Cobra Kai Season 6 Date Announcement

David Fincher's The Killer: Style Over Substance

A man sits on a park bench
Michael Fassbender as THE KILLER

The Killer is directed by David Fincher, with a screenplay by Andrew Kevin Walker, based on a French graphic novel series by Alex Nolent (pen name Matz) and Luc Jacamon.

Starring Michael Fassbender, who hasn't been in a movie since 2019's X-Men: Dark Phoenix, Tilda Swinton, Charles Parnell, and Arliss Howard

Description: A nameless hitman performs what should be a normal stakeout in an abandoned WeWork building. All the while narrating the events in his head with all the enthusiasm of a Fedex Delivery person. He's detailed, efficient, and organized. But when he botches his assignment, the consequences make him break his code to never get involved.


David Fincher belongs to that class of directors that can make whatever movie they want. There's no other way to interpret a movie like this being made in 2023. The Killer feels like a movie that would have been made in the 1990s. Today's audiences are more socially conscious, and it's rare for a movie to be made about violence done mindlessly. It's much more palatable to watch someone like John Wick dole out vengeance because they dared to touch his puppy.

The Killer kills people for hire and claims to do it without personal feelings. He has codes, mantras, and rules that allow him to distance himself from the task. The first part of the movie depicts the normal routines of doing such work. Then, it transforms from a day in the life of a killer slice of life movie to a more traditional revenge film, albeit a skillfully made one. While not original in plot, The Killer is an impressive bit of filmmaking. Gorgeously shot and impeccably edited. Not since Drive has there been a more methodical character. Not since Coppola's The Conversation has there been a more purposeful sound design.

Listen to my podcast review to hear more. The first part of the talk is spoiler-free, but I do dive into spoilers (with a warning) to address a question that my colleague @Blakcinephile asked me about one of the decision the killer made. 


Release info: In limited theaters October 27, 2023. On Netflix November 10, 2023. 

Final score: 3.5 out of 5



Music in the podcast by Aleksey Chistilin from Pixabay: Cinematic Time Lapse

Lindsey Dunn is a film critic with membership in both NC Film Critics and Southeastern Film Critics. She loves all things Cobra Kai, Netflix Dark, indie horror, and any stories about complicated relationships. You can find her at 1ofmystories.com and most social channels @1ofmystories.

-------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Transcript of podcast (AI-generated: Small typos and grammar errors may appear)

Hello everyone, this is Lindsey Dunn and today I am talking about The Killer, the newest movie directed by David Fincher with a screenplay by Andrew Kevin Walker and based on a French graphic novel series by Alex Nolant and Luc Giacomon. The movie is starring Michael Fassbender, who hasn't been in a movie since 2019's X-Men Dark Phoenix.

00:35
Tilda Swinton, Charles Parnell, and Arliss Howard. What's it about? A nameless hitman performs what should be a normal stakeout in an abandoned WeWork building, all the while narrating the events in his head with all the enthusiasm of a FedEx delivery person. He's detailed, efficient, and organized.

01:03
But when he botches his assignment, the consequences make him break his code to never get involved. David Fincher belongs to that class of directors that can basically make whatever movie they want along with other people like Christopher Nolan, Martin Scorsese, and not sure who else I would put in that category at this point. But there's no other way to interpret a movie like this being made.

01:33
in 2023. The Killer honestly feels like the kind of movie that we would have seen made in the 1990s. Today's audiences are much more socially conscious, and it's rare for a movie to be made about violence done mindlessly. It's much more palatable these days to watch someone like John Wick dole out vengeance because the bad guys dared to touch his puppy.

02:03
And we have other movies where there's violence and bleakness, but a lot of times it's mixed with a socially conscious theme or a greater good of some kind, or the person is on a mission to correct a wrong or to exact some justice for something somebody did as consequences. These are the kinds of movies that are made today.

02:32
And here's this movie made by David Fincher that is about this indiscriminate hitman. He supposedly has no opinion about what he's doing. He's just there to make a buck, just like anybody. It's just a regular job for him. So the killer kills people for hire and claims to do it without personal feelings. He has codes, mantras, and rules that allow him to distance himself.

03:02
from the task. The first part of the movie depicts the normal routines of doing such work. And I have to say with this movie and the Loki series, McDonald's is having quite a year for product placement. During this first segment, he's really just talking about the mundane, what he views as the mundane things that he has to do to make this work possible. He has to be organized.

03:27
He goes to McDonald's every day. He goes to Starbucks. He orders things on Amazon. He has his yoga routines that keep him limber. And he has to just be on a stakeout. You have to just be ready at any time that the person, your target is going to appear and that's the moment. So you have to be vigilant and keep yourself from nodding off. But of course the movie didn't stay there. Although I did think that was the movie I was seeing.

03:58
I thought the killer was going to be in that vein the whole entire time. And it certainly would have been interesting to see that concept stretched out for an entire two hour movie, hour and a half, two hour, two hour plus in that feature length film vein. It would have proven this interesting experiment to kind of see a day in the life of a hitman. Slice of life. Just a normal ordinary day.

04:27
After The Killer botches his assignment, the film transforms from a day in the life of a killer, slice of life type movie, to a more traditional revenge film, albeit a very skillfully made one. Cause this is David Fincher. And while not original in plot, The Killer is an impressive bit of filmmaking. Gorgeously shot and impeccably edited.

04:57
Has there been a more methodical character? And not since Francis Ford Coppola's The Conversation, has there been a more purposeful sound design. The shooting of the movie uses what's called the red camera. It's a digital style camera that very detailed. And in the case of The Killer, he sees the world through these telescopic lenses very much like

05:26
the movie Rear Window with Jimmy Stewart. He spent a lot of time in his room and a lot of times during that movie, what the viewer sees is what Jimmy Stewart is seeing through his camera lenses. So here's the killer doing the stakeout and he's watching people across the street in this extreme closeup lens. And of course, the shots are amazing. The level of detail you would get.

05:55
close up on a person like they're right next to you, but you know it's across the street, through windows. So the level of skill it took and the level of technology it took to get those shots is really impressive. And it's interesting how a lot of times we see these people that are guns for hire or government agents, movies like the James Bond movies or Mission Impossible. And

06:23
Everybody is always so stylishly dressed and looking good in their tailored suits. The killer is dressed for anonymity so he can blend in in the crowd and have an easy exit plan. He's got this bucket hat and these Hawaiian shirts and khaki pants and these jackets that I've seen my dad wear. It looks like he's shopped knockoff things at Target or Old Navy.

06:52
That's all very amusing. But again, the camera work is amazing on this movie. Lots of style to the camera work, not necessarily to the killer's wardrobe. The sound design, you honestly have to experience this movie to understand. He's listening to music on the job. His soundtrack is dismissed. It's music he listens to to soothe him. Again, this is not what we're expecting.

07:19
Usually when we see people in movies doing things like shooting people, getting their weapons ready to one shot someone through the heart, you're listening to this really badass soundtrack. And in the case, we've got more of an emo 80s style, very angsty, Brit rock. And so that's funny. But also, he's listening to this music.

07:49
we hear the music really loud as if we're listening to it. And then it switches to being in third person, looking at him, and we hear the music as if we're next to him. And so the sound design alternates between this third person and first person POV, and it's jarring, but it really helps to place us in the room with him, and then we're also in his head. This particular sound design keeps us in this interesting place.

08:18
of being able to relate to him, but we're also outside of him. We're not always in his head. Sometimes we're outside his head. We're next to him. And so it keeps us at a distance from him while also having a level of intimacy. So it's a very jarring thing that positions us as a voyeur, but a very intimate voyeur. But the score is, of course, done by...

08:46
Trent and Reznor and Atticus Ross, Reznor and Ross, who have become pretty much synonymous with David Fincher at this point. They score all of his movies. And the score that they've come up with is very intriguing, of course, where a lot of this music ends up sounding like heartbeats. And there's one that sounds almost like bowling pins, which is bizarre.

09:15
But again, it's not melodic soothing music. The bowling pin thing happens during the one fight scene in the movie. It's just a very organic, humanly organic type of soundtrack. And again, it just keeps you unsettled in a way that's appropriate for a thriller such as this one. But probably besides the excellent visuals and excellent sound design, the story, as I've said,

09:44
isn't really that original. He's following a trail from point A to point B to point C. He's accomplishing these steps to be able to get to the person he thinks deserves revenge, like a kill Bill. Bill was at the top of the food chain and so the bride would go through the steps she needed to to get to her ultimate goal, level up you could say, and so he goes through this

10:13
these people he needs to do to get to the big cheese that he thinks is ultimately responsible for what happens. But one of the more interesting parts about that is there's this cognitive dissonance between what the killer says and what he does. I've already talked about the fact that he has all of these mantras and codes and rules that he lives by that keep him sane and keep him on the job, and one of the things he says is to never get involved.

10:41
And so according to his words, he wants to be this mindless person going through the motions that has no feelings about what he's doing. And a lot of that is just staying stoic and just focus on one step at a time what you need to do. And he wants to believe he's just that robotic about his work. But his humanity does come through. There are several times that he hesitates before he takes a step to eliminate somebody.

11:10
who's begging for his mercy, or somebody who tries to plead with him. And so there's a few times where he does hesitate. He doesn't just stoically go through the motions. He has feelings about what he's doing. So even though he's saying one thing, he's doing another. And we can see that on the screen. And I love that dissonance, which is a key part of many graphic novels.

11:38
What's great about the graphic novel medium is you can tell a fuller story. If you just had the panels themselves, you could come up with one type of story and see what's going on. But because graphic novels allow you to mix text and visuals and pictures, you can put things in the text that show irony.

12:03
or show, again, the difference between a person's words and their actions, and that tells you something about their character, because we all often will say one thing and do another. And so I enjoyed that factor about the movie. I thought that was interesting. So far, this review has been spoiler free. And I normally keep my reviews all spoiler free, but I did want to address a question somebody asked me on Twitter.

SPOILER WARNING

12:32
And so I'm now gonna give a spoiler warning. If you have not seen the movie yet and you don't want a plot point spoiled, go ahead and turn off this podcast and come back after you finish the movie. All right, so we're now in the spoilers and this is really just gonna be addressing one question. The question was, why does the killer let the millionaire go free at the end of the movie? Because he kills

13:01
everybody else, including the cab driver. And the way the question was worded to me is, why does he let the millionaire go free and not the cab driver? Because they both sort of plead ignorance to what took place. Both of them say, I didn't expect it to get that far, I didn't know it was happening. So they're both kind of pleading innocence. But the killer chooses to end.

13:29
the cab driver's life, but he spares the millionaire at the end. And that was a question I also thought about. And I think you could read it a few ways. So one way is that at this point, he's just genuinely tired from the ordeal of doing all this. Took quite a bit out of him to go through what he did. He had to track down people, lie to people, break in the places, hurt people, commit violence.

13:59
rich guy at the end pleads ignorance and he gives him the benefit of the doubt, implying that if he needed to, he can always come back and get the dude again another time. He's already proven that by tricking all the security systems that this place had, his place of residence. I also think he believed the rich guy where he didn't believe the cab driver.

14:29
I don't know, maybe they were married? His girlfriend? When he arrived at his home, he saw the cigarettes on the ground at two different spots and he was close enough to his house that he knew the cab driver wasn't ignorant of what happened. So the cab driver smoked and he recognized the cigarettes were the same brand. So the cab driver couldn't just say, oh, I didn't know what they did because he would have heard

14:58
the breaking glass and the woman yelling. So it's not like he is innocent. He wasn't complicit in that event. He didn't report it or try to get help. And so he knew that the guy wasn't as innocent as he claimed. The millionaire on the other hand, when he saw him, he had no idea why he was there. And he figured that the killer was just this petty thief wanting to rob him. Although I don't know how he could, that's kind of an interesting point since

15:28
He was a pretty organized petty thief, but he genuinely had no idea why the guy was there. And he even says, how could you not realize who I was? But he maybe figures that if the guy is really that ignorant then he genuinely didn't know. Like he didn't expect it to go that far. And it took him a good while to figure out who the guy was and why anyone would wanna cause him harm. And he starts the conversation.

15:57
do you and I have a problem? And he's like, well, why would we have a problem? So then he figures out. The killer is, after all of the time he spent watching and observing people, he's a pretty good judge of character. And he figures this guy must be innocent if he didn't know. Hear no evil, speak no evil, that kind of thing. So that's one way you could read it. That because the guy was genuinely innocent, he wasn't going to kill him because when you think about it, the reason...

16:26
up to this point, the reason he's killed people, supposedly, is that he's getting paid to do it. So nobody's paying him to kill this rich guy, so he's not gonna kill this guy for no reason. But the other people he killed because he needed to find him, and also he wanted to get revenge on them for what they had done. They had hurt somebody he cared about. But there's also this difference between what the killer says and what he does. He wants to believe he is just as cold as

16:55
his narration implies, but he does hesitate. He doesn't charge into violence in most cases. He almost relents to causing secretary harm, and his words and actions don't match. Plus the fact that he has a girlfriend, lover at home implies he does have some level of care and empathy. So it's complicated. I think he chooses not to kill a millionaire because he believes he is innocent. But I also think, unfairly,

17:24
His class has something to do with it. There's quite a bit that is made, and I'd have to go back and really listen more closely, but the killer has this speech he does about being the few versus the many and the privilege of the few. And so I think on some level, although he never said this, class has something to do with it. The cab driver was a middleman. He had to eliminate the middle people because

17:54
There could be blowback to him or his loved ones if he left a trail. However, the rich guy was at the top of the food chain. The rich guy would not mess with the killer anymore, and that was clear. And there was no trail or possible blowback. So I think at the end, the rich guy has a privilege from being rich that the cab driver didn't have. That's not a good thing, but I think on some level the killer recognizes that. And that's why he chooses not to.

18:23
not to murder the guy. And maybe he's sort of challenging what Tilda Swinton's character told him, because she says, she tells that joke about the bear, which I'm not gonna repeat, but the whole point of the joke about the bear is like, why are you really doing this? And again, the killer wants to think he's objective, he doesn't have feelings about this, but Tilda Swinton's character ends up saying, you know.

18:49
why are you really doing this? Are you doing it for money or do you do it because you enjoy it? And I think he wants to deny what she sort of showed to him, which is you really like killing people and that's why you're doing this. And so maybe he wanted to prove her wrong, not for him, not for her, but for himself. So I think it's a pretty complex psychological topic. You could really go into a rabbit hole talking about that, but it is just interesting to debate about that.

19:17
and to answer that topic. So I appreciated the question. I wanted to address it here. So that is my review of The Killer. I think it's a great movie. It's not, well, let's see, it's not a masterpiece or anything. Like I said, the plot is pretty predictable. The plot is, well, actually, no, it's not predictable, but it's just not very original. And, but it's still very stylish. It's still a...

19:47
fun film, a fun thriller that would be a great weekend or weekday watch. And so I'm giving it three and a half stars. Three stars really for, well, let's see, I'm arguing with myself now. The style of the movie is really good, but yeah, it's just not very original. So yeah, three, three and a half stars somewhere in there.

20:14
It is in limited theaters right now and it'll be on Netflix on November 10th. So that is my review of The Killer. And if you've seen the movie, let me know at you can tweet at me always at one of my stories or I'm also on blue sky now or an Instagram, also one of my stories. If you are a listener and you enjoy the podcast, I would appreciate it. If you would follow my podcast.

20:44
You can follow me on Spotify or Apple Podcasts and also rate the podcast because that will help me gain new followers. So that is all for my review and I'll see you guys next time on one of my stories. Good night.

Comments