The Killer Review | An Articulative Character Study From a Meticulous David Fincher

The Killer, the new David Fincher movie distributed by Netflix, is a very patient and meticulous articulation of the process and life of these assassins. Rather than emphasizing the stylizing of the modus operandi of our title character, Fincher’s film puts him in a peculiar situation and makes him face off with people who do the same thing he does. It’s a slow-burn drama that gets a compelling tone through its visual language and pacing.

An unnamed assassin is in Paris to complete the task given to him, and he waits patiently for the right moment. Unfortunately, the plan went sideways, and he had to flee from the scene. But the profile of the person he had to kill was so big that there were consequences for his inability, and his partner got attacked at his place in the Dominican Republic. What we see in The Killer is the hunting spree of this character to take down everyone who was involved in that attack.

As a basic story, this is simply an old-fashioned revenge tale: you touched my girl, and I am going to kill you all. But the psychological shade of the whole story, along with thorough detailing of the working style of the killer, is what makes The Killer an enticing watch. In the elaborately long first sequence, where he is waiting for the target, we hear his mind-voice narrating to us about the discipline he has to maintain to remain sane in this lonely work. There is this mantra (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.) that he says to himself while he is at the job.

David Fincher and Andrew Kevin Walker are reuniting after Seven, and the script here is not so wordy. Even when we hear the routine of the character and his sarcastic and serious philosophies of life, Fincher doesn’t really spoon-feed the audience about the final call he makes. There is a scene in the movie where we feel that the killer might let Hodges’ assistant walk away as she had family. But his empathy works within the constraints of being a killer, and Dolores gets a death that will help her kids get the insurance money. Then, there is this precisely edited dinner confrontation scene between the killer and the expert. The conversation between the two, who pretty much know what is about to happen, has a very profound tone to its credit.

With those intense eyes, Michael Fassbender carries the numbness associated with the character very effectively. The character who is remorseless throughout the movie can be seen in a slightly vulnerable state with minor yet effective changes in facial expressions in the dinner sequence with the expert. Tilda Swinton plays the role of the expert in the film, and she had the fineness to pull off that character whose lines are pretty much what stays with you after the movie. Charles Parnell, Arliss Howard, Kerry O’Malley, Sophie Charlotte, and Sala Baker are the other performers here with very minimal screen time.

As usual, the meticulousness David Fincher maintains in his visual composing is evident in The Killer, too. And the camera mostly has gentle movements except for that shot where our title character is panicking. With us witnessing all the efforts behind each killing along with the different ways with which these people cover their tracks, The Killer works more as an engrossing character study rather than a John Wick-ish revenge thriller. It might not give you a feeling of watching an instant classic, but the film has enough creative juice in it to age well over the years.

Final Thoughts

It's a slow-burn drama that gets a compelling tone through its visual language and pacing.


Green: Recommended Content

Orange: The In-Between Ones

Red: Not Recommended


By Aswin Bharadwaj

Founder and editor of Lensmen Reviews.