Star Rating:

The Killer

Streaming On: Watch The Killer on Netflix

Director: David Fincher

Actors: Michael Fassbender, Tilda Swinton, Arliss Howard, Charles Parnell

Release Date: Friday 27th October 2023

Genre(s): Action, Thriller

Running time: 118 minutes

An assassin (Michael Fassbender) misses his target in Paris and makes a hasty and well-executed escape to the Dominican Republic, where he finds his partner (Sophie Charlotte) has been brutally assaulted. Ignoring his own creed of professional detachment, he sets off on a globe-trotting path of revenge against his handler (Charles Parnell), his two would-be murderers (Tilda Swinton, Sala Baker), and the client (Arliss Howard) who hired him for the job...

David Fincher is a director known for making icy, stylish movies that often feature characters who inhabit a brutally dispassionate mind space, or simply don't have the space to examine their motives. 'Gone Girl' saw Rosamund Pike plot revenge with a kind of grim satisfaction that was then abandoned when it was inconvenient. 'Zodiac' spends just over two and a half hours labouring with the reason why Jake Gyllenhaal's character - a newspaper cartoonist - has become obsessed with the serial killer. In 'The Killer', we're confronted with a similarly fated character - a professional assassin who sets out on a path of revenge, even though it stands in complete contrast against a mantra of indifference he repeats each time he sets out to work.

To the credit of Andrew Kevin Walker's screenplay and Michael Fassbender's performance, there isn't a moment in 'The Killer' where it looks like the title character is going to break this. There's no flashback to happier times with his partner, no gratuitous replay of whatever violence was visited upon her. Instead, we see Fassbender grimly working through his business like a dentist cleaning out someone's gums. Much like Fincher's other work, there is a distinct vein of black humour throughout. The professional killer talks wistfully about the advantages of "up-close work", and has a kind of stiffened snobbery about the life choices of other practitioners of his trade.

Compared to something like 'John Wick', which operates in a world of secret lairs, byzantine rituals, and codes of honours and ethics, 'The Killer' is obsessed with the mundane. He buys the tools he needs on Amazon. He drives a Ford Transit van to one job, and rents it from Hertz. When he's casing a target, he stops off at McDonalds or Starbucks, and follows another target into a chain gym. The level of emotional blankness and numbing banality to killing people makes 'The Killer' feel like a kind of twisted comedy in some parts. All of this, however, often serves to rob it of the kind of satisfaction you'd normally get from violent, stylish thrillers.

That said, the action sequences are neatly constructed and shot with the kind of confident ease you'd expect from Fincher. Even the more vicious moments - one particular moment that sticks out involves a slip on ice and a bullet in the face - are shot and edited with the same level of detachment as the title character. Fincher's direction never allows 'The Killer' to go for splashy when effective will always get the job done. Yet, between these moments, there are flashes of wry humour and odd peccadillos - such as a professional assassin blasting the Smiths when he's lining up a sniper shot. Ultimately, 'The Killer' is grimly entertaining and although it may not be a laugh-a-minute comedy or a wham-bam-actioner, it still has more than ample style and substance to make it worth the time.