The Killer

A Fassbender/Fincher merger that shoots and scores.

Michael Fassbender’s killer character in David Fincher’s “The Killer” has his rules to follow, when it comes to taking out his targets.

  • “Stick to your plan.”
  • “Anticipate, don’t improvise.”
  • “Forbid empathy.”
  • “This is what it takes if you want to succeed as a hitman.”

He narrates these rules in his mind before every hit, and we, the audience, are sitting with anticipation. He has his iPod with hits from The Smiths, and a watch that requires him to keep his heart rate to a minimum before he pulls the trigger. And he also has a number of weapons, phones, credit cards, and fake I.D.s-some of them are named after classic sitcom characters-to dodge suspicion from anyone. Although I ponder what would happen if a sitcom aficionado caught on or got a trip down memory lane. This seems like a generational thing, but I knew who those TV names were.

But I don’t want to make this article about sitcom characters; I want to make it about “The Killer.”

I saw this movie at the Chicago International Film Festival, and in the ticket holders line, a worker was surprised that none of them wore Magneto helmets. I responded: “Well, he’s done other things,” and he agreed with me. We all know he was also in “Inglorious Basterds,” “Jane Eyre,” “Shame,” “Prometheus,” “12 Years a Slave,” and “Steve Jobs,” among many other titles,” and we all know he is a great actor.

In his first collaboration with Fincher, he plays the killer in the tradition of a 70s/80s thriller. That time period would have loved Fincher’s unique and ingenious filmmaking. He knows how to pull together thrillers like “Seven,” “Zodiac,” and “Gone Girl,” and even if things cop out within the story, you’re still amazed at the suspense level and laughing at its sneaky comedy. And believe me, I did not see the levity coming.

The assassinations all take place in Paris, Dominican Republic, New Orleans, Florida, New York, and Chicago, and after a hit goes terribly wrong, the killer finds himself targeting his employer (Charles Parnell), other assassins: the Expert (Tilda Swinton) and the Brute (Sala Baker), and even wanting revenge on those who assaulted his girlfriend (Sophie Charlotte).

Most of these characters, along with Arliss Howard’s client cameo, are able to present monologues, before meeting their fate with the Killer. And I say “most,” because the Brute engages in combat against the Killer, and we’re sitting at the edge of our seats.

The opening credits for “The Killer” move fast. Not “Enter the Void” fast when you can barely read the names unless you hit the pause button, but fast in the style of a trailer or TV show intro. I’m asking myself why should I believe this is a David Fincher movie. Because Fassbender plays the killer with a balance and consistency, and I like to imagine an alternate reality where the director is Steven Soderbergh. But I’m in the Fincher reality, and he does an entertaining job at presenting this movie with patience, dangers, and comedy.

“The Killer” isn’t a mindless action movie. It’s rather a patient and wickedly funny one that is even amazed at the Fassbender character’s ingenuity. His versatility, words, and tone all keep the character in check, and makes him a hitman we can actually root for. If you do wish to watch this on your Netflix account, you may wish to put the subtitles on and take notes.

Rating: 3.5 out of 4.

In Select Theaters This Friday

Streaming on Netflix November 10

This article was written by me with full support of the SAG-AFTRA strike.

Categories: Action, Adventure, Crime, Drama, Mystery, Thriller

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