The Killer (dir. David Fincher)
By: Adam Freed
There is something comforting to behold in the perverse world of David Fincher. First establishing himself as the preeminent purveyor of sadistic thrillers in 1995 with his iconic shocker Se7en, Fincher has undergone a powerful career evolution that spawned genre defining classics Zodiac (2007) and The Social Network (2010). What elevates Fincher's previous works is the obsessive skill he employs in order to capture the dark underlit worlds into which he leads his countless fans. Beyond the undeniable aesthetic of his films, Fincher’s hallmark is that his morose worlds are often accompanied by a larger question, a reflection point into which audiences are forced to stare and consider their own humanity. This elevated distinction is the point at which the line is drawn between his utterly enjoyable works, and his masterpieces. The Killer (Netflix), David Fincher’s newest pulse pounding escape into the world of contract murder, approaches, yet never elevates beyond the line of greatness established by the director’s own previous accomplishment.
Slick, stylish, and exciting, although bereft of an echoed message, The Killer plays out like a trail of breadcrumbs with one pulse pounding event leading to the next. Beyond the film’s incredible visual stylings and gorgeous set pieces, it is injected with the power of a Trent Reznor & Atticus Ross score that acts as caffeine to the bloodstream. The duo of musicians have become reliable Fincher allies, both of whom have been recognized with Academy Awards. Adding to Fincher’s high powered arsenal of talent is Michael Fassbender (Steve Jobs), who feels like the perfect choice to embody a character who is everyone and no one simultaneously. Fassbender's character lives by a creed whose origin is unclear and whose impact feels mostly self reverential. Fincher has once again found a way to promote a protagonist who is forgiven for the horrific nature of his craft due to the undeniable panache with which he accomplishes his misdeeds.
Playing foil to Fassbender’s lead is the underused Tilda Swinton in a gorgeously textured scene filmed at The Hotel Baker in St. Charles, IL. Swinton may be the only living actor able to match the raw obsessive energy Michael Fassbender assigns to his protagonist. The shared moments between the two provide palpable tension, electric dialogue, and the moment at which The Killer soars closest to greatness. The duo are so good in fact that it begs the question as to why the film uses so little of them together. The Killer is the product of a masterful director, writer and team of composers. It is aptly performed and impeccably stylized. To call The Killer a “good” film may be misinterpreted as a slight, yet when held in comparison to the nearly unreachable standard David Fincher has set for himself, “good” is better than any other genre competitor by a wide margin.
Target Score: 7/10 - The Killer is a masterful thriller conducted by the preeminent director in genre history. David Fincher leaves no room for debate as to his acumen for creating immersive and perverse worlds just beyond that of recognition. Michael Fassbender is captivating in his obsessive pursuit of perfection in an industry too dark to discuss in polite company.