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The Killer is as stylish a movie as you'd expect from David Fincher, and probably his most breezily entertaining effort since Panic Room, but the film sticks to the hitman formula far too safely.

There is the potential for greatness in the opening sequence of The Killer, which shows a hitman patiently waiting - for days on end - across the street from a high-end Paris hotel. These taut, voyeuristic 20 minutes echo the slowly built-up tension of The Conversation and Rear Window, but add the annoyed ennui of a professional who just wants to do his job but cannot until his target shows up.

What prevents this expertly directed overture - Fincher is on top form here, mixing finely manicured visuals with an exquisite sound design - from truly soaring is the decision to overlay the entire sequence with Michael Fassbender's incessent, jaded voice-over. How great and memorable an opening it could have been had Fincher relied solely on visuals and sound to convey the story!

Yet that alone wouldn't have made The Killer into a great thriller, because the 90-odd minutes that follow go through the predictable motions of a rote hitman-with-a-grudge narrative. There are some witty script embellishments that lighten the mood - the aliases the hitman uses all refer to familiar TV characters and he has a fascination with The Smiths - but they do not cover up the fact that you've seen everything that happens on-screen a million times over in other films.

Don't get me wrong: you will not be bored by The Killer at any juncture. This is professionally made entertainment by consumate craftsmen, both behind and in front of the camera. The movie just doesn't hit the emotional or original notes needed to lift the picture high enough above similar genre fare.

release: 2023

director: David Fincher

starring: Michael Fassbender, Tilda Swinton, Charles Parnell, Kerry O'Malley


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