thu 30/11/2023

The Killer review - David Fincher's latest cult movie? | reviews, news & interviews

The Killer review - David Fincher's latest cult movie?

The Killer review - David Fincher's latest cult movie?

An instructional video for would-be contract killers or a parody of the genre? Jury is out.

Eyes on the prize: Michael Fassbender takes aim

Since its release in 1999 David Fincher’s Fight Club has become something of a cult movie with young men who recite lines from the script like mantras. "This is your life, and it’s ending one minute at a time". It seems likely his new film, The Killer, will inspire the same devotion with the same demographic.

Michael Fassbender plays the titular killer, a professional assassin who we first meet leading a monastic life in a stripped bare We Works office in Paris. He’s observing the luxury apartment building across the street, able to wait for days for his target to appear in his sights. Sleeping on a table top, adhering to his yoga rituals, he’s just there to execute another well-paid killing and move on. The film’s voice over is a deadpan delivery of the hitman's credo: “Leave no evidence for forensics…be unmemorable…anticipate don’t improvise…fight only the battle you’re paid to fight…trust no one…never cede an advantage…forbid empathy…".

You can imagine The Killer appealing to Andrew Tate and his followers, but for the spikes of humour verging on self-parody that punctuate the noir styling. Fassbender is dressed in anonymous street wear and an unflattering bucket hat (below) because “the French avoid German tourists the way most of us avoid street mimes”.  He gets his supplies from Amazon, his pseudonyms from old sitcoms and makes cracks about Wordle. These tonal shifts act as switchbacks in a film that seems to aspire to be simultaneously an admiring portrait of a perfectionist stone-cold assassin and a critique of the genre that inspired him.  

Adapted from a French graphic novel by Matz and Luc Jacamon, Fincher’s meticulous storyboards are ghost presences behind every beautifully choreographed, ultra violent sequence. The action moves in a series of chapters. After Paris the film shifts to the Dominican Republic, where Fincher introduces a romantic motivation for our assassin before getting back on the murderous road. Fassbender touches down in Chicago, Cleveland, Florida and New Orleans. It’s as if Fincher is parodying the James Bond franchise with its travelogue tradition and gadgetry.  

What’s not from the Broccoli franchise is the sardonic sound track, piped into the assassin's ears and leaning heavily on the Smiths at their Eighties miserabilist peak. Morrissey’s lyrics counterpoint the narrative throughout, which is great if you’re a fan. It’s a relief when we get an outburst of Pink’s Just Give Me a Reason, thrown in for moody good measure. 

This is really Fassbender’s show, the girlfriend Magdala (Sophie Charlotte) is a sketchily drawn character and the killers who come after him in their turn are shadowy at best. We are kept waiting until the final chapter to see the other top-name actor in The Killer. Tilda Swinton – snappily described as looking like a human Q-Tip – is only on screen for 15 minutes or so, but it’s a very enjoyable cameo. 

After the relative failure of Fincher’s last film, Mank, to please audiences, it must have made sense to return to what he does best. Fans of Seven, Fight Club, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo and Zodiac will be happy enough. 

It’s as if Fincher is parodying the James Bond franchise

rating

Editor Rating: 
3
Average: 3 (1 vote)

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