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HomeIndustry SectorFilmNYFF Review: The Killer is Prime David Fincher, a Cleverly-Crafted Revenge Thriller That...

NYFF Review: The Killer is Prime David Fincher, a Cleverly-Crafted Revenge Thriller That Keeps You On Your Toes

Director David Fincher may be one of a dozen (or fewer) American filmmakers whose new movies are met with enormous anticipation, regardless of whether it takes one, two or more years for them to see the light of day. Much of this may be since Fincher is always able to get some of the best scripts that he can turn around, proving his ability to handle any genre with equal skill.

The Killer only shares some DNA with Fincher’s past works, while also being another complete 360-turn from Mank. For the first ten or fifteen minutes we watch Michael Fassbender as the titular anti-hero of the film, going through his normal routine and regimen to prepare for his latest hit, narrating things through a voice-over. This all builds up to the killer missing his shot, which gets him into trouble with his employer. When he returns to his home in the Dominican Republic, he learns that his wife has been attacked, so he begins a mission of vengeance against those trying to kill him after the botched job.

Poster for The Killer (Netflix)

With such an illustrious career, it’s obvious why Fincher is able to get the best material to direct, The Killer based on a graphic novel by Alexis Nolent and Luc Jacamon, as adapted by Andrew Kevin Walker (Sleepy Hollow), which belies its graphic novel roots. It’s very much a showcase for the abilities of Fassbender, who delivers a performance driven by his steely glare and not much in terms of dialogue, but he has the type of on-screen charisma that keeps you riveted to his character’s every move. Walker’s screenplay is fantastic, especially as it allows us into the killer’s head as he reiterates a mantra that essentially justifies his occupation.

Despite the dark and violent nature of the story, there’s a surprising amount of humor in The Killer, even if it’s just getting a snicker out of the sitcom pseudonyms Fassbender’s character uses while travelling around using false documents. At times, The Killer does feel a bit dry, which just comes from the territory, when you’re creating something that acts as a slow build. Yet, there is at least one major action scene where Fassbender’s killer faces off against someone who has been sent to kill him, which acts almost like a palate cleanser to the generally slow nature of the film up until that point. When Tilda Swinton appears later in the movie, her scene with Fassbender is one of The Killer‘s true highlights, but in general, Fassbender’s encounters and interactions are what drive the film.

Michael Fassbender in The Killer (Netflix)

Fincher is working with some of the same crafts people from earlier films – Oscar winner Erik Meserschmidt (Mank) behind the camera, Kirk Baxter beside him at the editing table, Production Designer Donald Graham Burt giving the movie its international flair, and of course, Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross providing an ambient score blends so well with the sound design, it’s hard to separate the two. While most filmmakers make a name for themselves based on their visuals, The Killer is just as much about the sound and how that’s used to build the tension.

Being distributed by Netflix, there’s no purpose in venturing into The Killer‘s potential at the box office – it likely would do decently with a wide theatrical release, but it’s certainly one of Fincher’s films with more mainstream appeal, aided greatly by its simplicity. Dare we say it, that it might be the closest Fincher has come to making a movie with a beginning, middle and end that could still potentially be a franchise?

The Killer is prime Fincher, and even without strong awards season prospects, it should perform quite well primarily among men of all ages, and one can probably expect it to have plenty of rewatch value, as well.

Talent: B+
Story: B+
Crafts: A
Awards Potential: Possibly its screenplay
Box Office Potential: N/A
Renewability: Some potential involving Fassbender’s character
Overall Score: B+

The Killer premiered at the Venice International Film Festival, played at the New York Film Festival, and is now playing in select theaters before streaming on Netflix starting November 10

Studio: Netflix
Principal Cast: Michael Fassbender, Tilda Swinton, Charles Parnell, Arliss Howard, Kerry O’Malley, Sophie Charlotte
Director: David Fincher
Screenwriter: Andrew Kevin Walker
Producers: Ceán Chaffin, William Doyle, Peter Mavromates
DP: Erik Messerschmidt
Production Design: Donald Graham Burt
Costume Design: Cate Adams
Editor: Kirk Baxter
Score: Trent Reznor, Atticus Ross

Edward Douglas
Edward Douglas
Edward Douglas has written about movies for print and the internet for over 20 years, specializing in box office analysis, reviews, and interviews. Currently, he writes features for Below the Line and Above the Line, acting as Associate Editor for the former and Interim Editor for the latter.
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