Like any streaming giant with an occasional interest in putting its movies first in theaters, if only for a moment, Netflix has given us a lot of trivia. Plenty of. “Gray Man.” “Red Notice.” Hundreds of millions of dollars worth of garbage. Fun is not trivial; I like Fun garbage. Just insignificant.
With a higher level of filmmaker and craftsmanship, the scrap becomes a different and more depressing question. Why this material? For example, director David Fincher and his latest film, “The Killer,” are a polished, tight, and meticulously executed nothingness.
It’s an assassin’s revenge prank starring Michael Fassbender as the unnamed killer, whose compartmentalized life includes camera-friendly yoga as he waits to eliminate his targets and a dreamy home life with his woman (Sophie Charlotte) on the beach in the Dominican Republic. waits for him. The screenplay by Andrew Kevin Walker, who wrote Fincher’s hit serial killer “Se7en,” adapts the French comic book series by Alexis “Mat” Nolent and Luc Jacamon and strips it of its original thin layer of political commentary. No politics for Fincher! Too messy, too real world. “The Killer” just goes for a fun, heartless diversion, steeped in a distinctive sense of coolness.
The first mission, which comes after Fassbender’s mumbled voiceovers, spirals out of control and suddenly the killer in “Killer” has his hands full. In the US, his hapless managers and angry customers hang him out to dry (I’m condensing the narrative description because it’s pretty boring). An attempt on her life results in her being hospitalized, near death. The remainder of the film is dutifully divided into segments set in Paris, the Dominican Republic, New Orleans, Florida, and New York state (portrayed by St. Charles, Illinois; a key scene with Fassbender and Tilda Swinton was filmed at the Hotel Baker), and a final confrontation in Chicago for.
Fincher and editor Kirk Baxter tighten the screws and push “The Killer” through with robotic efficiency. There’s a beautifully sadistic Florida scene that pits Fassbender against a guard dog and an equally growling, much more powerful hitman. But he’s just a disposable thug, not the protagonist, so he’ll be out of the way before long. “Killer” features The Smiths on the soundtrack (the killer’s favorite mixtape during work hours) and composers Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross highlight the story of a high-functioning serial killer (sorry, “hitman”) and his alarming new life. he knows what he’s doing.
And I guess I don’t like what he does because it’s not enough. Fincher has directed many great films, including “Gone Girl.” He’s got a defiant masterpiece on his hands: 2007’s “Zodiac,” one of the great true-crime procedurals of our century, and arguably the most brilliantly unnerving because that’s what fact-based dramatization demanded.
The “killer” has something different in mind: Nothing. Its fans — and there are plenty of them in Fincher’s latest film — call it pure thriller, a thriller stripped of parts and a few stray jokes. The killer uses aliases taken from TV shows at airport rental car counters and similar places: Sam Malone, Robert Hartley. He delivers his share of zingers, which sound rather odd given Fassbender’s robotic, unblinking otherworldly aura. He’s no less alien than the android he played so well in “Alien: Covenant.” When we finally get to a scene that feels like something is happening, Swinton’s bitter showdown with the mysterious woman behind it all basically amounts to a staring contest. We know who will live and who won’t, and “The Killer,” which opens in a handful of theaters toward its Netflix streaming premiere on Nov. 10, is essentially an elevator pitch for a two-hour pilot episode. A stylish, hooky Netflix series about a globe-trotting assassin.
“Killer” – 1.5 stars (out of 4)
MPA rating: R (for strong violence, language and brief sexuality)
Running time: 1:58
How to watch: In theaters now in limited release; Netflix broadcast premiere November 10
Michael Phillips is a Tribune critic.