On November 10th, a new film from the master of making boring things interesting, David Fincher, the creator of “Fight Club,” “The Game,” “Seven,” “The Social Network,” “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo,” “Gone Girl,” and many other successful and well-known films, was released. I watched it on the same day, November 10th (yo-ho-ho, it lies where it lies), and to my surprise, I found the film… boring.
That is, Fincher managed to make an exciting film about Zuckerberg sitting at a computer and talking to people in suits about money, but he couldn’t make a film about a hitman interesting? This seems doubtful, but nevertheless, it is a fact – “The Killer” is not captivating, not dynamic, and tedious. And these are its main virtues.
Half of the blame (or success) for this situation lies with the main character – a typical hitman from the chamber of weights and measures. He is silent, methodical, and his face expresses no emotion during the entire two hours, except for two small exceptions. The only thing that reminds us that he is actually a living person and nothing human is alien to him is his pulse. A smartwatch on his wrist lets the hero and the audience know that this man’s heart sometimes beats too fast – he needs this to check himself at such moments and return to calmness.
However, while our anti-hero communicates with the people around him mostly through nods or the absence of nods, he is quite generous in his conversations with the audience. Through these conversations, we learn his way of thinking, which is depressingly boring. Half the time, it’s a repetition of a set of rules for a killer, over and over again (did I mention that the film is somewhat dull?), and the other half is cynical philosophy and information about the everyday life of killers, difficult and arduous. And they are arduous because… drum roll… they are terribly boring. Spending a week staring at the wall of a house across the street, without proper sleep or food, is an acquired taste.
Most of the main character’s work is waiting, boring and exhausting, without the possibility to distract oneself or even sleep properly. There is no interesting leisure, hobbies, no conversations with a cheerful partner, and indeed any partners at all, except for the occasional voice on the phone. There’s no proper place for rare sleep either – it’s always cheap and noisy motels next to the railroad, abandoned buildings, nondescript rental cars, or worse. The food is on the same level – McDonald’s, supermarket semi-finished products, all sorts of cheap junk. And this is despite the fact that the main character is quite wealthy.
Well, okay, the main character is not interesting, he is as simple as a shovel and tries to become even simpler, literally striving to be a sort of humanoid robot, acting emotionlessly according to a plan. What about the plot? Maybe Mr. Fincher hid something interesting there?
Not at all. The plot is even simpler than the main character, which seems hard to believe. But the plot of “The Killer” is just a journey from one person to another, followed by their elimination. And it’s not some glamorous elimination with clever traps, identifying the victim’s weaknesses and exploiting them, or staging accidents – no, instead, we have a series of shots from a silenced pistol. Okay, there’s also one fight, also amazingly unglamorous and uncinematic.
And speaking of “glamour.” Our killer strives to become a perfect machine for cutting off other people’s lives, tries to be all cold and calculating, but he himself says that there are thousands of ways to screw up, and if you can foresee even 10 of them, you’re a damn genius. He doesn’t consider himself a genius, and periodically messes up here and there, sometimes takes unjustified risks, and, of course, occasionally breaks his own rules. But not too much.
So, how do “typical” movies about hired killers usually go? The main character repents and decides to fight, growing immensely as a person by the final credits because killing is bad, obviously. Or, as another option, it’s a movie about revenge, and it seems to be the same case here, only it’s not him, which becomes clear at the end and is also emphasized just in case. Essentially, the main character just wants to regain his sense of security – that’s his simple and unpretentious goal. And there’s no moral growth or any changes whatsoever.
There’s no development, neither in the hero nor in the plot – everything roughly remains the same as it was at the beginning. Ironically, the hero himself notes this at the beginning of the film in his cynical manner, saying that in a world where four new people are born every second, his job statistically doesn’t affect anything. Overall, that’s exactly how it turns out. And although things don’t always go perfectly for the hero, he doesn’t face any major problems during the movie, and we watch two hours of his successful endeavors.
Interestingly, despite the main character’s mistakes, Fincher maintains a balance, and his killer still looks professional and terrifying. This was indeed a challenging artistic task – combining essentially incompatible elements, and it was executed perfectly.
What do we have in the end? We end up with a boring, non-charismatic character who spends two hours of screen time traveling around the world, often to various insignificant places (although even Paris looks like just another insignificant place) and kills different people in the most boring ways. Good, bad, morally grey – everyone gets the same outcome, more or less. As the killer himself notes, unfortunately, there is no justice in the world. The world around looks shabby, the main character’s life looks even worse, but there’s absolutely no desire to feel sorry for him – he is his own worst enemy, no one forced him to do all this.
In short: the banality of evil. Banality and endless, dismal grayness, multiplied by a terrible way of life. Don’t become hired killers, kids – it’s the worst job in the world. And in the end, one of your colleagues might even come after you, at least in the movie they showed three killers, and all three got such a plot twist long before retiring. The main character himself narrowly escaped death purely by chance, because he exchanged his ticket for a later one, and returned home a day late.
From an artistic standpoint – the film is good, as it brilliantly accomplishes its task of showing the real side of a killer’s work. But as entertainment, as something that captivates you for two hours and doesn’t let you get bored at all – here, of course, zero. This is one of those films that you need to approach with the right expectations, and primarily not expect to be entertained. You won’t be. But that’s the way it should be, that’s how it was intended.