Sunday, November 12, 2023

The Killer

Movie Name:
The Killer
Year of Release: 2023
Director: David Fincher
Starring: Michael Fassbender, Tilda Swinton, Arliss Howard, Charles Parnell, Kerry O'Malley, Sophie Charlotte, Emiliano Pernia, Gabriel Polanco, Sala Baker, Endre Hules
Genre: Thriller, Action
Score out of ten (whole numbers only): 7
Watch it on Netflix

Synopsis and Review
The fantastic David Fincher continues his relationship with streaming giant Netflix, with another release, following his critically acclaimed "Mank" (which I still believe, while impeccably shot and with solid performances, was a film that added nothing much about the writer of "Citizen Kane" and ultimately felt like a vanity project). "The Killer" is an adaptation from a French graphic novel series, authored by Alexis "Matz" Nolent and Luc Jacamon, adapted by Andre Kevin Walker, whom Fincher has previously worked with on "Seven". The film focuses its narrative on a character named "The Killer" who is a hired assassin, currently in Paris stalking his next target. He's immediately described as someone very assured, but also very detailed and process driven. He is meticulous, prepares everything, and leaves nothing unattended. All of his work flows very smoothly as a result of that meticulous preparation, that is until this specific target. He misses the target and hits someone else also present in that same location. He evades the city, and makes his way to the US where he fails to contact his handler, Hodges. He suspects that he is being followed, but manages to evade that person. He makes his way to his residence in the Dominican Republic, only to realize his home has been invaded, and that his girlfriend Magdala has been attacked. Furious at this invasion of his personal space and life, he goes about tracking who did all this. He firstly travels to New Orleans, where he handles Hodges and also his assistant Dolores, not before getting the information regarding the people who hurt Magdala. He then goes to St. Petersburg, Florida, where he has to deal with one of the hired assassins. That turns out to be more of a challenge, but he is undaunted in his quest, and his process further sustains and propels him. 
David Fincher's proficiency in storytelling are at this point undeniable. He has crafted a career, one that much like the central character of this particular film, is permeated by meticulously engineered features, some on topics unexpected, such as his take on social media, one that past that facade, in reality tackles the monstrosity of greed, ambition and voracious need for affirmation that was "The Social Network". "The Killer" may be, in style at least, more akin to his work in "Seven" and even "The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo": both these features focus on characters operating outside social norms, and having to deal with brutal and violent situations. However, and unlike those fantastic films, "The Killer" is far more cryptic in establishing who this central character actually is. The fact that this individual holds this function, and is quite good at it, is something that is clearly established and showcased (because being meticulous and organized, is synonym with being efficient). Nothing much is unveiled about this character, nothing that provides a way to further humanize him, aside from the relationship he has with Magdala, which sets him off on his revenge odyssey. And this is where the film tilts in the direction of a polished B-movie (quasi Elmore Leonard inspired), but one where the humor is absent, as are the gears of this narrative which could have been slightly more elaborate (give something else for these additional characters to do). For all the world that David Fincher illustrates, and it is indeed a world viewed through the eyes of this killer, there's very little that gives insight into who this person is (and the fact that he listens to The Smiths hardly qualifies as providing insight into a character), and very little insight is given to the ones who cross paths with him (in whatever capacity that may be). In the end it is a film very much illustrated and viewed as if through the eyes of this killer, but one that could have benefited from a bit more insight, meaningful interactions and actual emotion. The cast is solid, with Michael Fassbender expertly crafting this cypher, but where Tilda Swinton easily swoops in and in a few minutes steals the film almost like a breeze. The production team is fantastic, including the cinematography from Erik Messerschmidt (though I personally miss Jeff Cronenweth's cinematography), score from Trent Reznor and Atticus Finch, production design from Donald Graham Burt and costumes from Cate Adams. It's a solid, though slightly tepid film from a great storyteller.