Film reviews and more since 2009

The Killer (2023) review

Dir. David Fincher

By: Steve Pulaski

Rating: ★★★½

The Killer opens with a lengthy voiceover involving an assassin in the midst of a weeklong stakeout in Paris. He’s stationed high up in a loft with his scope centered on a ground-level café. It’s a long game and he’s got nothing but time. He swings by McDonald’s for a protein-rich meal and plays The Smiths to calm his mind. On the rare occasion he does walk the streets, he dresses like a German tourists because the French try to avoid Germans like the plague. Every move he makes is calculated and deliberate. What else would you expect from someone who justifies his murders by reminding himself how many people enter and leave this world on a day-to-day basis.

This intimate, voyeuristic peak into a cold-blooded killer’s life persists for more than 15 minutes, highlighting everything from the mundane to the momentarily exhilarating. After a few days spent in the City of Love, the Killer’s target finally appears in the penthouse directly across the street. He follows him with his scope, waiting for the right moment, until the ostensibly opportune instant proves to be the wrong one and an innocent bystander is shot and killed as opposed to the intended target. The killer packs up his gear, races through Paris on a Moped, and high-tails it back to the Dominican Republican. It’s there he finds his partner near-death, and also there where he realizes in order to survive, he must break several of his cardinal rules.

Thus begins a globetrotting adventure that takes us everywhere from St. Petersburg to Chicago. The Killer works to buy himself time while making former contacts and associates feel the wrath of his vengeance. A lesser movie might’ve made this a grayscale actioneer with decisively less black humor and human interest with a more brooding and uninteresting score. Thankfully, The Killer is in the hands of David Fincher, who assembles his own Avengers: Endgame of aestheticians that make his newest film a cinematic feast, albeit one so cold you might have to chip away a layer of frost in order to enjoy it.

It’s as if in the early production stages of The Killer, Fincher combed through his rolodex in order to fill positions with some of the biggest and best names with whom he’s ever worked. The cinematography is handled by Erik Messerschmidt, who gifted the involving thriller Gone Girl the paradoxical visuals of a beach-read brought to life. For editor, Fincher taps Kirk Baxter (The Social Network) as the man to piece together this travelogue of identity fraud, murder, coercion, and sin. Tying all the aesthetic components together is a deliciously pulsating score from Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross. Technically speaking, The Killer moves as efficiently and arrestingly as its antihero.

Michael Fassbender plays the titular assassin with all the cold and clinical mannerisms you’ve come to expect from the veteran actor thanks to some of his best performances (Prometheus, Shame)to name a few). Fassbender is just alienating enough to convincingly play a contract killer yet just captivating enough to make spending two hours with him a riveting experience as opposed to a perpetual bore.

Speaking of two hours, let it be known that The Killer feels every bit as long as it is. There are some movies longer than its 118-runtime that flutter past you before you’re aware of the impact they had. Then there are movies like this one where every 60 seconds can feel like 90 because of the precise detail and verbose narration. The Killer is exactly the wrong kind of movie that should be released to streaming. Easily accessible distractions and the ability to conveniently switch to something “recommended” are counterintuitive to its approach. This is a movie that demands you be engaged and rewards you with ample greatness if you’re so patient.

NOTE: The Killer is streaming exclusively on Netflix.

Starring: Michael Fassbender, Arliss Howard, Charles Parnell, Kerry O’Malley, Sala Baker, Sophie Charlotte, and Tilda Swinton. Directed by: David Fincher.

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About Steve Pulaski

Steve Pulaski has been reviewing movies since 2009 for a barrage of different outlets. He graduated North Central College in 2018 and currently works as an on-air radio personality. He also hosts a weekly movie podcast called "Sleepless with Steve," dedicated to film and the film industry, on his YouTube channel. In addition to writing, he's a die-hard Chicago Bears fan and has two cats, appropriately named Siskel and Ebert!

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