Why David Fincher’s ‘The Killer’ Is the #1 Movie on Netflix

“Stick to the plan. Trust no one. Stick to the plan. Forbid empathy.”

Michael Fassbender *is* The Killer (2023), now streaming on Netflix.

David Fincher is a three-time Oscar-nominated director who brought us some of the best thriller films ever made, including Gone Girl (2014), Zodiac (2007), Seven (1995), and Fight Club (1999). So, it’s no surprise his newest movie, The Killer, is one of Netflix’s top-watched films since its debut. Garnering nearly 28 million views in the first week of its release, this crime thriller quickly rose to first place on Netflix’s Global Top 10 watch list.

Michael Fassbender stars as a hitman who misses the mark.

The Killer follows an unknown assassin called “The Killer” (Michael Fassbender), who abides by a set of rules he must follow to succeed in his missions, which becomes a mantra for him. “Stick to the plan. Trust no one. Stick to the plan. Forbid empathy.” A good chunk of the dialogue is a narration by the killer, giving us a glimpse into his mindset when targeting his victims. While he claims he’s “no genius,” it’s clear he’s mastered the art of his “freelance” position. Proficient and organized, he knows how to murder people without raising suspicion or drawing attention to himself.

It’s safe to say this film is unlike others with similar characters and plots. Creating a realistic portrayal of something implausible is no easy task, though Fincher pulls it off effortlessly. The killer even describes the boredom and monotony that come with the repetitive nature of his job. Because of these details, some viewers gave low ratings, saying it was “boring.” While it may not be as exciting as a blood-thirsty slayer with an eccentric personality, these elements are crucial to giving depth to the persona. Whether you love or hate it, it’s hard not to appreciate the unique spin on his personality and the attention to detail in creating the character. Overall, the film received a positive reception, scoring 86% on Rotten Tomatoes and 6.9/10 on IMDb.

While waiting to perform his hit, the killer does yoga, meditates and waxes poetic about the nature of life.

As someone who lives and breathes taking the lives of others, the killer’s activities may be surprising. Rather than viewing a montage of a grueling workout routine and listening to hard rock or metal music, we see nearly the opposite as he narrates. Although he is cold and callous, he listens to The Smiths, practices yoga, and enjoys a meal while waiting for his target. Don’t get the wrong idea, however. This isn’t just a series of kills and watching him perform his meditative practice. Without giving too much away, something goes awry during the first murderous task we observe him complete. Let’s just say things don’t get easier for the hitman, leading this story from being a “day at the (assassin) office” movie to a film about vengeance. According to Rolling Stone, Fincher stated, “I don’t really think of the movie as an assassin movie,” he says, “I think of it more as a revenge movie.” The precise murderer must be careful, as one slip-up could be fatal as he pursues his worldwide manhunt. The Killer takes you on a high-stakes adventure; you won’t know where it’ll lead until you reach the unexpected finale. 

The story behind ‘The Killer’

The inspiration for The Killer comes from a series of graphic novels by Alexis Nolent, or Matz, and illustrator Luc Jacomon. As depicted in the film, her books follow an unknown assassin who fails one of his jobs, leading to a deadly feud against his employers. The whole story comes to light throughout 13 volumes. Fincher does an excellent job of taking her series and bringing it to life on film.

The hitman finds plenty of evidence to justify his cynicism.

Fincher knew he needed the perfect catch to turn this comic into an edge-of-your-seat film. Initially, the team considered bringing back a famous cast member who starred in his serial killer flick Seven and the cult classic Fight Club. Unfortunately, Brad Pitt responded, ‘Eh, a little too nihilistic for me.’ As he and his partner hashed it out, they landed on award-winner Michael Fassbender. Within a few hours of receiving the script, he told them he was in. Fortunately, the talented actor made the perfect fit to embody such a brutal role.

Why does the hitman in ‘The Killer’ love The Smiths so much?

The titular killer loves music, especially The Smiths.

But why did the decision to have this cold-blooded killer continually listen to the 1980s indie rock band? Out of 19 songs played in the film, 11 of them are by The Smiths. Believe it or not, this was a necessary element of the main character. Because he has few lines, the creators wanted a way to tell the audience more about him without using words. “We needed something that fit the nature of our lead character, and The Smiths were the requisite mix of sardonic, harmonic, and nihilist,” he told The Los Angeles Times. “What songwriters have as much fun with sinister concepts as Johnny Marr and Morrissey? We just kept coming back to The Smiths.”

Where to watch ‘The Killer’

Although the film is no longer playing in select theaters, you can watch it on Netflix now.

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Meet The Author

Brandy Eaklor is a writer, artist, and content creator who specializes in entertainment and horror subjects. Her favorite horror movies are Hereditary and The Strangers.