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  • Nate Lemann

THE KILLER (2023) MOVIE REVIEW

Updated: Jul 16

Our first entry of David Fincher month on the site is his latest masterpiece about a lone assassin who must navigate the repercussions of a job gone wrong but if that is all you think it's about, then maybe you're one of the many.


by Nate Lemann

Michael Fassbender in "The Killer"
Michael Fassbender in "The Killer"
 

I can't get over how good this movie is. It is a story about a disaffected working professional who has carefully curated his reality to optimize his work efficiency but is jolted back to the murky existence of this world when a job is upended. The movie is about him challenging his code to put his world back in order and potentially coming face to face with his very way of being in the process.


Fassbender's performance is exceptional: does loads of heavy lifting with his vocal performance alone, with each line delivery so exquisitely disaffected and dry, like a depressive who is functional but just barely so. His physical performance is also brilliant, the way he moves like this otherworldly specter, like he is alien to humanity. Fincher makes him the ultimate predator, such as a scene when he stalking his prey and fogs up the glass of his car, reminiscent of the famous shot of the T-Rex in the original Jurassic Park. What an amazing choice to twist this performance into two distinct ones, like a deconstructed dish for us to feast on. He is just a fucking movie star - every part of him a finally tuned instrument. 


The pulsing of the camera is magnetic, showing the unsteadiness of the moment and how it calls for the Killer to attention. The sound design is immersive and truly brings the viewer into lockstep with the Killer. The "How Soon is Now" scene is really up there all-time in the Fincher pantheon: the music and sound mixing all are so fucking spectacular - took my breath away the first time I saw that. Immensely inventive. The score is once again perfection from Reznor and Ross. This also maybe the funniest and most twisted script Fincher has brought to life; some of the jokes made me howl. 


The other members of the cast in their small but impressionable roles are magnificent. Parnell oozes authority and never once surrenders the high ground to the Killer. O'Malley is a real revelation, running the gamat of emotions and is so heartbreaking in her desperation (her uncontrolled laugh in the elevator is so perfect). The shot of her hands while she screams is also something that will stay with me in its almost Lovecraftian composition of the shot. Her trying to reason with the devil that she’s not evil (like that would even matter to him) is so human.

 

The fight sequence is also up there and is the most viscerally painful fight put to film in years. So believably excruciating. The scene with Swinton is also a real highlight and just proves a great actor doesn't need that much time to make an impression (a la Judi Dench in Shakespeare in Love). The way the two of them tango in that scene is marvelous: him so jealous of her freedom and enjoyment of life; her pretending to accept her fate with so much grace. She is really playing with him and testing to see her way of escape but there is none. She really goes through the stages of grief in such a quick order of succession. She is so brilliant, especially when she plays drunk and gives him a look that just shocks him and breaks his affectation for just a moment, beginning to maybe enjoy himself and he doesn't know why. They were both made for Fincher's camera.


Arliss Howard is a chameleon; I never recognize him from role to role. His scene is like a douche apologizing to a seamless driver for giving him a bad review. Love that he gets the lawyer name wrong, too. Fassbender doesn’t care for the whole story. He’s terrifying in the scene and Howard sells that too.


This absolutely delights me on each re-watch and is just a towering low-key accomplishment of cinema. Love whatever Fincher does. Just the best.


 

FINAL RATING: 5/5 (Masterpiece)

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Hi! I'm Nate and I love to talk all things movies. I'll be posting new reviews, recent rewatches, and much more on this site. So come on and let's talk movies! 

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