An occupation as macabre as that of a professional assassin is supposed to be very attractive to viewers, who can rest assured in the knowledge that no one in real life has put a price on their head; these murders are only taking place on the screen. There are hundreds of films devoted to such a sinister and well-paid line of work. And those who are in the habit of watching series on streaming services tell me that there are many mercenaries whose fast-paced, fun job consists in eliminating others. Jean-Pierre Melville, that sublime stylist of French cinema, opened Le Samouraï with a phrase from a sacred Japanese text: “There is no greater solitude than that of the samurai, unless it is that of the tiger in the jungle.” That is the most memorable film I have seen on the subject.
David Fincher, one of the most intelligent directors left in American cinema — or in cinema in general — had always had an inclination for including killers, either selective or serial, into his films. They did not charge any money for ending their victims; they did it for pleasure, to vent their rage on people who represented the mortal sins. They were psychopaths, sick sociopaths. Also sadists, to unthinkable extremes, fanatical, terrifying. Two masterpieces titled Seven and Zodiac were scary and distressing. In The Killer, however, the tone is different. The main character is neither crazy nor enlightened, he does not prey on sinners, nor does he try to stir public opinion. He kills because it is what his contracts require, coldly, with no personal reasons.
The voice-over of the protagonist tells us, in psychoanalytic fashion, about the physical and emotional methodology he uses to do his job well, his ability to concentrate, the long and tense waits planning his crimes and the denial in the name of professionalism to empathize as little as possible with the victims. For a while, one can be dazzled by the inner voice of a man who ignores the sense of guilt, working like a perfect machine, calculating every possibility down to the smallest detail so that his work turns out perfect. One sees his stony face not conveying any emotion, never blinking, and it is hard to look away. In addition to a notable presence, Michael Fassbender is also endowed with magnetism. Still, there is a point when one begins to wish for something concrete to happen.
A character like this is supposed to be invulnerable, free from any attachments that could affect his work, but he makes the unforgivable mistake of having a refuge by the sea in the Dominican Republic where he relaxes from his problematic job, as well as a woman who awaits him and loves him. He knows that he cannot afford a failure in his work because his former employers would launch a pack of criminals on his trail with the mission of exterminating him. David Fincher, as always, is a virtuoso behind the camera. There is nothing to reproach in his characteristic, powerful visual narrative style. However, the character’s permanent introversion can get tiresome. Fincher masterfully controls the action sequences and presents a very disturbing murderess, portrayed by Tilda Swinton in a role that is as brief as it is effective. The Killer has impeccable execution and pacing, but one keeps expecting to get excited about it, and that just does not happen.
Director: David Fincher
Stars: Michael Fassbender, Tilda Swinton, Charles Parnell, Arliss Howard
Genre: Thriller. United States, 2023
Length: 118 minutes
Release: November 10
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