Review: The Killer

Score: A-

Director: David Fincher

Cast: Michael Fassbender, Charles Parnell, Tilda Swinton, Arliss Howard

Running Time: 118 Minutes

Rated: R

Even in a year when we've seen plenty of three-hour epics, no mainstream movie requires as much patience as David Fincher's The Killer. A film about a hitman on the run after a job gone wrong promises lots of thrilling action. But while there are some standout scenes of violence, the film is all about waiting to strike.

Michael Fassbender's nameless assassin tells us as much in the opening narration. He's perched in a derelict WeWork, on the fifth day of waiting for his target to arrive at the luxury hotel across the street. He passes the time doing yoga, listening to the Smiths and trying to sleep. But when the moment arrives, a split-second error in judgment results in the wrong person dying. After barely making it out of Paris, he knows it's only a matter of time before his past will catch up with him.

The Killer's revenge mission proceeds methodically, even while the rules he repeats to himself get broken over and over. He can't help but take personally the known consequences of his failure. This clouds his judgment, causing him to take risks he would have avoided as a professional. While technically savvy, he's forced to deal with old-school security like physical files, CCTV and guard dogs. Pushing ahead seems straightforward, but a late scene with a colleague (Tilda Swinton) reveals his motivations are murkier than even he understands.

Viewers expecting something as frenetic as John Wick are bound to be disappointed. The body count is much lower, and Fincher takes an almost perverse joy in repetitious scenes of his lead showering, assembling his weapon and checking in under an alias. But I had a big smile on my face during most of these moments, and not just because his pseudonyms are all sitcom characters from the '70s and '80s. There's real pleasure in watching a character who's extremely good at his job, but constantly facing new challenges.

A slow movie punctuated by bursts of excitement, The Killer certainly won't blow everyone away. But for those of us who love Fincher's obsessive characters, dry humor and icy detachment, it's right on target.


About Kip Mooney

Kip Mooney
Like many film critics born during and after the 1980s, my hero is Roger Ebert. The man was already the best critic in the nation when he won the Pulitzer in 1975, but his indomitable spirit during and after his recent battle with cancer keeps me coming back to read not only his reviews but his insightful commentary on the everyday. But enough about a guy you know a lot about. I knew I was going to be a film critic—some would say a snob—in middle school, when I had to voraciously defend my position that The Royal Tenenbaums was only a million times better than Adam Sandler’s remake of Mr. Deeds. From then on, I would seek out Wes Anderson’s films and avoid Sandler’s like the plague. Still, I like to think of myself as a populist, and I’ll be just as likely to see the next superhero movie as the next Sundance sensation. The thing I most deplore in a movie is laziness. I’d much rather see movies with big ambitions try and fail than movies with no ambitions succeed at simply existing. I’m also a big advocate of fun-bad movies like The Room and most of Nicolas Cage’s work. In the past, I’ve written for The Dallas Morning News and the North Texas Daily, which I edited for a semester. I also contributed to Dallas-based Pegasus News, which in the circle of life, is now part of The Dallas Morning News, where I got my big break in 2007. Eventually, I’d love to write and talk about film full-time, but until that’s a viable career option, I work as an auditor for Wells Fargo. I hope to one day meet my hero, go to the Toronto International Film Festival, and compete on Jeopardy. Until then, I’m excited to share my love of film with you.