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Review: The Killer (2023)



The visual style of David Fincher’s The Killer resembles the personality of its protagonist: meticulous, methodical, and relentlessly efficient. Like Michael Fassbender’s nameless assassin, the camera observes the action from a detached distance, as patient, disciplined, and cunning as a predator stalking its next meal. For the most part, the frame remains static, cutting between voyeuristic wides, intimate closeups, and unnervingly claustrophobic inserts as necessary; when there is movement, it is consistently calculated, mechanical, almost uncanny in its grace and fluidity. (There are, of course, exceptions to this rule; whenever our hero’s composure falters, for example, the film conveys his disorientation through shaky, jittery handheld shots.) The editing, meanwhile, emphasizes routines and ritualistic processes—from calisthenics exercises to the assembly of a sniper rifle to the systematic destruction/disposal of incriminating evidence—creating a hypnotically monotonous rhythm.


This deliberate (hell, borderline languid) pace—which lingers on mundane details and general minutiae rather than frenetic shootouts and chaotic car chases—won’t be every viewer’s cup of tea, but I savored every seductively slow second. Formally precise, immaculately structured, and featuring a dry, dark sense of humor (particularly in the ironic contrast between the voiceover narration and the events unfolding onscreen), The Killer riffs on Melville’s Le Samouraï—and, consequently, its many imitators, including Ghost Dog: The Way of the Samurai and The American—without sacrificing Fincher’s distinctive directorial voice. Blending the best qualities of genre deconstruction and sincere homage, it is the perfect minimalist thriller—lean, mean, and deliciously pulpy.

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