David Fincher’s films appeal to a very specific type of man.
You might know this type of man because he is all over the internet. He had Fight Club poster in his college dorm room. He has been seen Se7en too many times. He has some thoughts on the Zodiac Killer and Facebook that are at least partially informed by Fincher’s films on those subjects. He owns a lot of 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 films appeal to this type of man because they often are regarding this type of person. His filmography is defined by portraits of a particular type of male rage and boredom, of men who feel lost, cut off from social conventions, surrounded by the disposable remnants of consumer capitalism, stuck in their heads with their unstoppable thoughts. Fincher’s films take a keen interest in this type of man, capturing his Wikipedia-level nihilism with a dark slickness; they are glamorously moody and precise in a way that not only appeals to the taste and sensibility of this type of man, but has helped define it.
But Fincher doesn’t celebrate that type of person, not really. He mocks him. Despite Fincher’s reputation as a dark man, his films are often quite darkly funny, and his lonely, agitated losers are often the subject of jokes. Fight Club isn’t exactly a comedy, but it’s a caustic satire of its narrator character, a corporate drone who—spoiler alert—imagines Brad Pitt’s sexy alter ego, leading a cult built around bored losers who blow off steam by beating the crap out of each other. He is practically the definition of this particular type of person. And this type of person loves David Fincher’s movies because he sees himself in them.
Fincher’s latest film, The killer, is also for that type of person. In this case, The Man is another unnamed character – referred to in the credits only as The Assassin – who works as a high-end hitman. The film opens with an extended sequence in Paris where the Assassin is waiting for a target. Do yoga. He eats McDonald’s. He observes a luxury hotel building from a window opposite. 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, about the divide between the haves and the have-nots, about boredom itself. He sees himself as precise, methodical, steadfast, unsentimental—as someone who has transcended conventional views of 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, emotionless voiceover, and for most of the film, that’s all we hear. In the first 25 minutes of the film, there is almost no real dialogue, just a portrait of the Killer waiting, watching, thinking. We are trapped in his head with him.
And what we can see is what the Slayer himself can’t – which is that he’s actually quite absurd. He wears silly hats and dresses, he explains, like a German tourist, so Parisians avoid him. He’s eating crappy fast food, and the window he’s waiting at is in an abandoned WeWork. His half-baked Nietzschean worldview doesn’t make him cool; that makes it funny. And when the moment finally comes to do the killing, he misses. He’s not even good at his job.
The type of person who likes David Fincher movies tends to enjoy movies about cool, nerdy hitmen, which is pretty much what this movie is, except that in Fincher’s hilariously twisted vision, it is a film about how this type of film – and the particular type of Guy it elevates – is actually pretty stupid. It’s a sleek, edgy, subtly funny glimmer of a dark, sociopathic killer. I’m a David Fincher kind of guy myself, so obviously I enjoyed it.