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Movies & TV

17th Oct 2023

REVIEW: The Killer is basically an evil Jason Bourne movie

Rory Cashin


The new movie from the director of Fight Club, The Social Network and The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo is here.

The opening scenes of The Killer mostly remain inside one room in an abandoned WeWork office, where an unnamed assassin (Michael Fassbender) lies in wait for the curtains to open in the penthouse hotel room directly across from him. Told entirely in internal monologue, the assassin informs us of the daily routine required by his job, described in a drudgery comparable with a regular 9-to-5 office gig.

In an interesting riff and obvious nod to Rear Window, these scenes play out as if Jimmy Stewart was a cold blooded killer instead of a wheelchair-bound photographer. It sets a purposeful tone of specificity and clinical detachment that perfectly matches director David Fincher’s modus operandi… until it all goes sideways when the killer fails to successfully complete his mission.

From that point on, what threatened to be an existential examination of life from a man who has dedicated his to ending others, very quickly morphs into a relentless thriller. Fincher and Fassbender deliver an incredible “What if?” scenario here – to wit: What if Jason Bourne was actually sort of evil? – and the end result is a propulsive and somewhat unique rollercoaster ride.

Michael Fassbender isn’t one for over-emoting in The Killer

Believe it or not, this is only Fincher’s third movie in the last decade, following 2020’s Mank and 2014’s Gone Girl. The Killer sees him doing an almost greatest hits of his own filmography, reuniting with screenwriter Andrew Kevin Walker (the guy who wrote Se7en), working with another creepy electronic score by Trent Rezor and Atticus Ross (much closer to their work on Dragon Tattoo than the more experimental output they had on Mank or Soul), and the cinematography by Erik Messerschmidt returns to that slick and sickly green sheen that was ever-present on the likes of Panic Room and The Game.

While the very best of Fincher (The Social Network, Zodiac) sticks close to the real world, he has never been above delivering some elevated pulp, and the majority of The Killer is a methodically told international chase movie.

Once the assassin realises the walls are closing in around him after the job-gone-wrong, the film gets a lot of stamps on its passport – jumping from Paris to the Dominican Republic to Florida to New Orleans to New York to Chicago – but unlike James Bond or even Jason Bourne, we’re not spending much time in the classier, more picturesque parts of these places. The assassin needs to get into the muck for his new plan to succeed, and Fincher takes us on a globe-hopping pit stop tour of some very shady locales.

Matched to that is Fassbender’s performance, with the actor emotionally vacuum-packed into the character, barely blinking, talking out-loud even less. The pure physicality of the role is tremendous, as well as having to sell the pure tedium that 99% of his profession inflicts, only disrupted by action when things have gone very, very wrong. That includes a bone-rattling fight scene that might be Fincher’s best action sequence to date, rivalling the pure adrenaline of a peak John Wick scrap.

What starts off threatening to be entirely too introspective, akin to George Clooney’s The American but with a killer score, ends up being a relentless road trip told through the eyes of a nihilistic monster. With a killer score. What’s not to love?

The Killer will have a limited cinematic release from Friday 27 October, before arriving on Netflix on Friday 10 November.

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