David Fincher's The Killer First Reviews: A Gritty, Straightforward, and Surprisingly Funny Thriller

Critics at the Venice Film Festival say Fincher's latest echoes some of his past work — and other similar thrillers — but it's more accessible and narrowly focused, and Michael Fassbender is captivating in the title role.

by | September 5, 2023 | Comments


David Fincher just premiered his latest, The Killer, at the Venice Film Festival, and the first reviews for the movie are mostly positive, if not glowing. Starring Michael Fassbender in his return to acting after a four-year hiatus, it’s said to be a fairly simple character study of a hitman, though it does apparently include some decent action scenes. Also, The Killer is reportedly pretty funny, too.

Here’s what critics are saying about David Fincher’s The Killer:

What can fans expect from The Killer?

“A return to form for Fincher… A welcomed reminder that when it comes to gritty investigations of violent circumstances, few people can do it better.” – Josh Parham, Next Best Picture

“An accomplished and entertaining thriller.” – Jo-Ann Titmarsh, London Evening Standard

“A thriller of pure surface and style and managed with terrific flair.” – Peter Bradshaw, Guardian

“If you ever wondered what Fincher’s Bond might have looked like, this could be it.” – Jane Crowther, Total Film

The Killer is an anti-Bond, anti-super-cool-assassin film, an exercise in subverting expectations.” – Leslie Felperin, The Hollywood Reporter

The Killer is almost a B-movie, committing to the trappings of its genre and embracing schlockiness like previous Fincher films Panic Room and The Game.” – Adam Solomons, Awards Watch

“The Jeanne Dielman of assassin movies.” – Ryan Lattanzio, IndieWire

Michael Fassbender in The Killer (2023)

(Photo by ©Netflix)

How does it compare to other Fincher movies?

“This is Fincher at his most accessible.” – Ryan Lattanzio, IndieWire

“Though it doesn’t have the complexity of Zodiac or the resonance of The Social Network, this may be Fincher’s sleekest and most uncomplicatedly entertaining film of the current century.” – Donald Clarke, Irish Times

“It’s one of the filmmaker’s more commercial movies [with] a layer of added nuance.” – Jane Crowther, Total Film

“It’s the smallest-scale and most intimately focused movie of Fincher’s career.” – Adam Solomons, Awards Watch

The Killer is the simplest, most straightforward, and superficial narrative of his filmography.” – Manuel São Bento, FandomWire

“It is genuinely startling that this chilly hit-man drama feels most like a sideways follow-up to The Social Network than anything else.” – Ben Croll, The Wrap

“It’s a lurid crime thriller that, to some degree, chimes with Fincher’s 1995 masterpiece Se7en.” – James Mottram, South China Morning Post

“While this isn’t the brilliant Zodiac, it isn’t the paltry Mank, either.” – Rafaela Sales Ross, The Playlist

But haven’t we seen this kind of movie before?

“While it certainly holds our attention, [it] starts to seem more and more like heightened but conventional variations on the actions of a whole lot of characters we’ve seen in a lot of other thrillers.” – Owen Gleiberman, Variety

“There’s nothing about this hit man (seemingly emotionless but fragile on the inside) that’s particularly different from thousands of other big-screen hit men.” – Alonso Duralde, The Film Verdict

Michael Fassbender in The Killer (2023)

(Photo by ©Netflix)

What makes The Killer better?

“What elevates The Killer are its loftier ideas about the rules for life we impose on ourselves, and what it means to be, sometimes, unexceptional like everyone else.” – Adam Solomons, Awards Watch

“What it has to offer that’s any different from countless similar tales lies in the minutiae rather than the mayhem.” – Alonso Duralde, The Film Verdict

“Watching a master filmmaker and a masterful actor quietly go to work on a by-the-numbers revenge rampage story is never a bad thing.” – Ryan Lattanzio, IndieWire

“Instead of overloading his story with fussy layers, Fincher pares everything back to the genre’s essence… In Fincher’s hands, that narrowed focus expands the genre’s possibilities rather than shrinking them.” – Stephanie Zacharek, TIME Magazine

How is Michael Fassbender’s performance?

“Fassbender is hauntingly mesmerizing.” – Manuel São Bento, FandomWire

“Fassbender is consistently a captivating force… an appropriate vessel.” – Josh Parham, Next Best Picture

“Fassbender is eerily effective in his embodiment of utter emotionlessness.” – Rafaela Sales Ross, The Playlist

“He hasn’t sat with such intensity since Hunger.” – Rory O’Connor, The Film Stage

“His performance here most resembles his work in X-Men: First Class.” – Adam Solomons, Awards Watch

Michael Fassbender in The Killer (2023)

(Photo by ©Netflix)

Is it worth watching for the action?

“There’s some nifty hand-to-hand combat, shot in tasteful low light — the sight of two silhouettes beating the crap out of one another becomes a kind of shadow-puppetry.” – Stephanie Zacharek, TIME Magazine

“A stand-out fight scene is chaotic enough that it really looks like two men kicking the ever-loving Christ out of each other, instead of like a choreographed dance.” – Hannah Strong, Little White Lies

“The off-the-rails violence is as balletic and beautiful as Amazing Amy Dunne slashing open Neil Patrick Harris’ throat in Gone Girl.” – Ryan Lattanzio, IndieWire

“As carefully made and, at moments, ingenious as it is, the film never matches that opening sequence for sheer screw-tightening excitement.” – Owen Gleiberman, Variety

Is the film funny as well?

“Absolutely hilarious.” – Serena Seghedoni, Loud and Clear Reviews

“The filmmakers wring an awful lot of wit from this frigid world. Andrew Kevin Walker’s screenplay is chock-full of delicious lines delivered by Fassbender in a deadpan VoiceOver.” – Ben Croll, The Wrap

“The gags are plentiful – whether that’s Tilda Swinton telling a bear joke, a close-to-the-bone comment about a wheelie bin, or the comedic appearance of a parmesan grater during a terrific house brawl.” – Jane Crowther, Total Film

“For all its grimness, The Killer is, indeed, something of a big joke throughout.” – Donald Clarke, Irish Times

The Killer premiered at the Venice International Film Festival on September 3, 2023. It opens in theaters in limited release on October 27, 2023 before hitting Netflix on November 10, 2023.

Thumbnail image by Netflix

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