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Review: “The Killer”

Mastermind filmmaker David Fincher’s latest work is a well-crafted, unnerving psychological thriller — and it comes to Netflix on Nov. 10.
Image by Ava Weinreis
Director David Fincher adapted the film from a French graphic novel of the same title.

Adapted from a French graphic novel, “The Killer,” directed by David Fincher, is an exceptional thriller that, while confusing at times, is an engrossing tale of a hitman moving on from a job gone wrong.

Only his third feature film released in the last 10 years, Fincher has found his mojo as a director once again, coming off the boring period piece “Mank” from 2020. Fincher returns to the genre that he has perfected since the 1990s — psychological thriller.

Not just returning to his comfort zone in genre, Fincher has brought back duo Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross (the sole members of Nine Inch Nails) for the score for the fifth film in a row in Fincher’s filmography. The pair have collaborated with Fincher since 2010’s “The Social Network,” for which Reznor and Ross won their first Academy Award.

Michael Fassbender stars in the film as a hitman who is methodical in his routine and gives off a cold personality that suits an emotionally detached hired gun. While Fassbender’s character does not have a lot of emotional depth to him, it works within the context of the elaborate manhunt he finds himself in.

The movie starts out as a slow-burn, as Fassbender calmly describes his routine of getting ready for a kill while he listens to The Smiths on an MP3 player. There is a feeling of tension as Fassbender’s character looks through the scope of his rifle, bouncing from one person to another, leaving the audience wondering who he is after. The tension breaks once Fassbender’s character makes a rare mistake, triggering the events of the rest of the film.

“The Killer” is a dense and slightly convoluted film; however, it is not to its detriment, as Fincher’s directing along with the film editing choices make this thriller engaging and anxiety-inducing, making the audience feel the stakes of the situations Fassbender’s character finds himself in. It is a movie that likely would improve upon a rewatch, ideally allowing the viewer to take in every detail of the film’s intricate, complex plot.

Fassbender carries the movie as the only constant character throughout the movie, as the plot bounces from one side character to another. Tilda Swinton plays a supporting character in the film, and while the circumstances surrounding her and Fassbender’s character meeting are tense, she does not necessarily give a groundbreaking performance.

Fassbender’s character is written to come across as someone who is up-to-date on recent pop culture, name-dropping Postmates and Wordle. While it could have come across as trying to seem cool with young adult audiences, most of the time it is not too heavy-handed, except for when Fassbender unironically uses the term “normies” to describe the citizens of New York City.

“The Killer” does what any psychological thriller strives to achieve, an experience that is enthralling and also proves to be an emotional rollercoaster. While the seemingly all-over-the-place plot will likely throw many viewers for a loop, Fincher’s auteur filmmaking makes “The Killer” another noteworthy addition to his filmography — one you can watch on Netflix too, no less.

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