3 out of 5 stars
Michael Fassbender is stellar as a menacing and methodical contract killer (who never blinks, by the way) on an emotionally cathartic path after doing the one thing you can’t do in his line of work: make a mistake. As the audience gets to listen to what’s going on in the mind of a highly skilled murderer – we hear over and over to stick to the plan. Anticipate, don’t improvise. Forbid empathy. Trust no-one. Fight only the battle you’re paid to fight. This is what it takes if you want to succeed. Simple. The funny thing is he doesn’t really listen to his own advice as he sets out on his vengeful manhunt.
Admittedly, Fassbender has been cast in similar roles before, but this one feels different. It’s all in the details. We’re not meant to know much about him, however, we do get to see how he operates. He’s precise beyond measure in how he thinks, speaks, and moves. He’s calculating and exceedingly unmerciful while casually justifying his reprehensible actions. It’s good to see Fassbender return to acting, his performance is a big reason why The Killer isn’t an absolute ho-hum hitman flick.
Adapted from writer Alexis “Matz” Nolent and artist Luc Jacamon’s 1998 French graphic novel, David Fincher teams back up with his Seven writer, Andrew Kevin Walker, for a sleek, stylish, darkly funny but surprisingly standard thriller that isn’t challenging or compelling enough. The pacing could be better and the ending is lackluster, yet it’s the simple, routine story that disappoints the most. Fincher misses more than he hits, and simply put – he’s better than this.
With that said, The Killer isn’t without its fair share of redeeming qualities. Aside from Fassbender, there’s the wicked Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross score, an exciting fight sequence, dynamic sound design, and the mere presence of the transcendent Tilda Swinton. The few scenes shared by Fassbender and Swinton are flawless. I wish there was more of that and a lot more of her.
In the end, what should have been a glorious return to form for Fincher winds up being just a meh one at best. Top shelf Fincher, The Killer is not.
Brandon Vick is a member of The Music City Film Critics’ Association and the Southeastern Film Critics Association, the resident film critic of the SoBros Network, and the star of The Vick’s Flicks Podcast. Follow him on Twitter @SirBrandonV and be sure to search #VicksFlicks for all of his latest movie reviews.
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