On one level, I realise, the dullness is the point. Fassbender’s character is meant to be a diligent nobody: not glamorous, not charming, neither ferociously cruel nor icily cold, and not even particularly gifted at his line of work. But I’m not sure that justifies the film’s own efficiently plodding approach because it never seems as if Fincher is giving us the inside track on how assassins actually operate. As ordinary as the protagonist is on one level, he isn’t any more believable than the balletic executioners in John Wick. He’s still a fantasy figure, even if he’s a fantasy figure who doesn’t dress in a snazzy suit, so The Killer ends up seeming hollow and pointless.
Despite premiering in competition at the Venice Film Festival, it’s the kind of trifling exercise that Steven Soderbergh knocks out when he fancies trying out a new camera. Fincher has talked about making The Killer for well over a decade, but it still comes across as a relaxed holiday project. Perhaps, after Mank in 2020, he was in the mood to take on something cheaper and easier, so we can only hope that he sets his sights on a major work next time around.
The Killer is released on 27 October in selected cinemas, and on 10 November on Netflix.
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