" as efficiently as a well-oiled machine..."

The Killer Hits Most Its Targets

(113023) The Killer is an entertaining and engrossing action film about a paid assassin. Not to be confused with Kubrick’s The Killing, or Don Siegel’s The Killers, or John Woo’s The Killer. Instead this film was based on an acclaimed French graphic novel series titled "The Killer" which was written by Alex “Matza’ and illustrated by Luc Jacamon and has been carried in America by BOOM! Studio's Archaia line of comics. The little-known (at least in America and non-BOOM! readers) graphic novel series is about the day-to-day adventures of a cold blooded, methodical contract killer who is portrayed perfectly in the film by Michael Fassbender. It would be difficult to imagine a much better adaptation of the source material.

It’s the best cinematic adaptation of a comic book or graphic novel I’ve seen all year, and it includes some of the year’s finest dialogue and cinematography by Eric Messerschmidt (who also worked on Fincher’s gorgeously shot Mank). Look for an update to my column soon on the best comic and graphic novel films which will include this film and the disappointing
The Marvels.

Even with its dark tone the film is currently perched in the number 1 spot on Netflix and with minimal publicity (I never saw a trailer for it) it has already attracted over 27 million viewers. Despite the high quality of the film,/which is almost perfect in its first half, it doesn’t have much of a chance of getting major Oscar nominations. It is too hardnosed, dark, bleak, and pessimistic and it does not offer the resolution or closure most people or Oscar voters want to see. Also, it has no redeeming social message, it won’t make anyone feel good, and it does not try to elevate humanity in any way.  But on a purely aesthetic scale it is extremely impressive, and it works as efficiently as a well-oiled machine. 

The film is the long-anticipated reunion of director/writer team of Seven, David Fincher and screenplay Andrew David Walker. Fincher, despite directing the first Alien Series film that was not a masterpiece, Fincher has a great track record. Although I found Fight Club overrated (several people told me it was their favorite film ever). It is undeniable that Fincher has made some of the best and most influential crime thrillers of the past 20 years. Seven, Mank, and Zodiac were all first rate. Also, incredibly his The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo remake somehow managed to rival the excellent original Swedish version in quality.

Michael Fassbender (who was a good Magneto in some of the X-Men films) is perfect playing the inhuman killer because he knows just when to under act or not display emotion.  Also, like Alain Delon in the classic Le Samourai (which is clearly the film’s biggest influence) and the characters in Tarantino films, he is the very essence of cool. So cool we never learn his real name and when he checks in at hotels and airports he uses the names of classic sitcom characters like Sam Malone, Robert Hartley, Lou Grant, Archibald Bunker, Reuben Kincaid, Howard Cunningham and Felix Unger supposedly so he can be anonymous, but I don’t understand why no one notices it. For clarity’s sake I will just call him "The Killer" in this review.

Fassbender is such a fine actor I am a bit surprised he is not a bigger star. He is known for doing edgy roles in art films, many of which are more admired and written about than seen. Some of his best films include Shame (2011),
Prometheus (2012), 12 Years a Slave (2013), Hunger (2008), A Dangerous Method, (2011) and Steve Jobs (2015) which got him an Oscar nomination.  He is more of an artist than an entertainer and more of an actor than a celebrity.  My suspicion is she rarely gets the acclaim he deserves because he does not kiss enough rear ends or aggressively do publicity. Maybe if he dated Jennifer Lopez.

Although it has been compared to the John Wick movies, it is much better than any of them. It has more in common, at least in its world view and style, with the works of Quentin Tarantino and Roberto Rodriquez.  It has some of the flavor of a Tarantino film (Kill Bill more than Pulp Fiction) without as much postmodern self-reflexivity, and it has as much visual style as a Roberto Rodriquez film (although it does not call attention to itself as much) with not as much over the top violence (I’m thinking of Sin City and Assassin.) 

But "The Killer" has more psychological complexity than most of its influences, The film gets totally into the tough world and cynical mind of its contract killer protagonist. There is almost no dialogue, and most of it is through his point of view and he tells most of his story in voice over narration like a cinematic equivalent of the old Punisher War Zone comic.

You get the sense that some terrible events have made The Killer totally lose faith in humankind which helps make him ok with his cold-blooded murders. At one point he declares,” To all those who believe in the inherent goodness of mankind. Where exactly what exactly do you base this on?” But he does try to justify them when he declares:” Eight people die every second at the same time 4.2 people are born. Nothing I will ever do will ever make a dent in this.”  

The film does for contract killing what Croupier did for gambling, and the film gets the viewer deeper into a profession than any recent other film I can think of. He shares his methodology and secrets to his profession, making the viewers his accomplices. At one point he talks about the importance of blending in the modern world, and he even says, “Since avoiding being seen is impossible now we can at least avoid being memorable.” He also implies he dresses like a German tourist because they have such bad reps no one wants to interact with one.

The film gets going when The Killer puts himself in jeopardy by screwing up a hit which means his life is forfeit. He is about to shoot his French diplomat target when a comely dominatrix dances in front and takes the shot intended for someone else. When he gets home, he finds that his girlfriend Magdala is missing, and his house has been ransacked and most of his belongings destroyed.  He finds his girlfriend in the hospital and because she was brutally beaten by the men looking for him. His affection for her is only vulnerability and it’s the only thing that makes him a human being. During the rest of the film the killer dedicates himself to wiping out any employers or coworkers who want to kill him (one of them is memorably played by Tilda Swinton).

The film benefits from a terrific soundtrack which combines many classics by The Smiths with atmospheric new techno songs from Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross (of Nine Inch Nails), Fincher's former collaborators on Girl With the Dragon Tattoo . The film features one of the best uses of Smith songs ever in a film. When the hit man is about to shoot his intended victim and acting the most inhuman, we hear “I’m human and I need to be loved just like anyone else does“ on the soundtrack from “How Soon is Now,” giving the scene an unmistakable ironic undercurrent.

Spoiler alert: The film’s conclusion is a satisfactory resolution, but it in no way equals the heart pounding intensity of the first hour. But I can understand why the film ends as it does because the filmmakers want it to follow the graphic novel storyline from the first of that series and so it can leave room for a sequel. The ending is the only reason I did not give the film four stars although I was sorely tempted.

But for the first hour and a half or so this film is more gripping, and it has more edge of your seat suspense than any recent thriller. At times it almost reaches a Hitchcock or Brian De Palmas at his prime level of quality. If you are a fan of noir or crime films or movies with a dark intensity and are not allergic to violence you owe it to yourself to see this at least once. I have a hunch it will age well, and I will probably watch it several times.


Directed by:    David Fincher
Written by:    Screenplay by Andre Kevin Walker, based on The
 Killers graphic novels written by Alex “Matza"
 Nolent and illustrated by Luc Jacamon
Starring:    Michael Fassbender, Arless Howard, James
Released:    10/27/2023 (in US theatres), 11/10/2023  Netflix
Length:    118 minutes
Rating:    Rated R for strong violence, language, and brief
Available On:    At press time playing in limited release at several
 Chicago area theatres plus streaming soon on

For more writings by Vittorio Carli go to and His latest book "Tape Worm Salad with Olive Oil for Extra Flavor" is also available.

Come to the next session of the Monthly Poetry Show on the first Saturday of every month at Tangible Books in Bridgeport from 7-9 at 3324 South Halsted hosted by Vittorio Carli.

December 2 features: Esteban Colon, Aurora Danai, Sandy Marchetti, and Bronmin Shumway

THE KILLER © 2023 Panic Pictures
All Rights Reserved

Review © 2023 Alternate Reality, Inc.


"The Marvels"