“The driving idea of The Killer is that Michael Fassbender’s hit man, with his cool finesse, his six storage spaces filled with things like weapons and license plates, his professional punctiliousness combined with a serial killer’s attitude (the opening-credits montage of the various methods of killing he employs almost feels like it could be the creepy fanfare to Se7en 2), has tried to make himself into a human murder machine, someone who turns homicide into a system, who has squashed any tremor of feeling in himself.
“Yet the reason he has to work so hard to do this is that, beneath it all, he does have feelings. That’s what lends his actions their moody existential thrust. At least that’s the idea.
“But watching the heroes of thrillers act with brutal efficiency (and a total lack of empathy for their victims) is not exactly novel. It’s there in every Jason Statham movie, in the Bond films, you name it.
“The Killer is trying to be something different, something more ‘real,’ as if Fassbender were playing not just another genre character but an actual hitman. That’s why he has to use a pulse monitor to make sure his heartbeat is down to 72 before he pulls the trigger. It’s why he’s hooked on the Smiths, with their languid romantic anti-romanticism. As catchy a motif as that is, you may start to think: If he’s such a real person, doesn’t he ever listen to music that’s not the Smiths?
“In The Killer, [director] David Fincher is hooked on his own obsession with technique, his mystique of filmmaking-as-virtuoso-procedure. It’s not that he’s anything less than great at it, but he may think there’s more shading, more revelation in how he has staged The Killer than there actually is.” — from Owen Gleiberman’s 9.3 review.