THE KILLER. “Hand in Glove” [REVIEW]

A specific experiment, but how successful it is.

Jan Tracz

28 October 2023

The latest film by David Fincher is a slow but extraordinary experience. It’s not suitable for viewing on a laptop (premiering on Netflix on November 10th), but watching it in a cinema enhances the impact of “The Killer.” We review the latest work of the suspense master, which we had the opportunity to see at the Venice Film Festival.

The title of this review, like every element of Fincher’s new drama, is well thought out. Right from the start of the film, we learn that our titular killer (the remarkable Michael Fassbender) prepares for his assignments by listening to the entire discography of The Smiths, the iconic British band. It makes quite a bit of sense: The Smiths is a British band that combines dynamic and sometimes jumpy guitar compositions with graveyard, almost overwhelming lyrics. The work of a paid killer is like one of their songs: it sounds and looks quite aesthetic, even harmonious. The problem is that it all boils down to killing another human being…

Calling this text a tagline in the style of “This Charming Man” (referring to one of the band’s most popular songs) would be a considerable exaggeration, even overinterpretation. However, “Hand in Glove” has much greater meaning here. It not only corresponds to the content of the film—Fassbender and his stylish gloves rule!—but also refers to one of the songs of the mentioned band. Because, fundamentally, “The Killer” is about the fact that we all wear masks, just as Fassbender’s character wears gloves. In everyday life, he is a loving guy who would do anything for his partner (literally and metaphorically—this will be proven by the film itself!). One would hardly suspect that his stylish clothes and beautiful villa were not bought with money from some huge corporation. Nothing of the sort! Fassbender’s killer earns money in a very inelegant way, although his attire in the screenshot below doesn’t suggest that at all.

So, the first mission is accomplished: we have a somewhat elaborate introduction, so it’s time for more details. At first glance, nothing stands out here: our (anti)hero makes a costly mistake in his long career. Such a cardinal mistake has never happened to him, affecting his entire life. When the titular killer is deemed a threat to his superiors, who are afraid he might reveal details about the failed mission to someone, they decide to silence him. However, when they don’t find him at his home, his partner becomes the (almost deadly) victim. “The Killer” can’t believe that his former associates struck below the belt.

We become sudden witnesses to the subdued and philosophical vendetta of our killer. Along the way, Fassbender reflects on the meaning of existence, and his musings are listened to like a podcast composed of less invasive advice from Jordan Peterson. Though sometimes kitschy, they have their unique charm. We start to trust our killer because, paradoxically, he confides in us as if in a sermon. We empathize with him, even though he has no respect for human life.

It’s most pleasing how Fincher guided Fassbender and finally (after so many years of acting in weak productions) let him shine again. Fassbender focuses on the art of nuance: he lightly modulates his voice, operates with his entire body, and, with his stone face, hunts down the next targets, which begin to threaten both him and his home. There are masterfully directed scenes here where Fassbender penetrates his future victims with his gaze, letting them know that their days are numbered. Both gentlemen play with silence, and it works phenomenally. These are moments when a home couch would induce a sense of calm, while sitting in the cinema stimulates, engaging viewers in an unexpected trance. Few filmmakers can achieve such an effect in such a dragging film.

It’s a kind of combination of Fincher’s style with typical slow cinema and intense thriller. A explosive mixture because these two elements don’t seem to fit together on paper. The strength of this film is based on the fact that seemingly nothing happens, yet everything happens here. After all, there are practically as few action scenes as there are tears from a cat, and yet we are glued to the screen until the very end.

A specific experiment, but how successful it is. Fincher delves into his favorite genre as he has never done before. For that, he deserves respect—just a few years ago, we would have said that in thrillers, the director had already done everything that could really be done.

Jan Tracz

Jan Tracz

A journalist with four years of experience in the cultural industry (film, music, literature, politics). Writer for respected Polish and English sites and magazines, interviewed most famous stars, writers, actors, talents, directors and musicians (incl. Alejandro González Iñárritu, Lasse Hallström, Matthew Lewis, David Thomson, Richard Dyer, Rachel Shenton, Tom Wlaschiha, Lena Olin, Jenna Elfman, Lennie James, Yannick Bisson, Ximena Lamadrid, Malcolm Storry, Alexandra Savior). Current Film Studies MA student at King's College London.

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