The Killer (2023) | Transcript

A killer-for-hire (Fassbender) lives his life in the shadows. When a job goes wrong, he is forced to take revenge on his employers, one by one.
Michael Fassbender in The Killer (2023)

David Fincher, the acclaimed director of many cinematic greats, has once again graced the silver screen with his latest feature film, The Killer. This 2023 American action thriller is based on the French graphic novel series of the same name, written by Alexis “Matz” Nolent and illustrated by Luc Jacamon.

The Killer follows the life of an unnamed, skillful professional assassin, credited as “The Killer”. The plot revolves around a hit that goes wrong, leading to an international manhunt. The assassin, who is methodical and unencumbered by scruples or regrets, waits in the shadows for his next target. However, as he waits, he begins to question his sanity and his profession.

The film stars Michael Fassbender in the title role, alongside a stellar supporting cast that includes Arliss Howard, Charles Parnell, Kerry O’Malley, Sala Baker, Sophie Charlotte, and Tilda Swinton. The screenplay was penned by Andrew Kevin Walker.

Fincher’s partnership with Netflix, which began with his acclaimed biopic Mank, continues with The Killer. The film premiered at the 80th Venice International Film Festival on September 3, 2023, and began streaming on Netflix on November 10, 2023.

* * *

[dark electronic beats pulsate]

[pigeons coo]

[birds sing outside]

[space heater hums]

It’s amazing how physically exhausting it can be to do nothing. If you are unable to endure boredom, this work is not for you.

[space heater continues humming]

[breathes steadily]

[passersby chat in distance]

[wristwatch rings and vibrates]

Paris awakens, unlike any other city. Slowly.

[dog barks below]

Without the diesel grind of Berlin or Damascus. Or the incessant hum of Tokyo.

[siren wails in distance]

[vehicle reversing alert beeps]


[exhales slowly]

Popeye the Sailor probably said it best. “I am what I am.”

[neck cracks, exhales]

I’m not exceptional. I’m just… apart. Consider yourself lucky if our paths never cross. Except… luck isn’t real. Nor is karma, or sadly, justice. As much as I’d like to pretend these concepts exist…

[street sounds become muffled]

…they just don’t. One is born, lives their life. And eventually, one dies.

[“Well I Wonder” by The Smiths plays]

In the meantime, “Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the law.” To quote… [inhales softly] …someone. Can’t remember who.

[indistinct conversations below]

♪ Well, I wonder… ♪

A hundred and forty million human beings are born every year. Give or take.

♪ I hoarsely cry… ♪

[baby cries]

The worldwide population is approximately 7.8 billion.

♪ I wonder, do you… ♪

Every second, 1.8 people die.


♪ I half die… ♪

While 4.2 are born into that very same second.

♪ Please keep me in mind… ♪

[sighs deeply] Nothing I’ve ever done will make any dent in these metrics.

[screw clatters]

[“I Know It’s Over” by The Smiths plays on headphones]

[inhales deeply]

[vertebrae crack]

[breathes steadily]

Skepticism is often mistaken for cynicism. Most people refuse to believe that the great beyond is no more than a cold, infinite void. But I accept it, along with the freedom that comes from acknowledging that truth. I’ve come to realize that the moment when it’s time to act is not when risk is greatest. The real problems arise in the days, hours, and minutes leading up to the task and the minutes, hours, and days after. It all comes down to preparation, attention to detail, redundancies, redundancies, and redundancies.

[wristwatch beeps and vibrates]


[horn blares below]

Leave nothing for the elves with their tweezers, forensic baggies, DNA kits.

[door entry beeps]

And avoid being seen. Which is impossible in the 21st century. So, at least avoid being memorable. Keep calm. Keep moving.

[siren wails outside]

[church bells toll in the distance]

My camo is based on a German tourist I saw in London a while back.

[display chimes]

No one really wants to interact with a German tourist. Parisians avoid them like the rest of the world avoids street mimes. There are 1,500 McDonald’s in France. A good enough place to grab ten grams of protein for a euro, alongside the other 46 million they serve each week.

[Hodges] I wish I could tell you when he’s going to show, but according to every bit of information I’ve been able to get, he’s expected. Best I can do. Hello? Still there?

It’s been five days. I’ll give it today and tomorrow.

[Hodges] Fair enough. I needn’t remind you, if we don’t meet our commitment…

[mild disbelief] We?

Yes, frankly. We don’t invoice, we eat the expenses to date. Just call if the next 24 hours pass… uneventfully. We’ll go from there. Hell…

[call disconnects]

“It’s a dog-eat-dog world.” To reuse the apt cliché. “Every man for himself.” “Kill or be killed.” “Survival of the fittest.”

[doorman greets in French]

Isn’t it all just human nature?

[boy exclaims]

[water splashes]

[toy gun clicking]

Of those who like to put their faith in mankind’s inherent goodness, I have to ask, based on what, exactly?

I used to book a lot through Airbnb. Not anymore. Those Superhosts love their nanny cams.

[door entry beeps] [lock whirs]

Take comfort in the fact that 70 to 80% of wrongful convictions are the direct result of eyewitness testimony. Still, it only takes a few episodes of Dateline to know that there are countless ways to trip oneself up. If you can think of a dozen, you’re a genius.

[equipment clangs]

I’m no genius.

[church bells ring]

From the beginning of history, the few have always exploited the many. This is the cornerstone of civilization. The blood in the mortar that binds all bricks. … Whatever it takes, make sure you’re one of the few, not one of the many.

[pigeons coo] [inhales]

On Annie Oakley jobs, distance is the only advantage.

[man speaks in French]

Everything else, the popping sound like fireworks, the breaking of glass, the screams… all disadvantage.

[girl cries] [woman scolds her]

[church bells toll the hour]

When it comes to bystanders getting involved, everything becomes a blur. Combat veterans call this “tunnel vision.” I call it “occupational good fortu”…

[door entry beeps]

[lock whirs]

[sounds distort]

[man speaks French]

[laughs raucously]

[keys jangle]

[low electronic pulsing]

[breathes steadily]

[man continues speaking French]

[second man replies in French via speakerphone]

[lock clicks]

[man continues speaking French]

[door entry beeps]

[lock whirs]

[pulsing subsides]

[quietly] Fuck.

[horn beeps]

[siren bleats]

It’s the idle hours that most often lead a man to ruin.

[greeting in French]

That’s not Dylan Thomas, but it oughta be.

[pigeons cooing]

Somehow, jobs that are designed to rattle a cage are always the most tedious.

[church bells toll the hour]

I’ve actually grown to appreciate “proximity work.” Staged accidents, gradual poisonings. Anything with a little creativity. When was my last nice, quiet drowning? Gary Ridgway, the Green River Killer, murdered at least 49 women over two decades. He couldn’t spell “cat” if you spotted him the A and the T. But he was conscientious. I’ve done my 10,000 hours. Beyond which, I’m aided and abetted by law enforcement fatigue. Sheer caseload.

[exhales deeply]

[wristwatch beeps]

Ted Williams batted .344 lifetime. I’d be batting a thousand, except I won’t take credit for watching some mob bookkeeper drop dead of a coronary. The only time nicotine, red meat, and marital stress did the hard part for me.

[wristwatch beeps and vibrates]


Of the many lies told by the US military-industrial complex, my favorite is still their claim that sleep deprivation didn’t qualify as torture.


[traffic rumbles outside]

[sirens wail and fade]

[wristwatch beeps]

Vigilance is essential. Even the most disciplined mind can become weary, impatient, hurried… Sloppy.

[space heater buzzes]

[wristwatch beeps]

[joints crack]

[slow melody plays]

I find music a useful distraction. A focus tool.

[background sounds fade]

Keeps the inner voice from wandering.

[“How Soon Is Now?” by The Smiths plays]

[muffled song continues on headphones]

My process is purely logistical, narrowly focused by design. I’m not here to take sides. It’s not my place to formulate any opinion.

♪ Of a shyness That is criminally vulgar… ♪

No one who can afford me needs to waste time winning me to some cause. I serve no God or country. I fly no flag.

♪ I go about things the wrong way? ♪

If I’m effective, it’s because of one simple fact. I… don’t… give… a… fuck.

♪ I am the son ♪

♪ And the heir ♪

[wristwatch vibrates]

♪ Of a shyness that is criminally… ♪

At this range, a subsonic round’s drop is not an issue. I just need a pulse rate under 60 and a measured squeeze so vintage glass can’t alter trajectory.

♪ I go about things the wrong way? ♪

♪ I am human, and I need to be loved ♪

♪ Just like everybody else does ♪

[exhales sharply]

Stick to your plan. Anticipate, don’t improvise. Trust no one. Never yield an advantage. Fight only the battle you’re paid to fight. Forbid empathy. Empathy is weakness. Weakness is vulnerability. Each and every step of the way, ask yourself, “What’s in it for me?”

♪ There’s a club if… ♪

This is what it takes.

♪ You could meet somebody Who really loves you ♪

What you must commit yourself to.

♪ And you stand on your own And you leave… ♪

If you want to succeed.

♪ And you cry, and you want to die ♪



[dogs howl and bark]

[music stops]

[clamoring below]

[pulsating music gently crescendoes]

[pants heavily]

[door entry beeps]

[panting continues]

[display chimes]

[lock buzzes]


[sirens approach]

[lock chimes]

[sirens intensify]

[officers shout]

[police radio chatter]

[sirens continue to blare]

[more sirens approach]


[panting hastens]

[tires squeal]

[brakes screech]

[indistinct radio chatter]

[distant sirens blare]

Well, this… this is new. W-W-J-W-B-D. What would John Wilkes Booth do?

Nitro. Atomized nitro. Might as well scrub my eyes and shave my tongue.

[car approaches]

[announcement in French over PA]

[gun clatters]

[announcement in French over PA]

[kiosk beeps]

[announcement in French over PA]

[pants loudly]

You’ve done what you can do. Calm. Breathe. [brightly] Hey.

[agent] Well, don’t you have quite a bit of miles, Mr. Unger. Impressive. Please enjoy.

[Hodges] How could this happen? It’s unprecedented.

It happened.

Is that what you suggest I inform the client, “It happened”? This is a problem. Obviously it’s a fuckin’ problem to say the least. The window of opportunity is closed now for who knows how long. [sighs] Jesus fucking Christ. I’ll offer to make it right as soon as humanly possible. I’ll tell him we’ll do whatever’s necessary. You let me know the moment you…

[plane engines power up]

[PA dings]

[flight attendant speaking French over PA]

[aircraft engines roar]

[indistinct chatter]

[boarding call announcement over PA]

[scanner beeps]

[agent] Passport.

[agent clears throat] Hat.

[melodic chimes play over PA]

[announcer] Attention, passengers. Flight 1258 departing for Santo Domingo will be boarding here shortly. We are offering complimentary travel vouchers today to those few passengers who might be willing to take a later scheduled flight. So, please speak to any gate agent if you’re interested.

[agent] Thank you so much for agreeing to give up your seat today, Mr. Bunker. This entitles you to a room voucher this evening and free drink tokens on your flight tomorrow. You’ll fly first thing in the morning, and it is direct to Santo Domingo.

Just right over there.

Would you like me to put it…

No, thank you.

Thank you, sir.

[plane engines roar in distance]

[PA dings]

[flight attendant speaks over PA]

[sounds fade] [“Hand in Glove” plays on headphones]

♪ I’ll probably never see you again ♪

♪ I’ll probably never see you again ♪

[song fades]

[announcement in Spanish over PA]

[halting piano melody plays]

[car alarm chirps]

[horns blare]

[motorcycle engines rev]

[tropical birds sing]

[music darkens]

[music plays faintly in distance]

[waves crash]

[“Glory Box” by Portishead blasting on stereo]


♪ Give me a reason ♪

♪ To love you ♪

♪ Give me a reason to be ♪

♪ A woman ♪

♪ I just want to be a woman ♪

♪ It’s all I wanna be ♪

♪ Is all a wo… ♪

[music stops]

[water runs continuously]


[dial tone buzzes]

[line rings]

[vultures screech]

[ambulance siren wails]

ICU four, four! [receptionist] Four.

[child cries]

[power generator surges on]

[monitor beeping]

[exhales sharply]

Oh no.

Shh. Please don’t let her hear your voice. She needs sleep. They’re monitoring for internal bleeding. She just had a second transfusion, and she’s on heavy pain meds.

There were two of them. She can describe them. It’s not like they were disguising themselves. One was a woman. This wasn’t a robbery. She told me that… She… [agitated] She might…

Take your time.

“There are worse things than what they did to me.” She kept telling me. Can you imagine? Worse things? [shakily] She told me that during the… assault, she stabbed a man, ran through a fucking plate glass window, hid in the jungle…

Marcus, breathe.

They left in a green car with a light on top. Like a fucking taxi. Can you believe it? Look, she knows there are things she can and cannot say if anyone comes asking. All this time you’ve been very kind to my sister. She loves you. I’ve learned not to pry. But this… Marcus. They came for you, and they weren’t about to leave a witness.

Marcus, listen very carefully. I promise, I swear to you, nothing like this will ever be allowed to happen again.

[thunder rumbles]

[baby wails in distance]

[respirator hisses] [monitor beeps steadily]

[doctor clears throat]

She’s well enough to travel, and later today, she’ll be transported to the private hospital in Punta Cana as arranged.

[alert beeps]

[generator whirs]

[Magdala cries out, coughs]

[softly] No. You mustn’t try…

Are you all right? Let me see you. [exhales deeply] I was so afraid. Afraid I might say something. But I didn’t. No matter what they said, no matter what he did, I didn’t tell them anything. Not about you. [determined] Nothing. You’d have been proud. I was strong. [coughs]

I know you were.

How… How bad is it? I’ll see soon enough, huh? I told myself, “If I don’t make it, if I don’t survive, I’ll never see him again.” I couldn’t bear that. So, I made up my mind. [laughs] [coughs]

[softly] Get some rest now.


[dark electronic beats pulsate]

[lock beeps]

[glass shards scrape]

[announcer speaking Spanish over PA]

[horns blare]

[taxi drivers chatting in Spanish]

[motorcycle engines rev]

[man shouts in distance]

[electronic music builds]

[plane roars overhead]

[music fades]

[dog barks in distance]

[man shouts in Spanish]

[bachata plays on stereo]

[heavy locks clunk]

[reggaeton plays on stereo]

[clerk groans]


[woman speaks Spanish]

Would you rather send this overnight? So, for that rate, this would be delivered two days from now, end of business, Mr… Madison.

[children shout in distance]

[dog barks]

[music plays on boombox]

I blame you, Leo, for having to bring work home.

[engine starts]

Stick to the plan. Anticipate, don’t improvise.

[church bells ring]

Trust no one. Never yield an advantage. Fight only the battle you’re paid to fight.

[drivers chat in Spanish]

Disculpa. I’m late.

Forbid empathy. Empathy is weakness. Weakness is vulnerability. Each and every step of the way, ask yourself, “What’s in it for me?” This is what it takes.

[gun clicks]

What you must commit yourself to… if you want to succeed. Simple.

[sharp inhale]

[long exhale] Oh shit, man. I just started. Alguna moneda es lo único que tengo. I’ll show you, okay? Take it, man. There’s a rubber in there too… what’s mine is yours. Take the wallet if you want. What else? Hmm? Want my radio?

Tell me about your big fare, Leo, three days ago.

[Leo] What? [scoffs] Three days? Hey. Wait, wait. Don’t! Okay, I… I’ll tell you. Um… Uh… [shallow breathing] The freak and the lady, right? From the… From the private airport, that’s who? [sighs] I picked them up around noon. I remember, it was right before lunch. I’d been waiting around. There was nothing. Slow day, slow week. I was about to split when one of those little jets came in, so I stayed. And they come, two crazy-looking güeros. And the lady? Like a Q-tip. And the dude with her? Should’ve kept him on a leash. He was a scary motherfucker.

Walk me through your time with them to the very best of your recollection.

No problem. I drove them. That’s all. “Round trip” was what they said, then they told me north on Highway 1, then deep into the damn jungle, like forever. [sighs] They showed me on Google. I drove them. They wouldn’t take no for an answer. We go to a private property, and I was supposed to wait. They were gone… an hour, maybe.

Take this next exit.

[tropical birds sing]

All I know is that I was starving and I didn’t care how much the meter was ticking. I was going to leave them. I’m not allowed to, but I almost did.

Pull up in here.

[continuous loud traffic rumbles overhead]

They came back after sunset. The guy’s leg was all bloody and fucked up. They wanted me to take ’em back to the airport, so I did. That was the end of it.

[engine turns off]

[sighs deeply]

May I? Want one? [huffs] Ask me anything. Anything. I don’t know who they are. Don’t wanna know who you are either. Con todo respeto. So, how about I get out and I leave the keys? I’ll walk back…

[music continues to play on boombox]

[traffic drowns out music]

[announcement in Spanish over PA]

[agent] And… you’re all set, Mr. Cunningham. Have a pleasant trip.

[“Bigmouth Strikes Again” by The Smiths plays faintly on headphones]

♪ Oh, sweetness ♪

♪ Sweetness, I was only joking When I said ♪

♪ By rights, you should be bludgeoned In your bed ♪

[horns honk]

[sighs] New Orleans. Lovely, humid New Orleans. A thousand restaurants, one menu. Where good old Professor Hodges convinced me to quit studying law and try skirting it.

[“Heaven Knows I’m Miserable Now” plays on stereo]

♪ I was happy In the haze of a drunken hour ♪

♪ But heaven knows I’m miserable now ♪

♪ Oh, you’ve been In the house too long, she said ♪

♪ And I naturally fled ♪

♪ In my life… ♪

[vehicle reversing alert beeps]

♪ Time ♪

♪ To people who don’t care if I ♪

♪ Live or die? ♪

[lock beeps]

[vehicle reversing alert beeps]

There are more than 50,000 storage facilities in the US. I have units in six. I like to imagine, once the automatic payments have dried up, the episode of Storage Wars where they cut the lock on one of mine and get a look inside.

[“Girlfriend in a Coma” by The Smiths plays on stereo]

♪ I don’t want to see her ♪

♪ Do you really think She’ll pull through? ♪

♪ Do you really think She’ll pull through? ♪

♪ Do, ooh, ooh, ooh ♪

♪ Girlfriend in a coma I know, I know, it’s serious ♪

[horns blare]

[“Shoplifters of the World Unite” by The Smiths plays]

♪ My only weakness is a listed crime ♪

♪ But last night the plans For a future war ♪

♪ Was all I saw on Channel Four ♪

♪ Shoplifters of the world ♪

♪ Unite and take over ♪

♪ Shoplifters of the world Hand it over… ♪

Dolores. Miss me? CCTV and a 1980s deadlatch lock. Outmoded solutions to real security problems.

[keys rattle]

[door opens]

[call box beeps]

[line rings]

[lock buzzes open]

Yo! Thank you so much, man. You’re a lifesaver.

[medical gloves squeak and snap]

[elevator bell dings]

[electronic music pulses]

[pulsating intensifies]

[buzzer rings]

[lock buzzes open]

One, one thousand. Two, one thousand. Three, one thousand.

[Dolores speaks faintly]

Four, one thousand. Five, one thousand. Six, one thousand. Seven, one thousand.

[courier] Can’t wait for it.

[Dolores] No, I know.

[courier] Everything good?

[Dolores] Everything’s good. Just the one today?

[courier] Just the one.

[Dolores laughs] Oh my goodness.

[both continue speaking indistinctly]

Have a good one.

[Dolores] See ya.

[elevator bell dings]

Hello, Dolores.

Hello. How… Oh.

Oh my God! [quietly] Oh my God. Oh my God. Oh my God. Oh my God. Oh my God. Oh my God. Oh my God.

[calmly] Stop saying that.

[Dolores breathes shallowly]

[knock on door]

[Hodges] What is it, Dolores?

I’m sorry, sir.

I said I need email ti…

Good God. What could you possibly be thinking, coming here? This is very unlike you, my friend. Care to explain yourself? ‘Cause I can’t conceive of anything I have to offer that could remotely be worth the exposure you’re risking right now.

[Hodges] Go ahead. Whatever he says. Insanity. There’s no other word for this. Insanity. Surely you can’t be angry with me.

I’m so sorry. I… I… I opened the outer door.


The FedEx…

[tie zips]

I’m the one who’s sorry. I sincerely apologize.

[Dolores sniffles]

There’s clearly been some sort of misunderstanding. I’d like to ask you to take a breath. Think for a minute.

[groans, inhales sharply]

This’ll be resolved in a moment, darlin’. I promise you. Once he realizes the folly of his actions. You went home? How could you have, realizing my hands were… You had to have known that I’d have no say in the matter going forward. And still, you went home?

Who were they?

[Hodges] Who were they? First of all, who cares? I barely glanced at the invoice, which, if I may say, is very much beside the point. The consequences, when someone’s wide of the mark, are automatic. However regrettable, they’re an obligation to client and calling. I was forced to make amends to a very angry, very powerful man. Never in my wildest imagination did I think you’d actually go home. Not in a million years.

[electricity fizzes]

The fuck? That’s just juvenile. Though it’s not too late. Even now, this entire debacle can be salvaged. But only if you disappear, which is what I assumed you’ve already done. You’ve got more money than you could ever spend, thanks, in no small part, to me, so why aren’t you already on the other side of the globe, under any number of aliases, spending it? You don’t believe me, don’t feel you can trust me. Fine. I suppose I brought that on myself. But after all these years, having built this from the ground up, I thought we had a relationship.

It’s all here somewhere. I know you have backups, Eddie. On me, everyone, the whole shebang. ‘Cause you’d never put it on the Cloud any more than you’d trust it outside this office.

[Hodges] There’s nothing like that. Everything I dealt with was on those two laptops. And now, it’s not. Who do you think you’re trying to intimidate? You’re not gonna. There’s no upside. The only logical choice for you is to turn around right now, walk out that door, go embrace your next life. I wish you well.

[gasps] [Hodges moans]

[choking gasps]

You’ll drown slowly, then I’ll dispose of you.

[gasps continue]

So while a few fragments of your side-hustle may be left to puzzle over…

[Dolores cries softly]

…since you’ll have completely vanished, the trail ends where it began. Unless…

[Hodges wet-coughs]

[panicked gasps]



I need that information, Edward. And you are running outta time.

[weakly] Fuck… you…

Three nine-gauge nails. Early middle-aged nonsmoker. About 180 pounds. Should last six, seven minutes.

[quietly] Shit. Stick to the plan. Anticipate, don’t improvise. Fight only the battle you’re paid to fight. Trust no one.

[Dolores] I’d beg if I thought it would do any good. I have the names you’re looking for. I know who they were. But… before I give them to you, I want something in return… I know what you’re capable of, how you can… make things seem. I’ll give you those names, but promise me you won’t leave things looking the wrong way. Please. I can’t just disappear. My children need my life insur…

[shallow breathing]

Forbid empathy.

I guess I am begging.

Empathy is weakness. Weakness is vulnerability. Each and every step of the way, ask yourself, “What’s in it for me?” This is what it takes. What you must commit yourself to if you want to succeed. Simple.

[elevator whirs]

[elevator bell dings]

[elevator bell dings]

Need any help getting rid of that body?

[laughs nervously, snorts]


I’m not a bad person. [softly] I’m not.

[cicadas chirp]

[haunting melody plays]

[keys jangle]

[door closes]

[pants rapidly]


[zip-ties creak]

[whimpers, shouts]

[screams, gasps]

[garage door drones]

[Dolores] Start date of your employment in Pariswas November 28, so go to N. Under N, in numerical order, find 1128. One, one, two, eight. You’ll recognize the address. Because of… what happened, there’s an addendum on the back. Should be two wire transfer routing numbers for the subcontractors you’re interested in. They’re filed under an account number. What’s the number?

Two, three, one… T.

Numerically, again.


The client.

[cicadas chirp outside]

[footsteps descend stairs slowly]

[“Unhappy Birthday” by The Smiths plays]

♪ I’ve come to wish you… ♪

[muffled song continues on car stereo]

[vehicle reversing alert beeps]

Cleanup, without fail, is labor-intensive. To say the least.

♪ ‘Cause you’re evil ♪

♪ And you lie… ♪

If you don’t want a puzzle solved, remove a piece or two. Scatter the rest. What’s the expression? Measure twice, cut once.

♪ From the one you left behind ♪

♪ From the one you left behind ♪

[ferry horn blasts]

[bell dings] [thunder rumbles]

[“This Charming Man” plays on stereo] ♪ Will nature make a man of me yet? ♪

♪ When in this charming car ♪

♪ This charming man… ♪

[song continues, muffled]

[ferry horn blasts]

♪ I haven’t got a stitch to wear ♪

[metal gate clangs]

[motor whirs]

♪ Ah! ♪

♪ A jumped-up ♪

[turns car off]

[birds chirp]

Even I have to remind myself… the only life path… is the one behind you.

[lights buzz]

[railroad crossing bells clang]

[train whistle blares in distance]

[train rattles closer on tracks]

[low rumble]

[bed springs squeak]

[clerk] All right. And she’s all yours, Mr. Kincaid.

[automated voice] In 600 feet, your destination will be on the left.

[“Chopstick” by Orlando Angelo plays on sound system]

♪ Whatchu lookin’ at me… ♪

Ah. The Sunshine State.

♪ Trees, ay… ♪

[guys talking]

Where else can you find so many like-minded individuals…

[pit bull barks, growls]

[laughs] Yeah.

…outside a penitentiary. Hope they’re not planning a sleepover.

[man] Come on.

♪ Ay, mask on my face ♪

Come on, man.

♪ No face, no case… ♪

First things first…

[scanner beeps]

[cicadas chirp]

[frogs croak]

[tree frogs croak]

[horn honks tune of “La Cucaracha”]

[women chat]

[men speak in distance]

[“Pop Pop” by Avalanche the Architect blasting on stereo]

♪ The Glock, get shot ♪

♪ Pop, pop, pop, the Glock, get shot ♪

[engine starts]

♪ The Glock, get shot ♪

♪ Pop, pop, pop ♪

♪ The Glock, get shot ♪

[song fades]

[tires squeal]

[horn honks tune of “La Cucaracha”]

[bass thumps on pickup truck stereo]

Get that money!

We gonna make some money tonight, baby!

[group chatting]

Maybe a mandatory 30-day waiting period for creatine’s not a bad idea.

[group laughs]

[frogs croak]

So, here you are.


Vigilant. Narrowly focused. How’s “I don’t give a fuck” going?

[“Another Level” by Crewsont plays on stereo]

♪ And bands and bands every fucking day ♪

♪ Using “fuck” to accentuate The words I say… ♪

[pit bull barks]

[men speak indistinctly]

[driver] Bye, man.

Diva, down!

Diva! Come on.

[wristwatch beeps]

[Diva barks]

[snarls and growls]

This’ll have to be a best guess, based on the average pit bull weighing 45 to 55 pounds. She actually looks bigger up close. Caution. Contains diphenhydramine. Do not take if you’re allergic to diphenhydramine. Contact your veterinarian if you experience vomiting, diarrhea, or excessive fur loss.

Diva! Diva! Diva! Diva!

[neck cracks]

[fog bell rings in distance]

[sounds distort]

[Diva snores]

[gulls call in distance]

[shower running]

[door creaks open and lock beeps]

[TV announcer drones]

[announcer on TV] The Old South is on the move, yet filled with warmth and grace. Meet the music of America. It’s the way to our Atlantic sun and beaches. And our Caribbean island destinations.

[TV presenter] Today we’re back in Arley Hall and Gardens in Cheshire. And if you are a garden lover, prepare to be very excited because this is one of the oldest country gardens…

[shower knob squeaks]

Stick to your plan.

[footsteps echo]

Anticipate, don’t improvise.

[dryer whirs]

[presenter] …is one of the oldest in the country.

Trust no one. Fight only the battle you’re paid to fight.


You picked the wrong house, motherfucker.

[sounds distort]

[both grunt]



[groans, exhales]

[cries out]

[shirt rips]


[gun fires]




[round chambered]

[man grunts]

[blood spatters]

[cheese grater clatters]

Is that the “Dominican Republican”? It is you, isn’t it?



You know, most peop…

[Diva growls]



[sniffs, whimpers]

[vicious barking]

[jaws snap]

[alarm sounds]

This is what it takes. What you must commit yourself to… if you want to succeed. Simple.

[static crackles]

[voice echoing over airport PA]

Welcome, Mr. Grant. We’ll let you know as soon as your flight begins boarding. Homeward bound, I hope.

Not just yet.

[voice on PA] Attention all passengers on Flight 182 with nonstop service to LaGuardia. We are now inviting those passengers with small children and anyone who requires special assistance to begin pre…


Stone’s throw from the city that never sleeps. Barely off the beaten path. What are you doing? Living amongst the “normies.”

On behalf of Enterprise, Mr. Malone, have a safe driving day.

[engine stops]

[parking brake strains]

For an active practitioner, bedroom community adjacent. Unusual choice.

[crow caws]

[heater whirs]

Leo told me she looked like a Q-tip.

[woman speaking indistinctly]

He wasn’t far off.


[radio announcer] The wind, from the west-northwest at 20 miles an hour. Light snow or snow flurries and continued cold through tomorrow. The high today, 28. The low tonight, 15. The high tomorrow, 25. West to northwest…

[police siren wails]

[indistinct chatter]

[water rushes below]

[bell chimes in distance]

All right. It’s common knowledge when a female is found slain, the prime suspect is always the husband or boyfriend. Especially if she hasn’t been sexually assaulted.


[phone rings]

Well, maybe not common knowledge.

I don’t know if I think it’s art, but…

[laughs] Okay.

Wait, wait, wait… [gasps]

[gun magazine clicks]

[exhales sharply]

[soothing jazz music fades in]

[waiter speaks indistinctly]

I’ve been so good for so long. I’m suddenly regretting not having Häagen-Dazs with every meal.

May I bring a menu?

No menu. Thank you, Carl.

You won’t mind if I have a drink. A flight of whiskeys, please. And my bottle, while you’re at it.

[Carl] My pleasure.

By a drink, I mean, of course, many. [sighs] Tell me Hodges is dead, at least. Give me that. Tell me he went horribly. [sighs] Help yourself. The chef sends out anything he imagines I might like. This is, uh, his signature dish. It’s delicious. You won’t find better, even in the city. You would be very impolite to refuse to join in my last supper. Afraid it’s tainted? I’m assuming you’ve also paid a visit to a certain overadrenalized Floridian. No loss there.

[Carl] Here we are.

Oh, that was quick.

May I describe the selection?

You know, by the time you’re finished, they’d all be gone.

[Carl] Cheers.

You won’t imbibe either? [quietly] Christ. [inhales deeply] For what it’s worth, I would never have involved your female friend. What happened to her, I had no part in. I objected to his methods, and I told him so. But you’ve seen for yourself how… receptive… [chuckles softly] You… you get a name, you get an address. It’s nothing personal. We’ve all had to work through the occasional civilian who’s stood between eyes and the prize. [swallows heavily, sighs] [coughs, sniffles] When I started, I was surprised at what I was capable of. How easy it was. Shockingly. Yet, I assured myself there were some things I would never do. Money was motivation. Which… once there was enough, could be used to buy another life. Another lie we told ourselves. When, for example, was the last time you bothered to ask yourself why someone in your sights was so thoroughly despised?

Less you know, the better.

“One man’s cruelty is another man’s pragmatism.” That old chestnut.

A hunter goes into the woods, and he sees this grizzly. Biggest he’s ever seen. He raises his rifle, and he fires. The bear falls, the hunter rushes forward, and to his surprise, there’s nothing there. There’s no bear, there’s no broken twigs, there’s no blood. And then suddenly, the grizzly throws this massive arm around his shoulders and explains, “You took your shot.” “You missed, so either I feast, or, and the choice is yours, I sodomize you.” Naturally, the hunter chooses life. The next day, the hunter returns to the woods with a much bigger gun, and he spots the bear again. And he aims. He fires. The bear falls. The hunter charges. No sign of the bear, until the bear is standing beside him, saying, “You know the deal.” Indignity ensues. The following day, the hunter treks back to the wood. This time with a bazooka. He sees the bear, lines him up in his crosshairs, fires. The recoil from the bazooka throws him backwards. And he looks up as the smoke’s clearing, and there’s the bear standing above him, arms crossed. And the bear squints. “You’re not really out here for the hunting, are you?”

[he sighs]

[swallows heavily, sighs]

This could’ve been a hit-and-run, carjacking, me falling on the ice. And yet, here you are.

[door squeaks open]

[indistinct chatter in kitchen]

If I screamed right now, I’d still end up dead. You would make it out. Most likely. But not clean, you wouldn’t. Why take this risk?

Desperate for conversation.

I’m flattered, but no. You’re here because you couldn’t help yourself. You expected to sit across from me and feel nothing but reassured. Like that recent day when you shouldered your weapon and somehow… missed.

[bottle opens]

How’s it possible? Having prepared myself for this moment for so long, I have failed to believe that it would ever arrive.

[Carl] How are we?

We’re done. You can take everything.

[Carl] Excellent.

They wouldn’t happen to have any ice cream back there, would they, Carl?

[Carl] Oh. Were you interested in a dessert menu?

No. No, it’s all right.

[water rushes]

Stick to the plan… Anticipate, don’t improvise. Trust no…

Are we there yet? A little further? Far be it from me, but maybe down by the river? Wow. Last minutes spent knowing they’re last minutes. I wouldn’t wish it on my worst enemy. Who, come to think of it, at this moment, is you. You’ll remember our conversation. You will. When your time does arrive. It won’t be your life flashing before your eyes, it’ll be mine. I suppose it’ll be the closest I can hope to come to haunting you.

[shoe heel breaks]

[cries out]


Help a girl out, won’t you?

Trust no one. This is what it takes…

[bells chime]

…if you want to succeed.

[PA dings]

Risky, this one. Considering how police tend to match their effort in direct proportion to the victim’s net worth. Fuck it.

[horn honks]

[wind whistles]

The thing about real wealth, the more you’ve got, the harder it is to fade into the wallpaper.

[garage door alert blares]

Of course, vanity plates don’t help.

[phone chimes]

[garage door whirs and blares alert]

[garage door alert blares]

[automated voice] You’ve arrived at your destination.

I don’t think this guy’s Mossad. I know he ain’t Mensa. Good luck with the Wordle.

[“Can’t Help Myself (feat. Clara Jo)” plays over speakers]

[song continues]

[reader buzzes]

[reader chimes]

[gymgoers speak indistinctly]

Leave no loose ends, nothing to dangle. Sayonara, North America.

[banker] If I might get your initials here and here. Dotting that I and crossing that T. Perfect. Your business with us is officially closed, with everything transferred to your Caribbean account. I do hope we can be of service again in the near future, Mr. Jefferson. May I mention, our wealth management advisors would be more than happy to discuss our select investment opportunities.

[dryly] Interesting.

Hey. Hey, guys. Not here. Guys, keep it moving. Thank you. Here you go. Browning. Smith & Wesson. Colt. You don’t see what you want, I can always get it. What’s your pleasure, my man? .380? Good enough for James Bond. How about this right here? Gut-rippin’ .38? There’s the Desert Eagle, if you’re looking for something relatively portable that can lay down an elk. [laughs] My man knows his way around a Glock subcompact. Brings his own potato. Yeehaw, man. [laughs] I like you, slim. Next gun is half off.

This is plenty.

[seller] Want ammo?

No, thank you.

No ammo.

[scanner beeps]

[box clatters]

[hyper-energetic music blares on sound system]

Welcome, Mr. Hartley. First time with us, I see. Have an excellent workout.

[gate unlocks]

[keys zip by]

Brand new.

[sighs] Man, I’m sorry.


[Claybourne] That’s not insanity. What’s insane is driving 90 miles each way to work.

[trainer] Right.

Then going, “This is fucked up. I hate this. I don’t want to do this.”

Then getting in the car the very next day, driving 90 miles each way to work.

[trainer] You’re absolutely right.

[Claybourne] I told you. You don’t listen to me.

You ask, “Yo, Clay. What about this Bitcoin deal?”

“Clay, what’s a short sell?”

And I tell you, and you love that shit.

But this… You’re not listening. [trainer] I’m listening.

[Claybourne] So what are we doing? Come on. Let’s go.

[Claybourne] Oh.

[lock beeps]

[trainer] Let’s go to work.

[Claybourne] It’s like if you said, “Let’s do laddered intervals.”

And I went, “Huh?”

“Ladders? I don’t wanna do that.”

[door closes]

[lock beeps]

[beeps, unlocks]


[device chimes]

[door opens]

[toilet flushes]

[lock beeps]

[hyper-energetic music blares on sound system]

[garage door alert blares]

Who needs a Trojan horse when you’ve got Postmates? ‘Cause everything’s airtight till the billionaire wants densuke watermelon.

[Marcus, echoing] They came for you, and they weren’t about to leave a witness.

[Magdala] I was so afraid, afraid I might say something.

[gun cocks]

[Leo] I don’t know who they are. Don’t wanna know who you are either.

[Hodges] Consequences, when someone’s wide of the mark, are automatic.

[Dolores] I guess I am begging.

[Brute] You picked the wrong house.

[Expert] When you shouldered your weapon, and somehow…

[gun fires]


[Dolores screams]

[lock beeps, clicks]

[elevator bell dings]

[neck cracks]

[elevator bell dings]

Once I see his eyes, I’ll have a pretty good idea how this is gonna go.

[lock beeps]

[door unlocks]

There must be some applicable tax burden offset. And I simply expect to see heaven and earth moving. He-Hey! I’m not going to be disappointed in you. I’ll be disappointed in me and everyone involved for not having replaced you soon…

[man continues speaking over phone]

Who the fu… How did you… Okay. Uh… Uh… I… I’ll call you back, Marvin.

[Marvin continues speaking]

[Claybourne] Uh… Uh…

[sighs] Gotta call back, Marv. I’m fucking hanging up.

[call disconnects]

I… [exhales] So nobody gets crazy. I didn’t notice the, uh… I’m all ears. [long exhale] Secure building, eh? Christmas bonuses’ll be light this year. I, uh… I don’t keep cash here. But I can have some delivered. No? Okay, well, what is it exactly I can do for you?

I came to show you how easily one might get to you, Mr. Claybourne. And to ask, do you and I have a problem?

[scoffs] Do we… What? A problem? No, of course not. Am I supposed to know who you are? Because my memory for names and faces isn’t what it used to be. … All right. [exhales] There’s an address. It’s 3 Rue du Grev… I’m still not… [exhales] Oh. Oh. [calmly] Wait. You. … I didn’t realize. Please hear me out. To answer your question, we have no problem. I harbor no ill will about anything that may have happened. Or not happened. Let me make that crystal clear. Right after the, uh… incident, I received a phone call. I was told that things had gone sideways. My response was, “Nobody’s perfect.” Now, I did, I admit, inquire as to what is normally done in these circumstances. And they… he, the lawyer fella, Hedges, suggested that in this very rare case, I might wish to arrange for insurance to prevent any blowback. I remember thinking, “Now, why in the world is this liability mine?” I mean, you have to please understand this entire… I was very new to this kind of thing. I bled a little ink, so yeah. Selfishly, I didn’t want any blowback. And so, eventually, we agreed that for an additional 150k the trail could be scrubbed. That was literally all I was told. “Cleanup on aisle three.” His words, not mine. And so, I made sure there was enough in escrow and never thought about it again. Until… [sighs] What I’m trying to say here, and I can’t express this strongly enough, I have no issue with you. Zero. As far as I’m concerned, we’re good.

I’m curious. I break into your home in the middle of the night with a silenced pistol, and you have no idea why I might be here? If I have to come back, maybe a radioactive speck on the lip of your favorite coffee mug. A slow death, mind you, from painful facial necrosis. Or a tragic misstep into your penthouse elevator shaft. But I promise, I’ll find something fitting.

[Claybourne exhales deeply]

[door opens, closes]

[elevator beeps]

[soft melody plays]

[garage door alert blares]

[plane engines roar]

[soft melody continues]

The need to feel secure.

[tropical birds sing]

It’s a slippery slope.

[waves crash in distance]

Fate is a placebo. The only life path… the one behind you. If, in the brief time we’re all given, you can’t accept this, well, maybe you’re not one of the few.

[takes a deep breath]

Maybe you’re just like me. One of the many.

♪ And if a double-decker bus ♪

♪ Crashes into us ♪

♪ To die by your side ♪

♪ Is such a heavenly way to die ♪

♪ And if a ten-ton truck ♪

♪ Kills the both of us ♪

♪ To die by your side ♪

♪ Well, the pleasure The privilege is mine ♪

♪ Take me out tonight ♪

♪ Take me anywhere ♪

♪ I don’t care I don’t care, I don’t care ♪

♪ And in the darkened underpass ♪

♪ I thought, Oh God My chance has come at last ♪

♪ But then a strange fear gripped me And I just couldn’t ask ♪

♪ Take me out tonight ♪

♪ Oh, take me anywhere ♪

♪ I don’t care I don’t care, I don’t care ♪

♪ Driving in your car ♪

♪ I never, never want to go home ♪

♪ Because I haven’t got one, la-di-dum ♪

♪ Oh, I haven’t got one ♪

♪ Oh, oh ♪

♪ And if a double-decker bus ♪

♪ Crashes into us ♪

♪ To die by your side ♪

♪ Is such a heavenly way to die ♪

♪ And if a ten-ton truck ♪

♪ Kills the both of us ♪

♪ To die by your side ♪

♪ Well, the pleasure The privilege is mine ♪

♪ Oh, there is a light And it never goes out ♪

♪ There is a light And it never goes out ♪

♪ There is a light And it never goes out ♪

♪ There is a light And it never goes out ♪

♪ There is a light And it never goes out ♪

♪ There is a light And it never goes out ♪

♪ There is a light And it never goes out ♪

♪ There is a light And it never goes out ♪

[“There Is a Light That Never Goes Out” by The Smiths ends]

[dark electronic beats begin to pulse]

[music fades]

* * *

The Killer (2023) Reviews


by John Nugent

PLOT A killer-for-hire (Fassbender) lives his life in the shadows. When a job goes wrong, he is forced to take revenge on his employers, one by one.

David Fincher is back on familiar terrain. His last film, 2020’s Mank, felt like an unusual left-turn: a deeply personal period passion project, co-written with his late father, it was as sweepingly romantic as it was slyly cynical — but, with such a narrow focus and such niche preoccupations, it held less mainstream appeal than his usual fare. With The Killer (adapted from the French graphic novel Le Tueur, by writer Matz and artist Luc Jacamon), the director returns to the kind of material that cemented his status as one of Hollywood’s most singular, incisive, ingenious genre filmmakers: bringing his unique artistic rigour to familiar blockbuster components.

It’s thrilling to see him back in the thriller world. A sweatily suspenseful opening sequence (the film comprises six chapters, plus prologue and epilogue; even the structure is neat) establishes the universe with ferocious clarity. As that prosaic title suggests, our focus is almost entirely on one assassin, a hitman-for-hire never named, and played with unblinking, icy intensity by Michael Fassbender — his first screen role in four years. When we meet him, he’s in the midst of a job: to take out a wealthy target in a luxury Paris hotel.

Through Fassbender’s coolly delivered, dry-as-dust voiceover, which falls somewhere between first-person novelistic narration and the character’s own internal monologue, we learn a little of what it takes to do what he does. He is pure efficiency, methodical to the nth degree; every scenario gamed, every outcome foreseen. He practises yoga and repeats meditative mantras (“Stick to the plan… Weakness is vulnerability”), which would sound like new-agey corporate motivation techniques, if they weren’t in service of murder. He listens to The Smiths to slow his resting heart rate, Morrissey’s morose warbling penetrating the film’s soundtrack throughout (and now, hilariously, forever associated with sociopaths). He is, in short, a well-oiled machine.

And then… something goes wrong. His Parisian hit — a simple “Annie Oakley” job, as The Killer puts it — goes awry, seemingly down to a very human distraction, sowing the first shred of doubt that this cold, heartless man is as robotically detached as he claims. It sets in motion a series of events that sees his stockin-trade violence seep into his private life, initiating a jet-setting revenge yarn that recalls everything from Death Wish to Kill Bill.

Though nothing quite matches that opening salvo for pure cut-glass tension, some brilliantly staged sequences soon follow. Particular shout-outs must go to a staggeringly well-choreographed fight with another man known only as ‘The Brute’, played by Sala Baker (aka Sauron from Peter Jackson’s The Lord Of The Rings), which could jostle John Wick: Chapter 4 for best fight scene of the year; and a more cerebral stand-off with a fellow assassin, played with typical intrigue by Tilda Swinton.

Throughout it all, as you might well expect, Fincher’s filmmaking is immaculate. It is pure pleasure to luxuriate in imagery made with such obvious, deliberate care. You feel his precise framing, his careful composition, his notorious multiple takes. It seems, too, like Fincher is drawing on his past strengths: you can recognise the patient procedural plotting of Seven or Zodiac, the nihilistic themes and sardonic narration of Fight Club, the ruthless, unsettling violence of The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo, the outlandish moral relativism of Gone Girl.

But what does it all amount to? To the very end, The Killer remains something of a cipher, a blank canvas of a human. We are welcomed inside the head of this unthinkable perspective, without ever truly learning the whys or the wherefores. Is Fincher pondering the soul-cost that such a vocation might bring, a theme even the most recent Bond films have toyed with? Is it another angry screed on capitalism and masculinity? Should we even draw parallels between The Killer’s diligent approach to work and Fincher’s own fastidiousness (a lazy comparison, perhaps, but one the director seems to invite)? Or should we just take it all at face value — simply a slickly made genre exercise, enough on its own merits?

After such a strong build-up, the film’s ultimate arm’s-length aloofness might feel frustrating, especially in its muted finale. For a director who crafted two of the best endings in cinema history (Fight Club and Seven), The Killer’s climax, ultimately, proves to be curiously anticlimactic. David Fincher is unarguably a master filmmaker, so with every new film of his, fairly or not, you expect a masterpiece. The Killer doesn’t quite reach that level — but even then, most filmmakers would kill to make something this good.

VERDICT A riveting revenge riot, with gobsmacking levels of film craft, and a performance from Michael Fassender to make your blood run cold. It’s not quite top-tier Fincher, but it comes damn close.

Empire UK, December 2023

* * *

The Killer review – terrific David Fincher thriller about a philosophising hitman

Michael Fassbender is perfect in the main role of a yoga-loving assassin who discourses on everything from morality to the Smiths

by Peter Bradshaw

David Fincher’s horribly addictive samurai procedural, adapted by Andrew Kevin Walker from the graphic novel by Alexis Nolent, stars Michael Fassbender as the un-named titular hitman: an ascetic who in the movie’s sensationally low-key opening sequence tells us about dealing with the job’s biggest challenge: boredom. He internally monologues on this subject, and many others, including his views on the amorality of the universe and the music of the Smiths, while sitting high up in a rented WeWork office space with his long-range rifle, next to a five-star Paris hotel, waiting, waiting, waiting, for the VIP guest to show up in the suite opposite and get a bullet in the head.

But despite the killer’s cool and pitiless rigour, his elaborate discipline and impressive yoga postures, something goes terribly wrong just for no reason at all; the wealthy, ruthless and now angrily disappointed people who commissioned the killer will now want to kill him so he will have to kill them. Now he says there is a new maxim: WWJWBD: What Would John Wilkes Booth Do?

The killer’s fanatically focused rearguard action for his own survival takes him from Paris to the Dominican Republic (where he has a remote luxury hacienda) to New Orleans – where he must meet with the law professor who recruited him into this business in the first place – to Florida and then New York and then Chicago to meet with the cryptocurrency baron paying for everything. The result is violence interspersed with the dreamlike business of disguise and track-covering, the endless false names, by which he is smilingly greeted at airline ticket counters and rental car booths; there are innumerable lockups and countless storage units which hold his weapons, cash and fake passports.

It is all entertainingly absurd and yet the pure conviction and deadpan focus that Fassbender and Fincher bring to this ballet of anonymous professionalism makes it very enjoyable. And there are moments when the veneer of realism is disquieting: can it really be true that you can get through an electronic keyfob-protected door just by photographing it on your phone and then ordering a fob-copier from Amazon? Maybe it is.

Students of Frederick Forsyth and the Jackal have been using the fake passport dodge for decades and in any case know that even if the details aren’t strictly speaking correct, their sheer profusion has something absorbing and even erotic about it. We see the killer buy a lot of specific items at a supermarket, say, and only in the next scene learn how they are to be used; this delay in learning creates its own narrative tension and jeopardy. And Fincher breaks out the action-thriller sweat when the killer is set upon – generally while he has taken his eye off the ball by mentally intoning his rules of discipline – and there is a ferocious punch-up, including one which takes place in front of a TV surreally showing Fiona Bruce.

And why is the killer doing it all anyway? When did he think he was going to get a chance to relax and enjoy all this money? Could it be that he has no imagination and all the cash and weaponry he has stockpiled has always been, unconsciously, intended for this kind of self-annihilating kamikaze mission? Or will the calamity show him the way out of this mess? This is a thriller of pure surface and style and managed with terrific flair and Fassbender’s careworn, inscrutable face is just right for it.

The Guardian, September 3, 2023


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