The Killer (2023) – Review/ Summary

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Netflix’s “The Killer” showcases David Fincher at his most wry and ruthless. Fedoras and Hawaiian shirts have never been so menacing.


“The Killer” General Information

Director David Fincher
Screenplay By Andrew Kevin Walker
Based On “The Killer” novel by Alexis Matz Nolent
Date Released (Netflix) November 10, 2023
Genre(s) Crime

Drama
Thriller

Film Length 1 Hour, 58  Minutes
Content Rating Rated R
Noted Characters and Cast
The Killer Michael Fassbender
Eddie, the Lawyer Charles Parnell 
Dolores Kerry O’Malley
The Expert Tilda Swinton

Content Rating Explanation

“The Killer” is Rated R due to explicit violence, profanity, and some sexual content.

“The Killer” Film Summary

This content contains pertinent spoilers. Also, images and text in this post may contain affiliate links. If a purchase is made from those sites, we may earn money or products from the company.

David Fincher’s “The Killer” is a cold, riveting, and dark tale depicting an assassin’s calculated hunt for vengeance. Fincher, screenwriter Andrew Kevin Walker, and the rest of the cast and crew know precisely how to immerse the viewer in a world of darkness, where murder seems natural, inconsequential, and even necessary. While Fincher has explored the male loner’s attraction to violence in films like “Fight Club,” “Se7en,” and “Zodiac,” he continues to take a deadpan, procedural approach to the goriest of crimes in “The Killer.”

The Killer (Michael Fassbender) is only known by that name. We’re introduced to him as he plots his next hit. He narrates his story by detailing the monotonous repetition of his job. He rationalizes his murders as nothing more than a blip for the population. He does yoga; he listens to The Smiths; he eats McDonald’s; oh, and he kills people for a living. “The Killer” isn’t concerned with telling us how he got here, his name, or any details about his employment or his hit. “The Killer” provides so little background, but we are constantly learning and engaged by how the story is being told. 

In a fraction of a second, The Killer’s mission goes wrong when he accidentally misses his target. It’s rare. Worst-case scenario. After telling his employer, The Killer understands his life and his family are now in danger. Those are the rules. If you miss your target, you now have a target on you. The Killer rushes to his home and finds out his girlfriend has been brutally attacked by two assailants: one man and one woman. The Killer makes his new mission a crime of passion: to find and kill whoever planned and attacked his family. 

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Michael Fassbender stalking his next victim in “The Killer” (David Fincher, 2023)

From its plot description to its title, “The Killer” is straightforward, nondescript pulp fiction. The plot and title blend in with countless other action and crime movies, but Fincher once again develops an engrossing, murky atmosphere that feeds the viewer’s most twisted thoughts. “The Killer” makes the trashiest grindhouse movies feel like art. Never before has a Hawaiian shirt and fedora felt so sinister.

Character Descriptions

Please Note: This character guide is not an exhaustive list of every cast member, and character descriptions may contain what can be considered spoilers.

The Killer

The Killer is a highly skilled assassin, somewhat jaded by his profession, yet precise and professional in his abilities. When one of his assignments goes wrong, The Killer sees his personal life and attachments in danger. He begins to go against his own code.

Eddie, the Lawyer

Eddie is the pivotal messenger in the assassin profession. Little is revealed about his role, but he’s the one in contact with The Killer and those who wish to hire his services.

  • The actor is also known for their roles in “Barry,” “Top Gun: Maverick,” and “Mission: Impossible—Dead Reckoning Part One.”

Dolores 

Dolores is Eddie’s office administrator and secretary. While Eddie runs a legitimate business, Dolores is aware and assists him in keeping his criminal side hustle a secret too. 

  • The actor is also known for their role in “Snowpiercer,” their role in “Annabelle: Creation,” and their role in “Why Women Kill.”

The Expert

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Tilda Swinton is The Expert in “The Killer” (David Fincher, 2023)

The Expert is a fellow assassin and one of the people responsible for harming The Killer’s girlfriend. She’s elegant, cultured, and knows well about the risks of her job. 

  • The actor is also known for their role in “Michael Clayton,” their role in “Moonrise Kingdom,” and their role in “Doctor Strange.”

Collected Quote

“Stick to your plan. Anticipate; don’t improvise. Trust no one. Never yield an advantage. Fight only the battle you’re paid to fight.” 

“The Killer” Review

Our Rating: Positive (Worth Seeing)

Highlights

Methodic in Exposition and Intoxicating in Details

“The Killer” casts its own spell on the audience by being methodical and deliberate in what the story reveals. The film rarely repeats key details and keeps The Killer’s next move a secret; the movie trusts the viewer to make connections (like tracking down a cab driver) and remember details (like an assailant having a hurt leg), and seeing how The Killer slowly discovers who’s trying to kill him makes for an absorbing watch. 

“The Killer” Sinks You Directly Into The Killer’s Mind

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The first 20 minutes of “The Killer” show what the daily job looks like, with Fassbender narrating his existential musings and necessary indifference to his actions. We await violence and anticipate it to happen. But when the assassin’s mission goes wrong, we’re thrown into panic, just like The Killer. If the viewer supports or condemns The Killer’s actions, it becomes irrelevant when we’re already in his shoes, swallowed by his mind, and know exactly what he has to do. The narrative repetition of key phrases, close-ups of Fassbender’s cold stare, and a world where deals can be hidden in shadows but murder can happen in harsh light make the audience complicit in crime too. 

On The Fence

“The Killer” Can be Misconstrued as Another Violent Loner’s Manifesto

“The Killer” may be violent and disturbing; the movie is also filled with Fincher’s trademark dark humor, witty retorts, sickly yellow lighting, and philosophical musings about people and society. Some may see “The Killer” as another entry into what Fincher does best, like in “Fight Club,” where he immerses you in the mind of a lonely male psychopath. But just like how “Fight Club” or “American Psycho” can be argued to condemn or mock that mindset, some may be inspired to see “The Killer” as a badass hero. This isn’t a criticism of Fincher or how others interpret his movies, but sometimes it feels that he’s simply made this movie before.

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“The Killer” in his signature vacation wear.

Who Is This For?

Fans of dark comedy, thrillers, vengeance stories, or Fincher and Fassbender’s past films might enjoy “The Killer.” 

Recommendations

If you like this movie, we recommend:

  1. Gone Girl
  2. The Counselor
  3. Love, Death, + Robots

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