Stick To The Plan: David Fincher’s ‘The Killer’ Doesn’t Miss

“Stick to the plan.” “Don’t improvise, anticipate.” We hear these words a lot during David Fincher’s The Killer, a lean and devilishly mean movie about an assassin who always gets the job done … but what if, this time, for once, he kind of messes the whole thing up?

We meet our unnamed assassin (well, he uses lots of names, we will get to that), played by Michael Fassbender, in Paris and through a voice-over we get the impression being an assassin can be very tedious and dull as he spends day after day in a rented out WeWork office (very funny concept) doing a lot of nothing, just waiting for his target to arrive across the street while trying not to leave any forensic or photographic evidence he was ever there. This opening scene is very good at establishing this guy “gets the job done.” Honestly, if the whole movie was just Fassbender doing a monologue about what an assassin has to do to prepare for his job, I would have enjoyed that. But, after days and days, the target does finally come home and our assassin who “gets the job done” misses when someone else inadvertently steps in the way at just the wrong moment — or the right moment, depending on who you are in this situation.

(Around this point, I couldn’t help but wonder if there is anything I’m so good at that I’d never even think of failing in my wildest dreams. Being that good at something is appealing. I literally couldn’t come up with anything. I kind of always expect to fail at pretty much everything I do. Now, this doesn’t mean I do fail, I just expect to fail. This way of looking at life does cut down on disappointments.)

I am not an assassin. I assume you are not an assassin. (Though, maybe that’s presumptuous of me because I bet assassins are looking forward to this movie and might want to read about it before seeing it. Assassins probably like keeping a low profile and are most likely taking a risk seeing a movie like this in theaters, as opposed to just waiting for it to come on Netflix.) Even though we are both most likely not assassins, it may not come as a surprise that missing an intended target and hitting a bystander instead causes a lot of problems for a lot of people.

Using a slew of aliases that all coincide with the name of sitcom characters from the ’60s, ’70s or ’80s*, our assassin makes it back to his hideout in the Dominican Republic, but returns home to find his home already ransacked and his, we presume, girlfriend is in the hospital. And, there, now, we have our movie. Instead of being a literal hired gun – up until this point he keeps telling us how he literally “doesn’t give a fuck” about any kind of cause – now has a cause … revenge. Revenge on, first, his own handler who set up what happened at the house in the Dominican. Then revenge on the actual hit people who performed the job. Then revenge on the original client who must have ordered all of this after the blunder in Paris. We learn early that a key to being a good assassin is to not get emotional. Now, he’s very emotional.

(*Maybe this is my talent because I knew every single alias he used and doing a quick survey after the movie, I couldn’t find anyone else who knew every single one. Now, some of these were pretty easy. The first three names he uses are Felix Unger, Archibald Bunker, and Oscar Madison. But both Reuben Kincaid from The Partridge Family and Robert Hartley from The Bob Newhart Show seemed to stump a lot of people. Now, I can understand how a person can travel under the name Robert Hartley and not get many people making The Bob Newhart Show reverences, but I have a hard time believing the names George Jefferson and Sam Malone wouldn’t raise a few eyebrows.)

Even though The Killer is coming out during the time of year when prestige movies usually come out, and it’s played a couple of film festivals, it’s not really that kind of movie, and I say that as a compliment. This is just David Fincher making a bloody, fun, gritty movie about an angry assassin. The name of the movie is The Killer and our lead character very much does that. Also, our main character is very repetitive, at one point repeating the word “redundant” multiple times, and it’s hard to not imagine Fincher poking a little fun at himself for his well-documented love of multiple takes. And Fincher very much “sticks to the plan” and, unlike his title character, Fincher here doesn’t miss.

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