‘The Killer’ movie review: Michael Fassbender and David Fincher smash this quiet rampage of revenge out of the park

Fincher’s stylish frames, Swinton’s conversation, Reznor/Ross’ score, and Fassbender’s performance make this Netflix movie a joy to watch

November 11, 2023 12:43 pm | Updated November 16, 2023 03:44 pm IST

Michael Fassbender in a scene from ‘The Killer’

Michael Fassbender in a scene from ‘The Killer’

Why do assassins have so much interior monologue? Is it because they have nobody to talk to about a regular day at the office? Unless you are an amnesiac like Jason Bourne with everyone you are close to dying sooner or later, it is best to talk to yourself. So it is with the Killer (Michael Fassbender) in this stylish David Fincher outing, based on a French comic book series by Alexis ‘Matz’ Nolent and illustrated by Luc Jacamon.

The film opens in Paris where the Killer is waiting for the target to show up. Through the multiple interior monologues we get to know the Killer’s modus operandi and his creed (Stick to your plan. Anticipate, don’t improvise. Trust no one. Never yield an advantage. Fight only the battle you’re paid to fight. Forbid empathy. Empathy is weakness. Weakness is vulnerability).

Through the movie we also learn of the Killer’s general thoughts on the lies told us by the military-industrial complex, the fact that New Orleans has 1000 restaurants and one menu, what an episode of Storage Wars would look like when they open one of his units, that karma and justice are non-existent, cleanups are tedious, and how he has grown to appreciate proximity work—when was my last nice, quiet drowning, he wonders.

The Killer (English)
Director: David Fincher
Starring: Michael Fassbender, Arliss Howard, Charles Parnell, Kerry O’Malley, Sala Baker, Sophie Charlotte, Tilda Swinton
Storyline: An assassin misses a mark and embarks on a systematic campaign of vendetta
Run time: 119 minutes

Back to Paris and the hit, by some weird quirk of fate (even though the Killer does not believe in it), he misses and narrowly escapes being caught. He flees to a safe house in the Dominican Republic only to find his girlfriend, Magdala (Sophie Charlotte) badly beaten up. That sets him on a path to wreak vengeance on all responsible, from the taxi driver Leo (Gabriel Polanco) to his handler, Hodges (Charles Parnell), Hodges’ office assistant, Dolores (Kerry O’Malley), Brute (Sala Baker) and the client, Claybourne (Arliss Howard).

The Killer is different from the John Wick movies — the body count is not cartoon-level high and the violence, though sudden and shocking, is not gratuitous. Also unlike the formally dressed Wick, Killer prefers to keep it casual — he has a nice line in tropical shirts. He uses modern conveniences including online shopping and app-based hires for conveyance and rooms. He stopped using Airbnb though, because of their fondness for nanny cams. He even has a work mix tape to help get his pulse under 60 for that perfect shot.

Michael Fassbender in a scene from ‘The Killer’

Michael Fassbender in a scene from ‘The Killer’

The Killer is awash in lovely frames. From the top view of the blue-and-white staircase in Paris and the plane flying so close to a building that you are sure it would crash, to the quiet meal at an upscale restaurant, the golden sunrises and sunsets, and the blue artificial lights from the many screens that are the bane of our lives, all contribute to a visually arresting experience. There is also the neatly-stylised title card.

Fassbender is as arresting as Fincher’s frames and one can easily spend the two hours enjoying the experts doing their stuff. That conversation between Tilda Swinton, a fellow assassin, and the Killer is that necessary pause in all the blood and bullets. Then there is the lush score by Fincher’s long time collaborators, Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross from Nine Inch Nails. What joy!

The Killer is currently streaming on Netflix

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