A star rating of 4 out of 5.

“It’s a dog eat dog world…kill or be killed.” So says the lone wolf assassin at the dark heart of David Fincher’s new film The Killer, a grisly but highly satisfying tale of survival in the elite world of contract killing. Adapted from the French graphic novel series by Alexis ‘Matz’ Nolent, it also sees the return of Michael Fassbender in the lead. Absent from movies for over four years, last seen as Magneto in X-Men: Dark Phoenix, it’s a glorious return to action for the actor.


For fans of Fincher’s 1995 film Se7en, The Killer is particularly pleasing, given it sees him reunite with screenwriter Andrew Kevin Walker, who wrote that serial killer tale. Here, Walker brings us reams of voiceover, as the unnamed assassin played by Fassbender, a man who goes by multiple aliases. It’s our way into his mind, as he explains his methodology and his credo. “I serve no god or country,” he says. In other words, he simply pulls the trigger and collects the pay.

Divided into six chapters, the film begins in Paris, where the killer is lining up his latest target. We know nothing about the person he’s going to shoot, just that Fassbender’s killer is installed in an apartment opposite, watching for days before the man returns. When he finally arrives, it’s all systems go. Except that the moment he pulls the trigger, he inexplicably misses, taking down someone else in a beautifully executed sequence, typical of Fincher’s panache.

“What would John Wilkes Booth do?”, Fassbender’s character says, nodding to the infamous killer who shot Abraham Lincoln. Well, in this case, return to his hideout in the Dominican Republic, only to find his stylish-looking house broken into, blood everywhere. His partner has been hospitalised, as it becomes clear that the client is tidying up the loose ends on this botched assassin attempt. The killer only has one choice: get to them before they get to him.

The Killer doesn’t quite have the same level of character development that Se7en managed, which turned on the partnership between two cops. This is comic book in nature, serialised and lightweight in its characterisation. Indeed, it’s hard to believe the main character is capable of holding down relationship, as he does. But you won’t be able to tear your eyes from the screen, as Fincher pumps up the pulp fiction and amps up the violence. He takes the graphic from graphic novel and slaps it up on the screen with a big bloody handprint, especially in one bone-shattering and bloody fight in a house.

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Humour does lurk beneath the surface, though. One of the more amusing aspects of The Killer is the way the protagonist listens to music to get in the zone. His choice appears to be playlists almost entirely made up of The Smiths – ‘Shoplifters of the World Unite’, ‘Heaven Knows I’m Miserable Now’ and ‘How Soon Is Now?’ are all heard as the killer plugs in his earphones, often as he’s lining up his crosshairs. There’s never any comment as to why he loves the sound of Morrissey’s wailing, but it feels appropriate.

The actual score, incidentally, is by Fincher regulars Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross, who first worked with Fincher on 2010’s The Social Network (and won an Oscar for their troubles) and here keep the tension going with urgent compositions. As for Fassbender, in his bucket hat and shades (“avoid being memorable,” he warns), it’s pleasing to see him back after his self-imposed hiatus from acting, as a tightly-wound hitman who shows no visible emotion. Four years is too long for him to be away from our screens.

The Killer will be released in select cinemas on 27th October 2023 and on Netflix on 3rd November 2023. Sign up for Netflix from £4.99 a month. Netflix is also available on Sky Glass and Virgin Media Stream.

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