour pays off.
Fincher and screenwriter Andrew Kevin Walker disguise (and solely trace at) what the Killer’s profession has seemed like up thus far, and so they hold us at a distance from his perspective. That involves thoughts every time Fincher cuts forwards and backwards between “goal” photographs of the character and minor snippets of his standpoint, normally by a sniper scope whereas he’s listening to The Smiths. Within the transient moments once we see the world by his eyes, we additionally hear it by his ears, as he’s engulfed in music — which shortly disappears as soon as the edit cuts again to its impartial vantage. Whereas this sudden change in quantity attracts consideration to the film’s artifice, forcing us to recalibrate our personal viewpoint, it’s a flourish that’s distracting at greatest.
And that isn’t the one draw back to retaining us at arm’s size from the Killer. Regardless of the near-constant voice-over, a number of the scenes are disconnected of their narrative framing. The Killer’s goal when he lands in a brand new metropolis is totally obscured, so we really feel much less like accomplices to his journey (and even persecutors chasing him), and extra like hostages peeking out at him by rips in a blindfold. At varied factors, it’s onerous to inform whether or not he’s intruding on somebody’s dwelling to homicide them, or just holing up at a protected home. In idea, this should play into the aforementioned paranoia (lengthy light by the second act). However Fincher’s calculated aesthetic method, and his fastidiously thought-about framing and motion, find yourself distinctly noncommittal.
On the plus facet, that is the uncommon film the place Fincher employs handheld photographs galore, which add thrilling unpredictability to the occasional chase. However for probably the most half, his gloomy, gaslamp city tableaus are simply environment with out operate. Past a degree, the one filmic aspect telling any precise story in The Killer is Fassbender’s narration. The Killer is, maybe by design, a boring character, however as an alternative of mining him for additional contradictions — say, between his ideas and his actions — Fincher appears content material to easily let the digital camera run with out giving it a way of presence or perspective.
There are moments of absurd humor to be discovered, like every time the Killer makes a mistake (typically) and every time he finds himself outsmarted (consistently). Fassbender’s casting is note-perfect, as a person whose self-professed slick professionalism consistently falls by the wayside alongside along with his bravado. Anytime Fassbender shows even gentle certainty, it’s damaged up by vacant or questioning stares. He wears the film’s ethical void on his face in each scene. Since he has the lion’s share of display time — apart from these transient POV photographs, he’s in virtually each body — he’s tasked with commanding your complete movie. And even his shaky American accent (which he pitches up in uncanny trend, recalling his function because the title character in Danny Boyle’s 2015 film Steve Jobs) provides to his sense of self-constructed artifice. When it comes to its central efficiency, The Killer is unimpeachable.
Sadly, Fassbender’s character can be a person in stasis. His moral inflexibility aligns along with his story’s depiction of cycles of pointless violence. However the Killer appears to have little opinion or outlook on anybody or something past the speedy circumstances of a given scene. And whereas this makes for the sometimes centered subplot — like when he breaks right into a Floridian man collapse an act of retribution, catalyzing an amusing, flailing fistfight that may really feel at dwelling in HBO’s Barry — his lack of ethos makes an excessive amount of of The Killer right into a boring expertise. There’s little dramatic problem, and few payoffs for the pitch-black comedy it appears to arrange.
In idea, The Killer may very well be seen as a movie concerning the ruthlessness of the gig financial system, disguised as against the law thriller. It sends the Killer by a Russian nesting doll of missions till there’s little delineation between his private life and his career. However Fincher and Walker have little to say about something they current on display, or the fleeting thematic subtext they introduce. The movie is hermetic in its building, however slight in its creative goals. Past Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross’ nerve-wracking rating, there actually isn’t that a lot to it.
The Killer is streaming on Netflix now.