Of course, some will question why we’re watching an amoral monster try to save himself, and it’s worth noting that Fincher and Walker don’t shy away from this. I kept expecting “The Killer” to try and soften its leading man, but there’s no escaping that he is a cold-blooded murderer. When he snapped one victim’s neck, I heard a gasp in my film festival audience, like they expected mercy. That’s not an item in this character’s go-bag, and his completely cynical and procedural approach to murder will turn some people off. This is not a story of redemption but precision; it’s what happens when one of the most precise people in the world makes a mistake. Fincher and Walker rush the final act, especially the shortest epilogue ever, but that complaint may fade on second viewing as I believe it fits the no-nonsense approach of the title character.
All of this might make “The Killer” sound like a drag, but it’s worth noting that it’s actually one of Fincher’s funniest films. There’s a phenomenal running bit about the assassin’s fake names. And there’s a cavalcade of familiar brands like Starbucks, Amazon, WeWork, and even Wordle, a comment on a world that’s commodified and cold enough to allow a killer to slide through it unseen because people are too distracted by something else. He counts on that to do his job.
Finally, there’s the undeniable Fincher-ness of “The Killer.” One could see it as a filmmaker playing his greatest hits with his best bandmates again, but there’s something deeper at play here. This isn’t just the work of an artist repeating himself; it’s the work of one reworking his themes and obsessions into something brave and new. It ultimately asks if people like The Killer can shut the world out to get the job done. And, by extension, if a master like David Fincher can too.
This review was filed from the Chicago premiere at the 2023 Chicago International Film Festival. “The Killer” opens on October 27th in theaters and will be on Netflix on November 10th.