by Rob DiCristino
“Redundancies, redundancies, redundancies,” narrates the Killer (Michael Fassbender) as he prepares for his next hit. “Leave nothing for the elves with their tweezers, forensic baggies, and DNA kits.” He goes on at length in a measured, delicate monotone, outlining his battle-tested methodology and frosty nihilism while waiting for his next mark to appear in the window of the Parisian penthouse across the way. It all sounds very professional, very sleek and cool, the kind of master criminal manifesto we might expect from director David Fincher and his Seven scribe, Andrew Kevin Walker. Our Killer is cool, we think. Fincher’s camera hovers pornographically over his sniper rifles and latex gloves, cuts in close on his eyes as he tracks movement on the street below. He must be cool, we think. “My camo is based on a German tourist I saw a while back,” he says, referring to his bucket hat and Hawaiian shirt. “No one really wants to interact with a German tourist.” Yeah. This guy is cool. Careful. Precise. He takes aim at his target, waits for his heart rate to drop, and fires.
But then we remember that this is David Fincher, he of the eighteen-hour work days and catastrophic budgetary overflows that have been known to drive thespians and studio executives alike into all manner of tizzies (tizziae?). If not for Fincher’s involvement, in fact, The Killer would be little more than a one-note crime thriller populated by stock characters, bland dialogue, and a visual aesthetic so well-worn that it’s practically fraying at the seams. But this is David Fincher, the brutal and exacting taskmaster whose obsessive need to control every inch of every frame has earned him one of the most complicated legacies in Hollywood and produced a body of work that resists mainstream adulation so violently that many of his fiercest critics simply lose patience and give up before they can appreciate the wit, texture, and staggering intelligence he injects into each film. No, The Killer is in on the joke, it turns out. In fact, it’s laughing so hard that we barely notice how thoroughly the title character misjudges his own competence. This isn’t Zodiac, folks. It’s Fight Club.
The Killer is now streaming on Netflix.