By: Cole Schaefer

David Fincher is a director who is best known for continuously releasing high-quality films. If you’re somebody who likes watching movies and recognizes the name David Fincher, you probably associate it with generally very well-made pictures. That’s exactly how I felt going into The Killer, Fincher’s most recent directorial release. Being the glorified teenage boy that I am, I love Fight Club (1999), and I think that Se7en (1995) is very well made (although I do regret watching it on an airplane for everyone behind me to see). That’s the extent of his catalog that I’ve watched, but I only hear people praising everything else. Zodiac (2007), The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (2011), Gone Girl (2014), you’ve probably heard good things about one of these movies. As a result, I expected great things from his 2023 release, The Killer.

Unfortunately, it was a bit of a letdown.


The Killer follows the actions of an unidentified hitman, simply known as the Killer (Michael Fassbender), as he blunders a contracted kill and thus discovers that his client and handler have sent other hitmen to attack his girlfriend, Magdala (Sophie Charlotte). This prompts his quest for revenge, as he methodically tracks down those responsible and dispatches them one by one. Unfortunately, I found the story to have been poorly executed, and this made it difficult to sympathize with the Killer’s actions as he enacted his vendetta ride.

I think a big part of this issue was how underdeveloped the Killer’s relationship with Magdala was. The first 20 minutes of the film set up this stone-cold killer who doesn’t show empathy, who acts like a machine, and sticks to the plan. Then Fincher juxtaposes that with the introduction of a love interest, someone who got hurt because of the Killer’s mishap, and now the Killer must go dispatch everybody who hurt his girl. That feels like a great way to get the audience to rally behind your character, since everyone can understand that motivation.

But that’s only if they believe it, which is the issue here. The audience needs to believe that there is a genuine relationship that could drive this man to do what he does, but there is practically no loving relationship shown between the Killer and Magdala. She doesn’t even get 10 minutes of screen time throughout the whole film (I timed it). Fassbender tried to make up for it with his acting, but the audience got too little, and it was too fleeting, so it didn’t carry throughout the runtime. 

Because of this lack of believable motivation, when the Killer starts executing various innocent witnesses, we pretty much stop rooting for him. He kills both a fun taxi driver and a sweet mother who worked as an assistant to the Killer’s handler, each of whom had a more attractive personality than the Killer, drawing us to them and away from him. Additionally, they weren’t killed immediately, instead being interrogated before getting murdered, giving them time to beg for their lives and show emotion. The viewer starts feeling bad for them, drawing sympathies toward the victims and away from the Killer and his revenge plot. I felt that this made the film much less engaging because we stopped caring as much about seeing the Killer succeed.

The ending of the film was also quite disappointing. The 6th Chapter shows the Killer threatening billionaire Henderson Claybourne (Arliss Howard), who had hired the Killer in the first place and had paid the handler to clean up the situation (without knowing what that entailed). The movie then jumps to the epilogue, showing the Killer and Magdala relaxing in their home together, while Magdala recovers from her wounds.

I’m sure we are supposed to feel both relief and satisfaction at the end since everything worked out and justice was finally served, but the story just wasn’t engaging enough to warrant those feelings. It was an entertaining movie, and never left me feeling bored, but I just didn’t care enough about the Killer or Magdala to believe that the ending was fulfilling. Everything just happened and there never really came a point where I was truly invested in the story. I wouldn’t say the ending was anticlimactic since I respect the originality of not killing off Claybourne, but the conclusion just became the disappointing icing on a disappointing cake.

However, while the story was mediocre, everything else about the film was well done, in no doubt thanks to Fincher’s direction. The sound design and photography were top-notch, and the pacing felt just right. Even though Fassbender’s character is supposed to be cold and callous, there are a few scenes where some emotion breaks through, and Fassbender does a great job selling it. He feels like a trained killer who is constantly trying to force himself to be perfect, despite occasional slip-ups, which I believe was what Fincher was going for. 

The film also shows a lot of the behind-the-scenes for each kill, be it stalking the “prey,” buying supplies to prepare, and sneaking around gathering intel. The Killer acts like Agent 47 from the Hitman game franchise, and those scenes were a lot of fun to watch. Additionally, I really enjoyed seeing a hitman in the modern world, using consumer technology to his advantage, such as when he ordered a key fob copier on Amazon and picked it up at an Amazon locker. There were also several scenes that depicted the Killer’s phone screen to the audience, and those moments fit in nicely without taking us out of the world. Lastly, the movie is great if you like The Smiths, since they almost exclusively make up the soundtrack of the film. I can’t stand The Smiths, so it ruined my day, but it would’ve been awesome had I been a fan!

I feel like The Killer is a nice movie to view once, as it’s kind of like watching a Hitman 2 mission playthrough with a sarcastic narrator. It’s enjoyable enough, but I wouldn’t go back and watch it again. It’s disappointing to say that about a David Fincher film, especially given the years he supposedly spent wanting to create the movie, but that happens sometimes. He shot his shot but missed his target; Fincher’s a professional, but even professionals make mistakes.

If you feel inclined, David Fincher’s The Killer is currently available on Netflix.

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