How exactly do you describe The Killer? Is it a thriller about revenge and a hitman who makes a horrific mistake? Could it be an action flick with a little too little action? Is it a character study into the mind of a hitman and how their process works? It might be all of that. The Killer comes from David Fincher with a screenplay by Andrew Kevin Walker based on The Killer from Alexis Nolent and Luc Jacamon.

Here’s a small synopsis for those who don’t know much about The Killer.

A man solitary and cold, methodical and unencumbered by scruples or regrets, the killer waits in the shadows, watching for his next target. And yet the longer he waits, the more he thinks he’s losing his mind, if not his cool. A brutal, bloody and stylish noir story of a professional assassin lost in a world without a moral compass, this is a case study of a man alone, armed to the teeth and slowly losing his mind.

After a fateful near-miss, an assassin battles his employers, and himself, on an international manhunt he insists isn’t personal.

Most of the characters in The Killer don’t have names, or in the case of Michael Fassbender‘s The Killer, they have many names they use throughout the movie. After a hit goes wrong, The Killer’s personal life is attacked in retribution. From there, Fassbender goes through the chain of command on his own hit and rights the wrongs. It also stars Tilda Swinton, Charles Parnell, Arliss Howard, Kerry O’Malley, and Sala Baker.

A Lot Of Fassbender, But That’s Not A Bad Thing

The Killer plays off a lot like a modern film noir. Instead of a gumshoe detective getting caught up in a plot to murder someone’s husband, you have The Killer, who narrates his story and gets us deeper into the mind of someone who is paid to kill people. He’s cold, and calculating, and doesn’t allow morals or politics to get in the way of his decisions. With a movie where the central character is in 100% of it, you need an absolutely smashing performance, and we get that from Michael Fassbender.

Normally, the voiceovers would be a bit much, but his character shows so little on the emotional side besides the couple of scenes where you can see his fury bubbling up. His performance carries the entire film. A lesser actor would verge into parody. As for the other performances, Tilda Swinton’s The Expert steals the couple of scenes that she’s in. Her back and forth with The Killer near the end of the film is a tennis match of a performance, where it finally feels like The Killer has met his match.

What really drags The Killer down though, is the lack of stakes. It feels like we’re just watching him win over and over again. There’s no point (besides a fight scene I’ll get to) where it feels like their plan will ever fail. That’s not necessarily a horrible thing, but it’s just something that weighs on the audience while watching. There should have been a bit more stakes or tension throughout the film.

The most tense scene ends up as either the opening scene or a brutally charged fight scene in the middle of the film.

When The Killer Hits, It Hits Hard

That fight scene between Sala Baker’s The Brute and The Killer is pulse-pounding. It’s the most terrifying the film gets and easily the most tense section of the film. Baker and Fassbender absolutely DESTROY one another. In a world where all the action scenes are shot like John Wick, this one is a nice throwback to a harder-hitting time. It’s just a drag-out, knock-down brawl.

The opening scene also hits equally as hard in a jarring way. It’s a juxtaposition of the calm that The Killer presents and explodes in a single instant. Outside of that, most of the film follows the noir pacing and style pretty well though. For fans of David Fincher’s other work, this is just as cerebral and calculating.

The music in the film will please fans of the 80s gothic rock and post-punk genres the most. Our titular killer loves him some Morrissey and The Smiths. The score by Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross is subtle, but kicks in the right moments to get your blood pumping.

Overall, The Killer isn’t one of Fincher’s best movies; it doesn’t quite give the audience enough tension, but for a modern noir, it does the job. Michael Fassbender is excellent and guides the film through to a somewhat limp conclusion, but one that’ll at least make you think about people’s roles in society.

The Killer releases on Netflix on November 10th.

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