‘The Killer’ slays cinematic conventions

You know when you’re watching a top tier helmer because all the pieces of the puzzle fit so well together whether it’s a cinema classic or merely a genre exercise. The Killer from David Fincher opens in select theaters this weekend and pops up on Netflix next month.

Fincher lulls the audience into submission with a lengthy monologue as hitman Michael Fassbender awaits his target from a lofty window in a building across the street.

A mishap in the assignment happens so fast you miss it if you blink. Now the ice man must defend himself from higher ups wanting to erase the mistake. What follows is an around the world journey of vengeance that takes us to places as diverse as Paris, the Dominican Republic, L.A., New Orleans, and Chicago.

Filled with action and a superb sense of paranoia Fincher and his craft team create a balls to the wall thriller. The crew includes scribe Andrew David Walker (Se7en) adapting the graphic novel by Alexis Nolent and Lucy Jacamon; music by Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross; cinematography by Erick Messerschmidt (Mank, Mindhunter); editor Kirk Baxter (whose collaboration with Fincher covers several films including The Social Network); costumer designer Cate Adams; and production designer Donald Graham Burt.

The cast offers some new faces to Fincher films in addition to support from previous partners Tilda Swinton and Arliss Howard.

The Killer resembles a couple of films with cult followings like Jean-Pierre Melville’s Le Samouraï and Michael Winner’s The Mechanic, both part of the ‘70s pantheon of action flicks with cool assassins.

The Mechanic starts with a dialogue free introduction that takes up most of the first act and ends in a spectacular explosion of death. Similarly and yet totally different Fincher structures the opening act in the same way only with the constant voice-over of Fassbender verbalizing his ethical approach to his craft. “Don’t improvise, stick to the plan,” is a mantra oft repeated.

There’s a bit of humor but it’s subliminal. The Killer may not be the kind of film that elicit laughs but every time Fassbender assumes a new identity we see his credit card with names of characters from 1970s sit coms like Felix Unger or Archibald Bunker. There was one alias that threw men for a loop: Reuben Kincaid. I had to look it up when I got home.

When I realized what show it was from I laughed out loud. It was only from a show I watched religiously when I was in high school. Makes sense as Fassbender’s unnamed character seems to be an artifact of a long forgotten era.


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