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Review: ‘The Killer’ is a Lean and Stylish Thriller that’s Destined to Become a New Favorite for Genre Fans

October 26, 2023Ben MK

Best known for contemporary classics like Seven, Fight Club and The Social Network, David Fincher is one of those directors whose name immediately stirs up excitement in the hearts of fans of stylish crime dramas and taut psychological thrillers. Whether he's weaving the story of a wealthy executive entangled in a deadly game of cat and mouse or a single mom and her pre-teen daughter trying to defend themselves against ruthless home invaders, Fincher's latest is always a highly anticipated cinematic event. And with The Killer, the 61-year-old filmmaker is once again in top form, in this suspenseful tale of an assassin who finds his latest job taking an extremely personal turn.

Arriving three years after his black-and-white opus, Mank, The Killer centers on an unnamed murderer-for-hire (Michael Fassbender), whose carefully curated, meticulously managed and rigorously regimented world is turned upside down after his latest assignment goes south. Hired on behalf of a billionaire media tycoon (Arliss Howard) to take out a high-value target in Paris, this stoic hitman, who prides himself on never getting emotionally involved in his work, is suddenly forced to take a very real stake in what comes next, as he himself becomes the target of blowback from the unprecedented botching of his most recent job. But when the dangerous individuals tasked with cleaning up loose ends end up taking out their grievances on his female companion instead, this mysterious contract killer must take matters into his own hands, as he embarks on a globetrotting journey to exact his revenge on those trying to turn the tables on him by attempting to make him their prey.

Assuming a variety of nom de guerres inspired by lead characters from such well-known TV shows and sitcoms as The Odd Couple, Cheers and The Jeffersons, and armed with a music playlist comprised largely of songs by The Smiths, our nameless protagonist follows the trail of clues from such international locales as the Dominican Republic to more domestic destinations like New Orleans, Florida and New York City, as he pays a visit to everyone involved with his current predicament. However, while some of these individuals prove easier to deal with than others, our anonymous antihero inevitably finds himself running into a few snags along the way. The burning question is — will he ultimately be consumed by his quest for vengeance? Or will his professional code save him from becoming a victim of his own predatory instincts and thirst for retribution?

Based on the 1998 French graphic novel "Le Tueur," what follows has much in common with such Fincher favorites as The Game, Gone Girl and The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, as he and Seven screenwriter Andrew Kevin Walker set about adapting writer Alexis Nolent and artist Luc Jacamon's source material for the screen. From the slick, edge-of-your-seat atmosphere created by cinematographer Erik Messerschmidt and frequent Fincher collaborators Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross' score to the stellar supporting turns from Charles Parnell, Sala Baker and Tilda Swinton, there's no shortage of Fincher-esque flourishes to call to mind some of the director's most memorable films. Most importantly, though, The Killer is proof that Fincher is still far from slipping into a long-overdue career slump, despite having just marked three decades as a feature filmmaker.

Suffice to say, longtime Fincher fans won't be disappointed. And while the result is fairly straightforward in its storytelling, it more than makes up for its lack of narrative complexity with an abundance of stylistic swagger. Make no mistake, The Killer doesn't come close to surpassing the heights of Fincher's '90s masterpieces. In the grand scheme of things, however, it makes precious little difference. After all, even the most mediocre David Fincher movie is automatically far better than most of the films Hollywood can churn out these days.

The Killer is in select theaters October 27th, 2023 and releases on Netflix November 10th. The film has an MPAA rating of R for strong violence, language and brief sexuality. Its runtime is 1 hr. 58 min.

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