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Netflix’s ‘The Killer’ Has One of the Best Fight Scenes Ever

Michael Fassbender as an assassin in “The Killer”.

Courtesy of Netflix

If you grew up in the ’90s, like me, you’ve been eagerly awaiting David Fincher’s “The Killer” ever since Netflix released the trailer. “The Killer” returns to Fincher’s cinematic roots, reuniting him with “Seven” screenwriter Andrew Kevin Walker and featuring an endless number of quotable, “Fight Club” bro koans throughout the title character’s narrative. And also: a lot of people die horribly there. This is the kind of movie I pretend I grew out of, but that’s really not the case.

“The Killer” isn’t as sadistic as “Seven” – which established a dark, harsh aesthetic that current directors constantly seek to emulate, only to fail. It’s more of a simple action film. Michael Fassbender, who will always be handsomer than me, is the main character: an anonymous hitman who works alone, with only his inner monologue to keep him company. Our killer is extremely particular in his methods, and never lets his emotions get in the way of his business… until the moment he screws up a job, sees his girlfriend (played by Sophie Charlotte) suffer the consequences of his mistake. , then sets out to obtain retaliation.

If all this makes you think of “John Wick,” you’re not far off. There’s even the requisite scene where our anti-hero must unearth a secret trove of weapons and fake IDs that he keeps buried in his backyard. That’s when you know this is all about to get real.


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So it’s only the Fincher touch that sets “The Killer” apart from its genre siblings, but you know how effective that touch can be: lens flares, crystal-clear night shots, an elegant sense of menace in the air at every moment. And if you love Fincher as much as I do, you know that’s more than enough to make “The Killer” worth watching, especially when the action itself comes into play.

A little over an hour into this movie, there’s a fight scene that’s the best I’ve seen in a movie this year. This is one of the best fight scenes I’ve ever seen, period. It’s so good, I don’t want to ruin it for you. Instead, I’m going to list a number of elements that made it impeccable, both from an execution standpoint and an entertainment standpoint:

– A guard dog who must be drugged with powerful tranquilizers introduced into raw hamburger meat.
– A villain who only goes by the character name “The Brute” (played by Sala Baker, who does not appear as a brute in everyday life).
– A weapon snatched from the good guy’s hands, sliding under a bed and out of reach. Weapons end a fight scene far too quickly. We need to get rid of it for a moment so that the public can have the right to…
– Lots of hand-to-hand combat.
– Blunt objects.
– Pokers.
– A desperate search for a knife that only finds a cheese grater.
– A painting crushed on the bully’s head.
– The good guy hitches a ride on the bad guy while trying to hold him in a chokehold. It’s a move I would use if another bully ever tried to kill me.
– People are getting slammed through windows.
– People suplexed onto dining tables.
– People are projected INTO a wall-mounted television (not the television!).
– People are being crushed, with great ferocity, on hardwood floors.
– The bad guy gets his butt impaled by an overturned table leg.
– Broken glass. All the glass is broken in this fight. Fassbender’s killer fights the bully by giving him a bottle AND crushing him repeatedly with a glass water pipe. TALK ABOUT BONG HITS!
– The good guy finally gets his hands on the gun.
– Blood from the decisive gunshot splashing into the toilet.


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Michael Fassbender and Tilda Swinton in ‘The Killer’.Courtesy of Netflix

Just writing all this made me want to go fight a grizzly bear. This is impeccable action choreography, all packed into four tidy, cohesive minutes. You’ve seen fight scenes with these elements before, almost certainly in a cookie-cutter Marvel movie. The reason these other scenes fail is because they’re too long, rely too heavily on poor visual effects, and most importantly, they don’t do any harm. If a character is driven into the ground by a Thanos-type stronger than an army of silverback gorillas, they should at least catch their breath for a second. Because if a character doesn’t do harm, then you can’t harm them.

You will hurt Fassbender in “The Killer” (and his victims too). Nothing about Fassbender’s ability to take a hit in this movie is realistic, but you still FEEL it when he went through glass over and over again. Broken glass is important in fight scenes because you and I know exactly what kind of damage broken glass can cause in real life. We know what it feels like to be cut off. We know what it feels like to fall hard. We know what it’s like to be afraid. A good fight scene draws on these memories in us and the fear of having to endure them again in the future.

Compared to other action films, including “Wick,” this central fight in “The Killer” is short. But, like a real fight, it feels much longer than the few minutes it lasts. Time grows longer when you are in pain, when you are in danger, and when you need to escape danger. That Fincher is able to accurately depict this violent form of sensory overload on celluloid is both predictable (this is David Fincher, after all) and also exhilarating.


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Courtesy of NetflixMichael Fassbender in “The Killer”.

Despite a double work stoppage that crippled Hollywood until this week, 2023 has proven to be the best year for cinema, not only since the pandemic, but perhaps in the last decade and changes. Old masters like Martin Scorsese have produced some of their best work, while relatively young director Greta Gerwig has succeeded, where so many of her peers had failed, in aligning a multi-million dollar franchise with her own cinematic voice.

Meanwhile, here’s David Fincher making an elegantly bloody affair. It won’t win him any Oscars and may not stay in the cultural firmament like some of his other works have. But it makes it clear – both to the public and to the film industry itself – that’s how it happens. There’s nothing new in “The Killer,” but it doesn’t have to be. All it takes is a rogue table leg up the bad guy’s ass.


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