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David Fincher’s neo-noir action thriller The Killer brought the house down Sunday night at its Venice Film Festival premiere, drawing a seven-minute standing ovation and showers of bravos.

Fincher basked in the reception from the balcony of Venice’s Sala Grande cinema solo, since his starring cast, including Michael Fassbender and Tilda Swinton, were absent from the night’s festivities due to the SAG-AFTRA strike. 

The Killer is written by Fincher’s Seven (1995) and Fight Club (1999) screenwriter Andrew Kevin Walker and based on a French graphic novel of the same name. It follows a cold-blooded assassin (Fassbender) who begins to have a psychological crisis after a fateful near miss — in a world with no moral compass.

Netflix teaser for the film reads: “Solitary, cold, methodical and unencumbered by scruples or regrets, a killer waits in the shadows, watching for his next target. Yet, the longer he waits, the more he thinks he’s losing his mind, if not his cool.”

The tagline for The Killer, which emblazons the countless film posters hanging around Venice’s Lido this week — “Execution is everything.” — could apply to Fincher’s ethic as a filmmaker as much as his latest movie.

The Killer also reunites Fincher with cinematographer Erik Messerschmidt, who won an Oscar in 2021 for lensing the director’s Hollywood period biopic Mank. Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross, Oscar winners for their work on Fincher’s The Social Network, wrote the new film’s score.

With the exception of Roman Polanski’s The Palace, which has been almost unanimously eviscerated by critics, nearly every major film to premiere in Venice this year has generated an overwhelmingly enthusiastic response. Yorgos Lanthimos’ Poor Things is the clear critical frontrunner at the festival’s midway point, but Bradley Cooper’s Maestro, Michael Mann’s Ferrari, Harmony Korine’s tripped-out AGGRO DR1FT and Luc Besson’s Dogman have all earned huge standing ovations in the Sala Grande.



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