The Killer

Directed by: David Fincher
Distributed by: Netflix

Written by Taylor Baker


Michael Fassbender stars as a fumbling inadept hitman in David Fincher’s “The Killer.” The film opens with a hit gone wrong in Paris that causes a contract to be placed on his head. Told in chapters, the film is based on the French Graphic Novel ‘Le Tueur,’ French for ‘The Killer.’ It’s a bit of a modified road movie moving to a new locale in each chapter with visits to Florida, Louisiana, New York, Texas, and the Dominican Republic after our stay in Paris.

Fincher whose long been interested in the minds of killers exerts a significant amount of goodwill in the first chapter—inviting the audience to get to know the city block that Fassbender’s killer is lounging around in as he waits for his mark to turn up. He brings to life the ebb and flow of the shops, its residents, and passersby. This time and attention nearly romanticizes the block itself into becoming a character within the film, which causes our abrupt exit following Fassbender brutally missing his mark to be all the more impactful.

Fassbender’s killer narrates the majority of the film. While this choice briefly borders on being an irritant after a while it ends up being one of the lynchpins of the film giving it just enough narrative thrust that the audience has something to engage with in the film’s duller moments. While the vehicle of the plot is serviceable the actual substance of the film is boorish.

While I’m quite sympathetic to physical action creating momentum in films, “The Killer” is difficult as its direction isn’t formally intriguing nor are the characters it presents. A self-delusional killer, an idyllic tropical girlfriend willing to die for the main character, a secretary and a lawyer with scraps of paper as plot devices, two equally flawed hitmen as side bosses, and a mindless billionaire. “The Killer” is just as often about waiting around as it is about killing whoever the villain of the chapter is. While both those things can seem stylish and cool at first, they wear away as we repeat the same patterns slightly differently along the runtime.

For the killer’s final send-off in the film, he reverses an earlier platitude he’d mentioned in the opening minutes about whether one should be one of the many or one of the few. Making clear that if nothing else it is all quite pointless. It’s a paltry ending to a film that touched all too briefly the heights that Fincher is capable of when he’s on his A game. “The Killer” is a film about a man who is bad at his job, how long you find that premise intriguing will correlate directly to how much you enjoy it.

“The Killer” Trailer

You can follow more of Taylor’s thoughts on film on LetterboxdTwitter, and Rotten Tomatoes.

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