Michael Fassbender as “The Killer”, an unnamed professional assassin
Paris, December 2022
Film: The Killer
Release Date: October 27, 2023
Director: David Fincher
Costume Designer: Cate Adams
WARNING! Spoilers ahead!
It’s amazing how physically exhausting it can be to do nothing. If you’re unable to endure boredom, this work is not for you…
… begins the narration of the titular hitman portrayed by Michael Fassbender in The Killer, the latest film from director David Fincher. Based on Jacamon and Matz’s French graphic novel series of the same name, this pulpy action thriller—and arguably very dark comedy—centers around an international assassin who is undoubtedly skilled in his deadly craft, though perhaps not quite the infallible expert he builds himself into through his narration.
After it premiered at the 80th Venice International Film Festival in September 2023, The Killer began a limited theatrical release at the end of October before it began streaming on Netflix last week on Friday, November 10.
Following the rapid-fire opening credits, The Killer slows down once we meet Fassbender’s assassin, propped in front of an open window and a space heater as he awaits his target from the vantage point of a dusty WeWork in Paris. “I used to book a lot through Airbnb… not anymore. Those super-hosts love their nanny cams.”
Rather than the combat, sniping, and intrigue often expected of assassination films, the first twenty minutes of The Killer meditatively follow our sociopathic hitman’s quiet days spent waiting for the opportunity to strike, including a slow morning routine of coffee, yoga, McDonald’s, and music—invariably The Smiths, streamed through an old iPod Nano… a smart choice as this mid-oughts technology predates anything that could be tracked via Bluetooth or WiFi.
Through it all, he self-importantly muses to the audience, as though writing a guide to assassination reliant on quoting maxims from the likes of Popeye to Aleister Crowley, though he can’t quite recall the latter’s name:
Popeye the sailor probably said it best: I am what I am. I’m not exceptional, I’m just a part. Consider yourself lucky if our paths never cross, except—luck isn’t real. Nor is karma. Nor, sadly, justice. As much as I’d like to pretend these concepts exist, they just don’t. One is born, lives their life, and eventually, one dies. In the meantime, do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the law, to quote… someone. Can’t remember who.
Known even to us through a variety of names cribbed from ’70s TV, our killer stresses the importance of staying under the radar. “Avoid being seen, which is impossible in the 21st century… so at least avoid being memorable,” he narrates, through we may get a glimpse at the character’s true nature as he follows a call with his handler by dropping the phone in the middle of the sidewalk and crushing it with his shoe… which is certainly something I would remember if I witnessed it, especially if said stomper was wearing a bucket hat and a Hawaiian shirt with a McDonald’s bag in his arm. In Paris.
Despite his cautious tendencies, the killer still fumbles at a crucial moment—taking his shot a second too late, killing his target’s dominatrix date instead of the man himself, resulting in a scramble to escape. “Well, this- this is new,” he narrates while disposing of the equipment as he makes his escape. “W.W.J.W.B.D… What would John Wilkes Booth do?”
What’d He Wear?
The killer contextualizes his bizarre assortment of clothing by citing a German tourist he’d seen in England, an encounter that significantly informed his regular on-the-job uniform: a rotation of aloha shirts, beige jackets and trousers with weather-appropriate layers, and a bucket hat:
My “camo” is based on a German tourist I saw in London a while back. No one really wants to interact with a German tourist—Parisians avoid them like the rest of the world avoids street mimes.
“The $3,000 suit seems like it’s played out,” David Fincher elaborated to Kyle Buchanan for The New York Times of cinematic contract killer costumes. Thus, this killer’s sartorial philosophy differs from the luxury tailoring of James Bond or John Wick as Fincher directed Adams to build the killer’s look in clothing that was both anonymous and disposable.
“David called it ‘lazy people clothing’. Nothing that would take a long time or a lot of thought: zippers, velcro, pullovers,” costume designer Cate Adams told Jim Hemphill for IndieWire. “He’s shopping at whatever stores are available to him, whether he’s in an airport or walking down the street in a big city… he’s just popping into a store and finding something that looks easy to put on and easy to dispose of.” And that’s exactly what Adams and her team did, scouring chain stores for multiples of the generally nondescript clothes that would line the killer’s wardrobe.
“My take in Paris is that he is meant to stand out,” Adams laid out in an interview with Johnny Davis for UK Esquire. “He’s meant to look weird. ‘What is he wearing? Why is he wearing all these light colours? He’s clearly not from here.’ But no one wants to talk to him.”
“In our initial conversations, David said that he didn’t want Fassbender to look cool, he wanted him to look dorky,” Adams elaborated to IndieWire. “When he’s in Paris, we wanted him to look like a German tourist no one would want to go near.”
Indeed, it was a photo of an actual German tourist on the streets of Paris that inspired Fincher, who noted that “All of this stuff could be purchased in an airport,” as he shared to The New York Times. Fincher relayed the direction to Adams, explaining that “This is what he needs to be, a guy who can get off a plane and buy a whole wardrobe on his way from the gate to the rental car.”
The Aloha Shirt
Our killer’s “dorky” aesthetic is anchored by his aloha shirt—a suitable choice when vacationing in a warm climate but curiously out of place when layered under knitwear and nylon jackets during a Parisian winter. Through the first act, the killer wears a floral-printed black aloha shirt that recalls the “Star Orchid” shirt worn by Tom Selleck in the first season of Magnum, P.I. and is still being made by Paradise Found today, though the white flowers and their green and teal leafy stems differ from the Selleck-worn shirts. Instead, Adams cited tropical casual-wear outfitter Tommy Bahama with some of Fassbender’s screen-worn aloha style, so this shirt may be one of theirs.
The shirt follows the typical aloha design with a sporty camp collar, short sleeves, and brown wooden buttons up the plain front. The shirt’s breast pocket was also part of its appeal, as the killer could slip his lightweight iPod into it while going about his daily routine.
The killer bookends the Paris-set scenes wearing a light-gray woven quarter-zip pullover sweater, with a brown leather-covered zip pull and a light stone-colored inner collar banded in three narrow gray stripes.
When the killer leaves the WeWork for his morning McDonald’s, he swaps out the cozy quarter-zip for a navy track jacket that would be one of his sartorial signatures through the rest of The Killer, worn for travel and wet work.
Adams had mentioned sourcing some of Fassbender’s screen-worn costumes from athletic apparel brand Lululemon, and this full-zip track jacket appears to be the Lululemon Sojourn Jacket, made from the shape-retaining “four-way stretch” 100% Elastomultiester polyester performance fabric that Lululemon trademarked as Warpstreme™.
This lightweight layer has a left chest pocket with a straight vertical zip-entry that parallels the full-zip front in addition to open slanted hand pockets.
When we meet the killer in his Paris WeWork space, he has a light stone-gray nylon shirt-jacket draped over himself like a blanket, which we see he eventually pulls on over his track jacket.
With its shirt-style collar, six tonal popper buttons (snaps) up the plain front, and slanted hand pockets, it reminds me of a similar piece I purchased from Old Navy in spring 2021—the Water-Resistant Nylon Shirt-Jacket in “Moondoggie” gray, now out of stock. Given the movie’s production timeframe that began in the fall of 2021 and that Adams cited sourcing Fassbender’s costume from Gap (which owns the Old Navy brand), I wouldn’t be surprised if this is the same jacket!
The killer’s top layer while running errands in Paris—and later, making his escape from the city—is a beige polyester hooded zip-up windbreaker that he regularly wears for air travel. This hip-length jacket has breathable mesh lining, two slanted outer hand pockets, a drawstring-cinched waistband, and set-in sleeves that have elasticized cuffs with semi-straps which close on one of two snaps.
The hood is lined in the colorful olive-and-navy tartan plaid associated with Barbour, which—combined with Adams mentioning a water-resistant Barbour jacket in her UK Esquire interview—confirms this heritage English brand as the jacket’s manufacturer. Even though Barbour’s prestige and quality make it typically more expensive than the other brands in the killer’s wardrobe, it makes sense that he would value investing in a functional top layer, especially if it would keep him (and his lethal equipment) dry during jobs in wet weather.
Adams cited Liam Gallagher “always wearing bucket hats and oversized windbreakers” as a casual inspiration for this aspect of the killer’s look.
Adams described Fincher’s vision for the killer’s trousers as “a chino khaki that was, like, eggshell or cement.” In Paris, these are stone-gray chino cotton flat-front trousers styled with belt loops (but no belt), slanted side pockets, two button-through back pockets, and plain-hemmed bottoms.
For the killer’s shoes, Adams remarked in her UK Esquire interview that “David had mentioned ‘dad vibes’ early on. Like, dad sneakers. He really wanted Skechers because they’re so universal and the über-dad shoes.”
Throughout the Paris sequence, Fassbender wears Skechers “Moreno – Ederson” sneakers with vintage-washed khaki canvas twill textile plain-toe uppers, laced through four sets of derby-laced gunmetal eyelets. Designed for comfort, these light-wearing shoes feature the brand’s Air-Cooled Memory Foam® cushioned comfort insole and Goga Mat® arch cushioned support that would appear to a yogi like the killer. The heels are finished with khaki suede-textured panels, and the white rubber midsoles are banded in tan around the top. He wears pale stone-gray “no-show” socks.
To avoid getting his fingerprints on anything, the killer wears tight black latex rubber gloves while in his WeWork workspace, a highly practical—if uncomfortable and unstylish—alternative to the dark leather gloves often donned by classic stylish screen killers.
A far cry from the Rolex, Omega, and TAG Heuer product placement we’ve come to expect from slick movie killers, Fassbender dresses his wrist with not an expensive dive watch from a heritage Swiss brand but rather a commonplace 21st century fitness tracker. Its long side-mounted button, integrated black wristband, and Fitbit-specific user interface on the backlit OLED display suggests the Fitbit Charge 4.
The perfect bucket hat would complete the intended image of the German tourist who had inspired Fincher’s direction for Adams’ costume design. In his New York Times interview with Kyle Buchanan, Fincher playfully recalled his concern in response to one of his former collaborators wearing a similar headgear on screen. “When [Brad] Pitt told me he had selected a bucket hat for Bullet Train, I was like, ‘OK, dude, you’re stepping into our sandbox.”
Mirroring the killer’s own focused determination, Adams and her team searched far and wide to meet Fincher’s parameters for the hat, which would preferably be a water-resistant material like nylon and in a nondescript color—certainly not the shade of black associated with assassins, nor did the green hat that Adams found from a Thai vendor fit the bill.
Finally, Adams’ team hit their target when they found the roll-up Broner hat, style #85-918, on the website of a Venice, California army surplus store that sold them in bulk packages of 30. The beige canvas body is a cotton/polyester blend, detailed with a narrow black-and-brown band around the base of the crown. The round crown has a flat top, with ventilation holes sewn around the sides.
For extra anonymity, the killer often wears gold square-framed aviator-style sunglasses, a shape similar to the classic American Optical (AO) FG-58 and Randolph Engineering models favored by U.S. military pilots.
SunglassesID.com has identified Fassbender’s screen-worn shades as the Police Origins Lite 2 SPL996, characterized by the long, gently curved brow bar and the black “wings” positioned about an inch rearward of each temple.
Fincher and Adams intended the killer’s wardrobe to be fully disposable, which he first illustrates with the cheap dark-blue polyester packable parka he only dons when he’s ready for the hit, shrouding himself in darkness as he pulls the jacket’s hood over his head. This jacket is the first thing he removes after the hit goes wrong, doubling as a garbage bag of sorts when it comes time to dispose of his tools.
After the killer shoots the wrong target and escapes into the Paris night, he stops into a convenience store bathroom, where he ditches everything he had been wearing into the trash can—from the bucket hat and aloha shirt to his snap-front jacket and Skechers. To avoid suspicion from the desk clerk, his remaining clothing follows the same color scheme but is clearly different.
The only familiar clothing are his beige hooded Barbour jacket and the navy full-zip Lululemon track jacket which he’d worn for the McDonald’s run (but not for the failed hit and following getaway), as he now wears a different undershirt (not an aloha shirt), slightly different stone-colored athletic trousers, and white New Balances rather than his tan Skechers. His baseball cap has a small Paris-branded patch, suggesting something a tourist would have picked up in a souvenir shop.
The killer evidently keeps several of his favorite staples either in his Dominican hideout or scattered throughout his auto-paid storage units, as we see more of the same bucket hat and stone-colored trousers after he abandoned the first set of each in a grungy Parisian bathroom.
“On Annie Oakley jobs, distance is the only advantage,” Fassbender’s character narrates as he constructs his tactical sniper rifle. “Everything else—the popping sound like fireworks, the breaking of glass, the screams—all disadvantage.”
Based on its silhouette, the killer’s unique-looking weapon appears to be a Nemesis Arms Vanquish, originally known as the “Mini-Windrunner” as it had been built from a small-action version of the EDM Arms Windrunner M96, a .50 BMG-caliber sniper rifle designed by William Ritchie in the 1990s. The EDM Arms website explains that the original M96 “can be differentiated from all others in the fact that it can be taken-down into 5 pieces or assembled, without any tools, in less than 1 minute.”
“Boasting tool-less takedown and the unique and unrivaled ability to return to zero after reassembly, Valkyrie is truly revolutionary in the sphere of precision long-range platforms,” describes the Nemesis Arms site. “Available in a 16” and 20” barrel lengths, a number of popular long-range calibers, Valkyrie was designed specifically with military and law enforcement operators in mind. Factor in covert storage and transport luggage and backpacks and you have a versatile rifle system that adapts to your mission as quickly as the circumstances.”
The ambidextrous, multi-caliber Vanquish retains the EDM Windrunner’s magazine-fed, bolt-action operation but fired smaller-caliber rifle ammunition, uniquely able to cycle through different calibers by simply replacing the threaded barrel. The available calibers include .243 Winchester, .260 Remington, 6.5mm Creedmoor, and .308 Winchester, all mated to 20-inch barrels though the .308 Win can also fire through a 16-inch barrel. Regardless of caliber, all ammunition is fed from 10-round AI pattern box magazines.
The Vanquish also continues much of the original Windrunner’s design aesthetic, including the tool-free takedown and smooth telescoping wire stock. At 12 pounds without attachments, the Vanquish weighs nearly one-third the 34-pound .50 BMG Windrunner, making it comparatively lightweight and considerably more portable. The 20″-barreled models have a 39″ overall length, though this folds down to 20 inches overall when collapsed.
The killer assembles his for sniping by attaching a scope to the integrated optics rail, balancing it on the bipod, and affixing a suppressor (though the four ports on each side suggest that this is actually a compensator.)
Even after ditching most of his clothing and equipment, the killer retains his sidearm until he reaches the airport, waiting until the last possible opportunity to toss it into the trash. The shape of the weapon clearly identifies it as a subcompact Glock, likely one of the several Glock 43 pistols that we later see he keeps stashed in a storage unit like the one he visits in Louisiana.
The Glock he throws away at the Paris airport has a compensator screwed onto the end of the barrel. Given his profession, lay viewers may think this is a suppressor (often colloquially called a silencer), though the triple ports cut into each side of the unit inform that this is actually a compensator, an attachment designed to tame the weapon’s recoil and muzzle flip.
The Glock 43 was introduced in 2015, intended for the concealed carry market as its design incorporated a “slimline” profile with the subcompact shape of the earlier Glock 26. This reduces the width from the 32mm-wide Glock 26 to the 26mm-wide Glock 43, though the reduction also makes the Glock 43 the first 9mm Glock to be fed with single-stack magazines rather than the modular double-stack magazines that had been a Glock signature for pistols of the same caliber, regardless of size.
Thus, the stock Glock 43 can only take single-stack magazines with six rounds of 9x19mm Parabellum ammunition, though some aftermarket adjustments can be made that allow for magazines from companies like Shield Arms that carry up to nine rounds of the same ammunition.
Some have criticized Glock for being too slow to the market—literally too little, too late—as only two years later, SIG-Sauer would introduce the P365 of similar dimensions but with offset double-stack magazines that could carry at least ten rounds of 9mm ammunition. While the P365 has many fans (and deservedly so), I can personally attest to the Glock 43, which has been my regular CCW piece for more than a year.
Due to its recency in the market, the Glock 43 is still under-represented in movies, most prominently appearing (prior to The Killer) in Scarlett Johansson’s double thigh rigs in Avengers: Endgame (2019) and Black Widow (2021)… but who’s looking at the pistols in that case?
Glock later introduced the Glock 43X, built on the same frame as the Glock 43 but with a longer and thicker grip to allow for proprietary 10-round single-stack magazines that are interchangeable with only the Glock 48. The earlier lineup of 9mm Glock pistols—specifically the 17, 19, and 26—are the only ones that can feed from the double-stack magazines with capacities of 15 and 17 rounds and up.
What to Imbibe
No martinis for our killer—neither shaken not stirred. Instead, he rotates through a protein-rich diet of deconstructed McDonald’s sandwiches, Ensure shakes, and gas station hard-boiled eggs. “There are 1,500 McDonald’s in France. A good enough place to grab 10 grams of protein for a Euro, alongside the other 46 million they serve each week.”
The killer seems to score his morning protein allotment through a ham, egg, and cheese sandwich… removing a layer of the bread, evidently fearful of the impact those extra carbs may have on him.
Much later, the killer joins a fellow assassin known as “The Expert” (Tilda Swinton) as she sits down to dinner at an upscale restaurant in Beacon, New York. Here, he allows himself a single dram of her Brora 30-Year-Old single malt Scotch. As bottles of Brora sell for approximately $4,000, it’s a wise investment on the killer’s part.
The original Brora distillery operated in the Scottish Highlands for more than 160 years, opened in 1819 but unfortunately mothballed in 1983. However, British-based liquor conglomerate Diageo purchased the facility and reopened in 2021.
How to Get the Look
David Fincher summed up Michael Fassbender’s functional but offbeat wardrobe in The Killer as “James Bond by way of Home Depot,” further explaining to The New York Times that, “by the end of this, you should be like, who’s the guy in the rental car line with you, and why is he wearing that outdated hat? You ignore the German tourist at your peril.”
- Black floral-printed rayon aloha shirt with camp collar, breast pocket, and plain front (with brown wooden buttons)
- Tommy Bahama
- Navy performance polyester Lululemon track jacket with full-zip front, zip-up left chest pocket, and two hand pockets
- Beige polyester hip-length Barbour rain jacket with tartan plaid-lined hood, full-zip front, two slanted hand pockets, and set-in sleeves with snap-strap elasticized cuffs
- Light stone-gray nylon shirt-jacket with shirt-style collar, 6 snap-button front, and slanted hand pockets
- Old Navy
- Stone-gray chino cotton flat-front trousers with belt loops, slanted side pockets, button-through back pockets, and plain-hemmed bottoms
- Khaki canvas plain-toe sneakers with four-eyelet derby-lacing, suede-textured heels, and tan-trimmed white rubber midsoles
- Beige cotton/poly canvas roll-up bucket hat with ventilated flat crown and narrow black-and-brown band
- Gold square-framed aviator-style sunglasses
- Fitness tracker wristband
- Black latex gloves
- Esquire UK — “How Liam Gallagher Inspired Michael Fassbender’s Style in ‘The Killer'” by Johnny Davis
- IndieWire — “‘The Killer’ or Fashion Victim? Why Michael Fassbender’s Assassin Ended Up in Those Outfits” by Jim Hemphill
- New York Times — “Venice Film Festival: Why David Fincher Wanted Michael Fassbender to Look ‘Dorky’” by Kyle Buchanan
Do Yourself a Favor and…
Check out the movie, currently streaming on Netflix.
From the beginning of history, the few have always exploited the many. This is the cornerstone of civilization. The blood and the mortar that binds all bricks. Whatever it takes, make sure you’re one of the few—not one of the many.