Film Review: THE KILLER (2023): David Fincher’s Latest is Well Made and Captivating but Lacks a Substantial Plot

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Michael Fassbender The Killer

The Killer Review

The Killer (2023) Film Review, a movie directed by David Fincher, written by Andrew Kevin Walker, Alexis Nolent and Luc Jacamon and starring Michael Fassbender, Tilda Swinton, Charles Parnell, Arliss Howard, Kerry O’Malley, Emiliano Pernia, Gabriel Polanco, Sala Baker, Endre Hules, Bernard Bygott, Monique Ganderton, Daran Norris, Nikki Dixon, Lia Lockhart and Genesis Estevez.

David Fincher’s latest stylish drama is The Killer which stars the always fascinating Michael Fassbender in the title role as an assassin who makes a mistake that will ultimately propel him to take vengeance on those who get in his way. The Killer narrates the movie and in the early scenes, he sums everything up as he states, “Popeye said it best, ‘I am what I am’.” The Killer plays The Smiths music throughout the picture and the movie makes great use of the song “There is a Light That Never Goes Out” with its haunting lyrics, “To die by your side is such a heavenly way to die.” As in any Fincher movie, there is plenty of style to spare in this new movie. Too bad, the picture lacks dramatic substance at key intervals throughout the film.

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Fassbender’s character is preparing for his latest kill and stations himself in France across the way from the target in the beginning, introductory sequences. The Killer has his technical gadgets and disguises and can escape from almost any situation without bringing too much attention to himself. Unfortunately, he doesn’t hit his target on his latest job and must flee to the Dominican Republic when he realizes that his female significant other is in trouble.

This film is divided into six sections that title themselves based on the location that the Killer finds himself in. This movie is peppered with some fine performers who become victims of the Killer. One key plot development has Fassbender’s assassin taking on a lawyer, Hodges (a fine Charles Parnell) and a worker who just happens to be in the wrong place at the wrong time, Dolores (Kerry O’Malley). When the Killer takes Hodges out, he places the dead body in a large garbage can. A hysterical, yet chilling, moment comes as the Killer and a terrified Dolores are on an elevator and someone on the elevator who doesn’t know what’s going on suggests as a joke that the Killer has a dead body in the pail. Dolores laughs out of fear and O’Malley expertly plays her role making us believe how truly frightened she is in this particular situation.

Another fine sequence is set in New York with the Killer facing off with none other than a character known as “The Expert,” played by the great Oscar winner Tilda Swinton. This is one of the most challenging scenes of the picture as Swinton chews scenery trying to sway Fassbender in a different direction so she can escape his wrath. She falls down a stair at one point and asks for the Killer’s help. This icy cold assassin is probably not going to be too sympathetic to her plea for assistance.

Towards the conclusion, we get some unpredictable scenes with Arliss Howard’s Claybourne, “The client.” Fassbender’s killer manages to get into the same hotel and gym as Claybourne and there’s a very precise reason that the Killer wants to speak to settle some business with Claybourne. Let’s not mention the large bank account the Killer has amassed for himself which could propel him to settle his affairs sooner rather than later.

Michael Fassbender plays a character who seems to be, in a word, psychotic. The Killer has a lot of insightful passages that Fassbender recites for the viewer but, occasionally, there is some banality to the words of wisdom that the Killer speaks. Nevertheless, Fassbender emerges with a strong performance that is one the actor sinks his teeth into with glee. It’s a twisted role to be sure but the film’s flashy visuals complement Fassbender’s wicked turn in the picture. The Killer even gets some supplies from an Amazon pick-up box along the way in one of several product placement scenarios featured in the movie.

David Fincher is re-teaming with his Seven scribe, Andrew Kevin Walker, again and this film is significantly better than Seven in my opinion, though some die-hard Fincher fans may disagree. That 1995 Brad Pitt picture was sloppy and The Killer is more structured even though the latter film doesn’t have much substance to its story line. On the plus side, there is also a bone-chilling score by Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross that is absolutely appropriate for the dark nature of this compelling project. This score is one of the very best ones of the year so far.

The Killer is a vehicle for Fassbender to grow even more as an actor. It’s any actor’s dream to play a role such as this one which gets so much screen time, every one else in the movie could seem like small potatoes in juxtaposition. However, Swinton and Howard do not disappoint in their late performances within the picture and O’Malley is perfect. While it would have been nice for The Killer to have some more character development, it doesn’t really seem to be about that. It’s more about an assassin’s need to tie up loose ends at the cost of human life. But, to die by Fassbender’s side may be a “heavenly way to die,” if The Smiths had something to say about it. See The Killer for Fincher on his more artsy side and Fassbender at his most complex.

Rating: 7/10

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