David Fincher's The Killer Is a Subtly Funny Movie About a Loser Assassin

Despite Fincher's reputation as a gloom-monger, his movies are often quite bleakly funny, and his lonely, agitated male loser characters are frequently the targets of the jokes.


David Fincher movies appeal to a very particular Type of Guy. 

You may know this Type of Guy, because he is ubiquitous on the internet. He had a Fight Club poster in his college dorm room. He's seen Se7en too many times. He has some thoughts about the Zodiac Killer and Facebook that are at least partially informed by Fincher's movies about those subjects. He owns many black T-shirts. He really, really likes Nine Inch Nails, the industrial band fronted by frequent Fincher collaborator Trent Reznor, but in an intellectual way. 

Fincher's movies appeal to this Type of Guy because they are often about this Type of Guy. His filmography is defined by portraits of a particular type of male rage and ennui, of men who feel lost, disconnected from social convention, surrounded by the disposable detritus of consumer capitalism, stuck in their heads with their unstoppable thoughts. Fincher's movies take a keen interest in this Type of Guy, capturing his Wikipedia-level nihilism with grimdark slickness; they are glamorously moody and precise in a way that not only appeals to this Type of Guy's taste and sensibility but has helped define it. 

But Fincher isn't celebrating this Type of Guy, not really. He's mocking him. Despite Fincher's reputation as a gloom-monger, his movies are often quite bleakly funny, and his lonely, agitated male losers are frequently the targets of the jokes. Fight Club isn't a comedy, exactly, but it's a caustic satire of its narrator character, a corporate drone who—spoiler—imagines a sexy Brad Pitt alter ego who leads a cult built around bored loser guys who let off steam by beating the crap out of each other. He's practically the definition of this particular Type of Guy. And this Type of Guy loves David Fincher movies because they see themselves in them. 

Fincher's newest film, The Killer, is also about this Type of Guy. In this case, the Guy is another unnamed character—listed in the credits only as The Killer—who works as a high-end assassin-for-hire. The movie opens with an extended sequence in Paris in which The Killer waits for a target. He does yoga. He eats McDonalds. He watches a luxury hotel building from a window across the street. And he thinks. He thinks about his code (don't ask questions, don't develop feelings). He thinks about his amoral philosophy. He thinks about the nature of existence, the divides between the haves and the have-nots, about boredom itself. He views himself as precise, methodical, unflinching, unfeeling—as someone who has transcended conventional views about morality and conventionality of any kind. Unlike everyone else, he sees the cold truth about the world.

We hear all of this in Michael Fassbender's flat, affectless voiceover, and for much of the film, it's all we hear. There's almost no real dialogue during the first 25 minutes of the film, just a portrait of The Killer waiting, watching, thinking. We're trapped inside his head with him. 

And what we can see is the thing that The Killer himself cannot—which is that he is actually rather absurd. He wears dopey bucket hats and dresses, he explains, like a German tourist, so that Parisians will avoid him. He snacks on crappy fast food, and the window he waits at is in an abandoned WeWork. His half-baked Nietzschean worldview doesn't make him cool; it makes him ridiculous. And when the time finally comes to make the kill, he misses. He's not even good at his job. 

The Type of Guy who likes David Fincher movies tends to enjoy movies about cool, edgy hitmen, which is very much what this movie is, except that in Fincher's amusingly twisted vision, it's a movie about how that type of movie—and the particular Type of Guy it elevates—is actually fairly silly. It's a sleek, sharp, subtly hilarious send-up of moody sociopathic assassin glamour. I'm a David Fincher Type of Guy myself, so obviously I loved it.