LONDON FILM FESTIVAL 2023 REVIEW! Will David Fincher be the first top director to have a hit film on streaming? Can he nudge the silver screen into a century-old oxbow and start a flood of made-for-TV movies? Or will it be the warmed-through B reel of Netflix cinema so far? Can you actually make movies on streaming, and is Fincher the guy to do it?
The Killer is based on the French comic Le Tueur. They made a few of them, and I don’t know how their story maps onto this film. It has a tight script from Andrew Kevin Walker that jams along to Melville’s Le Samourai though.
Fassbender plays a top-flight hitman, and his portrayal dominates the film. He has so much cool voiceover it’s sometimes like a BBC nature documentary about Fassbender narrated by Fassbender. He also fulfils a rigorous physical role, on point to every demand from the comedy and action. Fincher handles his lead’s greatest strengths with the surest of grips. It’s a perfect combination of star and director.
I have definitely developed a lasting appetite for the character. There is a sequel baiting fungibility to his components that brazenly invites comparison to Bond the moment the opening theme starts blaring. His steely eyes are constantly on lookout. He assembles weapons, crafts disguises, hunts, engineers traps. But where Bond has The Crown, there is no such sanction here. We definitely watch him kill the innocent and generally exist beyond the pale.
“All we can share with him is the deathly trap of work. He spends a lot of time listening to The Smiths…”
All we can share with him is the deathly trap of work. He spends a lot of time listening to The Smiths. His handler is some pompous jerk at the end of a phone line, of no real help with the question of wrangling murder into a life. And his targets look like the sort of people who order hits on other people. This film has a billionaire in a Sub Pop T-shirt. I still don’t know who that was. Fincher is amoral on a good day, and the weather here is filthy.
The film does have a good sense of humor. At one point, Amazon takes up half the screen as cool gadgets are ordered from Netflix’s biggest competitor. Or it may also have been a cringe hallmark of creative independence. Either answer is fine. Did you know that Netflix pulled the plug on Fincher’s Mind Hunter not too long ago? I only found out while writing this. So that was several brilliant nights, thoroughly wasted.
The soundtrack is a squelchy treat. Mostly dark and dreadful, it sounds like NiN making a pocket call, except for the opening theme, which sounds like a pilled-up Lalo Schifrin.
If this film has a significant weakness, it’s very murky. Bond has The Crown, coppers have The Public, but The Killer’s millennial humor just doesn’t have the same powers of ablution or sanction. It does, though, have the wits to interrogate the morals at length, sometimes with comparisons that are cheap and obvious but at others with subtlety and a crackle of danger. Not least, such as when it persuades me to write a positive review of a film about murder. Fincher and Fassbender have a hit on their hands. The Killer is an action film with verve and brains to spare.
The Killer screened at the 2023 BFI London Film Festival.
"…Fincher is amoral on a good day, and the weather here is filthy"