David Fincher is known for making dirty, hard-to-watch films that are perfect down to the last detail. But Fincher doesn’t get enough credit for being hilarious, and The killer is the funniest movie of 2023.
The clues were there from the start. The poster for The killer shows an oil-painted portrait of Michael Fassbender pointing a gun at the audience. Ooooh, scary! But it says in the title “The killer,” The letter “i” lies on its side, blood pouring from its title (yes, that’s what the dot above the “i” is called, you’re welcome). Pretty bizarre for a film that is sold as a return to form for the maker Se7en.
The killer begins with Fassbender delivering a self-monologue in an abandoned office space colonized by WeWork. (In a joke that couldn’t have been predicted, WeWork filed for bankruptcy the week the movie came out.) He complains about how boring it is to be a killer, and Fincher proves this by telling us forcing Fassbender to nap, work out, and eat Egg McMuffins without the bread.
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What he says Sounds cool, but what he does isn’t it. He even tells us he’s not smart, just patient. It’s only when its target comes home that the sniper rifle appears, and at my demonstration you could sense the guys thinking it belonged to David Fincher John Wick sit forward in their seats.
Spoiler alert: This cool, collected yoga fanatic eating boiled eggs at the gas station misses his shot and kills an innocent woman. He quickly clears out his workspace and escapes on an electric scooter in a chase that’s every bit as tense, thrilling and well-crafted as anything Fincher has ever done – except our hardened hero is dressed like a German tourist, wearing a stupid bucket hat and riding an electric scooter sounds like a Pokémon being pushed through a pasta machine.
Fincher and Se7en Screenwriter Andrew Kevin Walker spends the next two hours subverting its cool action hero premise and actively making fun of its hero – and its audience. Fassbender returns home to find his girlfriend in the hospital in a scene set to “Girlfriend In A Coma” by The Smiths, the only band he seems to listen to. (Every needle prick in this movie is funny.)
In any other movie, this would be a big, dramatic moment, and all the men in the audience would be imagining what they would do if someone hurt their old lady, justifying the holy retribution that Fassbender is about to deliver. But even the length of this scene is a joke: Fassbender spends about two minutes at his injured girlfriend’s side before heading off to smoke some fools.
The fools are an unfortunate taxi driver, his former employer, the customer and two other hitmen. Fassbender uses the taxi driver and then shoots him in the head for no other reason than that he was driving the murderers around. Fincher tells us, “You like this, you idiots? Is that justified?”
Some people will say yes. I mean, this is our hero after all. When Fassbender uses the ubiquity of FedEx and the invisibility of the working class to gain access to his employer’s office, we’re back to the cool killer movie we were sold. But Fincher gives us just enough of what we want and then rips it away from us. With the mathematical precision of a storyteller, Fassbender predicts that shooting a 60-year-old man in the chest with nine-inch nails will (of course) buy him six minutes of interrogation time before the man dies. Instead, he dies almost instantly. Oops.
It’s played for fun, but you could still think that Fincher is making a statement about his hero’s improvisational skills. It doesn’t last. In the next scene, Fassbender breaks the neck of the innocent woman who worked for his handler. Sure, he makes it look like an accident so their kids can get their life insurance, but there’s no getting around it: This guy is a murderer.
Fincher is not interested in “why” we identify with this psychopath. He’s been at the forefront of American culture for too long to ask obvious questions. Fincher white Why we love this guy: A hot movie star plays him, and he gets to do what almost everyone dreams of: being good at killing people.
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The thing is, though: Fassbender isn’t very good at it! His compulsive disorders – scrubbing surfaces, avoiding potential threats, stopping surveillance cameras – gradually disappear as he goes into a killing spree. The funniest joke in the movie is when Fassbender orders a keychain copier from Amazon right in front of the building he’s going to use it in!
It reminded me of the climax of American psycho, as Bateman goes on a rampage, shooting random passersby and blowing up patrol cars with no consequences. You wonder: Is it all just in his head? Or is the message that our society is so broken, so blind and so rigged in favor of men like Fassbender that he can get away with it all not a problem? Fincher loves telling stories about the ineffectiveness of the police and justice system. In this respect it is completely non-existent. There are no police officers in this film.
Fincher’s team: screenwriter Walker, cinematographer Erik Messerschmidt, composers Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross, and editor Kirk Baxter are all in on the joke. You know what we expect when we read the SEO-rich headline “Netflix Announces New David Fincher Killer Thriller Starring Micheal Fassbender.” They make fun of our childish bloodlust at every opportunity. Could this team have said, “Let’s make the hardest, coolest action movie ever?” Sure! The kitchen fight in the middle The killer is comparable to any American fight scene this year. But they did something different, something smarter, something funnier. Something mean.
They’ve created one of the best films of a year, packed with great projects from some of our best directors, because the biggest joke of all The killer is because of Fincher himself. This workaholic obsessive, known for having complete control over projects that consistently have enormous cultural and financial impact, has just experienced his first failure in 30 years. Manka passion project for Fincher about the man who wrote Citizen Kanecame and went with a shrug.
It’s pretty easy to see the parallels: Netflix gave him a lot of money to make something and it didn’t work out, so now he has to pay the price – just like a certain guy Murderer. It’s a big joke on American action film culture. “Oh, you all hated the movie I made for my dad? Here’s the coolest movie you’ve ever seen about John Wick being a fucking idiot.”
Fincher’s films are dense but not complicated. The thesis for all his projects, from Alien 3 To Zodiac To House of cards, is consistent: America sucks. We’re all in on the sucking and there’s nothing we can do about it, so relax and enjoy the violence.
And we lick it up. It’s great to see people, mostly men, wrestling with their feelings about this film. You don’t have to look far for guys squirming under Fincher’s gaze and wishing he had done something as obvious as this Se7en, what, lol. These people should take another look at this Ex girlfriend.