Going into The Killer I have to admit I was a little worried. Between his comments on the political intentions of the film and the awkward comments he made during the 2023 Writers Guild of America strike, Director David Fincher has shown himself to be very out of touch. And while I still think Fincher might not really understand class struggle, any doubts I had about The Killer were quite literally dispelled within the first five seconds where the opening credits quite literally made me let out a very audible “Oh shit.”
The Killer is a simple story: a methodical, perfectionist and self-obsessed hitman-bordering-on-serial-killer, after minutes of explaining to the audience how great and cool and edgy he is, fails a hit. From there he goes on a murder spree to avenge his girlfriend who was assaulted by his former employer. While there are some parallels between Fincher and the nameless killer, that’s about as deep as the story goes.
The Killer is trashy. The main character is constantly letting out snark-astic quips while rendering almost any object in his vicinity an instrument of cruelty. Despite the killer being skilled and clearly intelligent, he’s also insufferable. He is constantly moaning about how useless empathy is and how stupid people are, with buckets of misguided venom dripping from his irony-poisoned psyche.
The moment that makes it clear that The Killer is a comedy is a scene where he drops a long philosophical quote, after which he states “To quote…” He pauses, “…someone…” completely forgetting the great mind he models his life after.
However, the endless cringe of the film is offset by the sheer humour of it all, the endless style oozing from every frame, not to mention the intoxicating texture of Fincher’s formally perfect digital photography. The Killer is hypnotic, borderline addictive in its aesthetic and narrative sensibilities.
Moreover, the inclusion of the The Smith in the soundtrack add to the flair, even though the lead singer Steven Patrick Morrissey has just gotten worse over the years. The Killer also puts forward Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross to keep action tense. The soundtrack moves formlessly between post-punk, new wave, ambient works and occasional industrial that transcends its genre roots and is propelled to straight noise. In context, it has an undeniable cool factor.
The Killer is exactly what it needed to be: fun. Fincher drops the self-seriousness, but keeps the desert-dry deadpan humor and slick momentum that keeps his films so engaging. Although, it should be noted that David Fincher’s snarky contempt for humanity borders on trumpsploitation, feeding into cultural anxieties surrounding polarization and day-to-day violence. Yet, maybe it’s for the best that Fincher’s latest work doesn’t try to deal in nuance, but instead opts to be simple, concise, flashy and just a little (lot) dumb.