Film Pick of the Week: The Killer - review by Yvette Huddleston

The KillerNetflix, review by Yvette Huddleston

David Fincher’s relentless and utterly compelling thriller benefits from a superb central performance from Michael Fassbender. A coolly efficient professional hitman, his oft-repeated mantra is: ‘Stick to the plan. Anticipate. Don’t improvise. Trust no-one’.

We first meet him as he is holed up in a Paris apartment waiting for his ‘mark’ to appear in the luxury hotel across the way. He has his lethal equipment with him and he waits and watches, patiently for his prey to arrive. In voiceover he tells us that boredom is actually one of the most challenging parts of his job. While he continues his vigil, he passes the time by listening to music – mostly the hits of The Smiths – and practices his yoga moves.

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Then finally, the victim arrives. And the killer leaps into action. The tension rises as he follows the man through his gun’s viewfinder – the red dot alighting on others who get in the way – and then finally he pulls the trigger. And he has mistakenly shot someone else. He is shocked – he is not someone who normally makes mistakes. He has to leave swiftly and heads to his hideaway in the Dominican Republic. But it is clear that agents of the disgruntled client are already out for revenge – his lovely home has been trashed and his girlfriend severely beaten.

Michael Fassbender as an assassin in The Killer. Picture: Netflix. All Rights ReservedMichael Fassbender as an assassin in The Killer. Picture: Netflix. All Rights Reserved
Michael Fassbender as an assassin in The Killer. Picture: Netflix. All Rights Reserved

He now has no choice but to go track down everyone in the chain of command and kill them before they kill him. That involves a lot of travel, false passports and hire cars, much waiting around and watching and then bursts of explosive action. Be warned the violence is quite graphic – there is one extensive fight scene that aims to outdo the kind of epic fisticuffs associated with James Bond movies. One of the episodes, in New York, involves the always excellent Tilda Swinton as ‘the expert’ – it is a segment of about ten minutes but thanks to the quality of the acting from both, it is very memorable.

As with much of Fincher’s previous work, this teeters on the edge of style over substance. There are plenty of handsomely framed, atmospheric shots – and there is much to admire in that – but occasionally it outweighs the narrative drive and intent. What saves it, though, is Fassbender’s totally committed performance. In everything he does, he is completely authentic and he brings a real humanity to the role – even when he is portraying a ruthless hired assassin.

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