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The Contractor Review

April 1, 2022 | Posted by Bryan Kristopowitz
The Contractor Chris Pine Image Credit: Paramount Pictures
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The Contractor Review  

The Contractor Review

Chris Pine– James Harper
Gillian Jacobs– Brianne Harper
Ben Foster– Mike
Kiefer Sutherland– Rusty
Fares Fares– Salim Moshin

(check out the rest of the cast here)

Directed by Tarik Saleh
Screenplay by J.P. Davis

Distributed by Paramount Pictures

Rated R for violence and language
Runtime– 103 minutes

The Contractor is in theaters, on digital, and On Demand starting April 1st, 2022

Image Credit: Paramount Pictures

The Contractor, directed by Tarik Saleh and in theaters, on digital, and On Demand starting April 1st, 2022, is a slick, well-made action thriller. It isn’t anything action movie fans haven’t seen a million times before, but the movie is told with just enough style and precision to make it stand out more than you expect it to. The movie also features several fine performances, especially from stars Chris Pine and Ben Foster.

Pine stars as James Harper, an American Special Forces operator who is forced to quit the military after a failed drug test. Losing his pension and medical benefits as a result, Harper needs to find suitable work as soon as possible as he needs to provide for his wife Brianne (played by Gillian Jacobs) and young son. But what does a disgraced former Special Forces operator do once he’s fired by his government? After attending the funeral of a fallen comrade, Harper hangs out with his old buddy Mike (Ben Foster) and learns of a potential contracting job with an elite private security firm run by a fellow former operator named Rusty (Kiefer Sutherland). Harper’s meeting with Rusty goes well and he accepts a position with Rusty’s company. Brianna isn’t all that enthused by Harper’s new job as she doesn’t want him doing anything dangerous, but he assures her that the job is high paying and nowhere near as dangerous as his former military job. That’s a lie, as Harper knows that, even if the contracting job is considered “cushy” it’s going to be dangerous no matter what. But Harper was promised that it wouldn’t be all that dangerous. Working for Rusty was a great opportunity and a big deal. Harper couldn’t pass up the job.

Harper’s first assignment is in Berlin, where he works with Mike and several other contractors (some American, some local to Berlin). The job involves infiltrating a secure building and taking out a scientist (Salim Moshin, played by Fares Fares) suspected of working with Al-Qaeda, creating a potential bioweapon of some sort. The first part of the job goes off without a hitch, as Harper and Mike and the team get inside the facility, neutralize security, and obtain information of what, exactly, Moshin was working on. Before Harper kills Moshin with a lethal injection, Moshin tries to tell Harper that he isn’t a bad guy, that he isn’t working on a bioweapon for terrorists, and that he’s trying to save humanity, not kill it. Harper mostly ignores Moshin and does his duty while the other team members make it look like the building was destroyed via an industrial accident. While trying to get out of the area, local police show up and the second part of the job, getting out of Berlin, immediately becomes difficult,

Super difficult.

A firefight ensues between Harper and his team and the police, team members and cops die, and a simple job meant to look like an accident is suddenly an international incident. Harper and Mike manage to escape and hide out in a safe area underground for a little while. Harper and Mike decide to split up and get to the eventual extraction point on their own as Harper is injured (Harper’s injuries, the ones that forced him to take pain medication in order to continue working, were re-aggravated in the firefight and he ne needs to rest a bit before making a go at getting out of Berlin). So Mike leaves and Harper recuperates.

As Harper recuperates, he starts to have dreams about his father, dreams about how his father’s loyalty to the military negatively affected his relationship with his family (this isn’t the first time in the movie that Harper has these dreams. It’s something that keeps happening over and over again and eventually informs how Harper hopes to spend time with his own family and how he wants his son to see him). Harper also begins to have doubts about the mission, about what he was told about Moshin, and what it is the Berlin job was all about. As soon as Harper is well enough to move, he heads to a safe house hotel, gets resupplied, buys a pre-paid phone at a train station, and calls Rusty to ask him questions about the job. Harper wants Rusty to tell him that his position in Rusty’s company isn’t bullshit, that the Berlin job was on the up and up, and that he will do everything he can to get him safely out of Berlin.

The call with Rusty doesn’t go well. Harper quickly finds himself a wanted man by both the local authorities in Berlin and by the team of assassins that Rusty has sent to Berlin to kill Harper. The rest of the movie is one long chase sequence, where Harper dodges various killers and dangers while figuring out how to get out of Berlin. If and when he gets out of Europe, Harper expects to take down Rusty and anyone else who was in on the big scheme.

The first half or so of the movie is spent getting to know who the various main characters are. Everyone seems like a good guy or, at least, someone with good intentions. Harper just wants to provide for his family. Mike has a special needs child that he needs to provide for. Rusty wants former operators to get paid big money while doing what they know how to do (he gives Harper a speech that makes you believe that Rusty wants to do something to help make the world a little less cynical). And who wouldn’t want to do whatever it takes to stop terrorists from obtaining a mega weapon that could endanger humanity? Sure, the work operators do can be nasty and terrible, but it isn’t all bad (it’s not supposed to be). And for maybe the first part of the Berlin job it looks like Rusty’s company are the good guys and Harper is doing a good thing for the world by participating. And then the cops show up, the “wrong” people start dying, and the whole thing seems like it was always bullshit. The second half of the movie is a revenge quest.
Now, the first half is generally engrossing as we get to know everyone. The movie tries very hard to make it look like what Harper goes through right up until he confirms that he was duped is real and serious and in the “real world.” This isn’t a “typical” action movie. When the movie becomes an action movie, with Harper engaging in hand-to-hand brawls and public shootouts and operating as a one-man-army of sorts, the veneer of “reality” melts away because we’ve seen this very action movie scenario a million times. The Contractor isn’t doing anything new here. It’s all very well done, though. I’d imagine that how much the audience ends up liking The Contractor will depend on how much they accept the story shift. Harper may be super motivated and an expert fighting machine, but, after everything you’ve seen until the midpoint of the movie, do you believe what Harper is doing on his own is plausible? I believe in it, for the most part, but I can see people seeing Harper taking on three mercenaries at once and saying “What the hell is going on here? Is this the same movie?”

The whole “Harper doesn’t want to be like his father” is undeveloped and isn’t as important as the movie wants you to believe it is. It also isn’t that interesting. The movie would have been better off doing the “bad dream about his father” thing once, have Harper speak about it once, and then allow those two things to linger while Harper does all he can to take down Rusty and his company.

I also believe that the final confrontation between Harper and Rusty (and this isn’t a spoiler because you know it’s going to happen as soon as the movie becomes an action movie) isn’t as exciting as it should be. Everything happens too quickly and there isn’t enough mayhem overall. If you’re going to have a big shootout in public involving multiple people that enhances an international incident, you can’t be shy of having your movie’s hero killing thirty guys while blowing stuff up in slow motion or whatever.

The action that we do get is well staged and fairly exciting. The hand-to-hand brawls are hard hitting and scary (there’s an excellent cinder block to the face scene that will make you cringe). The shootouts could be livelier (and louder), but the carnage those shootouts create is acceptable. I know that the “pop” we hear via the various firearms used in the movie are meant to create a sense of “realism” but it would be great if, every so often, one of these newer action movies went back to loud guns and guns that each have a distinctive sound. Remember when shotguns in action movies sounded like the world was ending?

The music by Alex Belcher is quite good. It’s never overbearing and helps set the mood most of the time. The movie could have used either an opening theme or a closing theme, but then that just doesn’t seem to be a thing in any kind of movie nowadays.

Image Credit: Paramount Pictures

The main performances are all generally good. Chris Pine does a fine job as James Harper. Pine comes off as a credible family man and manages to give Harper a quiet menace, which is what you want in a Special Forces operator (it’s hard to blend into your surroundings if you’re bigger than life). And when it comes to the action and fight scenes Pine has to do he comes off as a credible warrior. Pine also has believable chemistry with Gillian Jacobs, who plays his wife Brianne. As for Jacobs, we don’t get to spend all that much time with her but the scenes she does get to do are interesting and you can’t help but like her.

Ben Foster does a nice job as Mike, Harper’s old war buddy and the man who gets him his private contracting job. Foster makes Mike a humble warrior and devoted family man who also has a smart ass streak inside of him. Foster, just like Pine, looks credible in the action and fight scenes he’s called upon to do, and he never looks out of place in what he’s doing. Foster does his best work towards the end of the movie, when he has to make a choice as to how he wants to go on living his life: a good guy or not a good guy.

Kiefer Sutherland is an oddly fun presence as Rusty, the owner of the private contracting firm that Harper works for. Sutherland makes Rusty a sort of amalgamation of a badass warrior that’s seen the worst of the world and a weird beard hippy that doesn’t like to wear shoes (or boots, for that matter). Pay very close attention to the scene where Harper contacts Rusty and tries to figure out what the hell is really going on. Rusty stalks his compound’s communications room, yelling into his satellite phone while making you believe simultaneously that he’s probably dirty as hell and also really concerned for Harper’s safety. You might be able to trust him but there’s a good chance that you shouldn’t. Only someone as talented as Sutherland could pull off that kind of thing.

The way The Contractor ends suggests that there could be more story but probably won’t be. The movie takes itself a bit too seriously to be the first in a franchise. I wouldn’t mind, though, seeing other kinds of stories featuring other private contractor types all over the world. I bet there are plenty of action hero type actors out there who would be down for a movie in this realm. I wouldn’t even mind seeing Pine play a different character, with different motivations, in another “contractor” type story. I bet it would be interesting.

The Contractor is a well-made action thriller. It isn’t anything particularly new or groundbreaking, but it tells its story generally well, and sometimes that’s all you really need. The Contractor is worth your time.

See The Contractor. See it, see it, see it.

So what do we have here?

Dead bodies: Around 30.

Explosions: A few.

Nudity?: Briefly.

Doobage:A guy jogging, church hooey, handgun cleaning, motorcycle riding, a training montage, woods hooey, multiple knee injections, knee brace hooey, more motorcycle riding, bills, a Special Forces review, flag saluting, roof shingles hooey, an off screen funeral, macho jock asshole ball busting, awkward and funny dinner conversation, an odd speech, a check for fifty grand, a kid getting a tattoo, surveillance, phone call hooey, pill taking, guard capturing, thumb print hooey, death by lethal injection, industrial accident hooey, a shootout, cop killing, bullet to the leg, a seriously fucked up knee, a food and water search, a hotel filled with equipment, burner phone buying, a public firefight, cinderblock to the face, light bulb smashing, some brutal hand-to-hand brawling, face and head smashing, an impromptu interrogation, kidnaping with the best of intentions, a fogged up windshield, I-pad hooey, a secret hospital, praying, dinner eating, steak, a wicked bullet to the head, exploding house, a public bathroom hooey, more gun cleaning, off screen jackpot, a mass shooting, a choke out, a funny radio bit, a burning truck, and an oddly moving final shot.

Kim Richards?: None.

Gratuitous: Chris Pine, Chris Pine in church, Fort Bragg, swimming in a public pool, kid learning how to swim, Chris Pine measuring a kid’s height, saluting, Chris Pine no longer being able to salute the flag, Chris Pine drunk and trying to shingle his roof in the middle of the night, a child getting a tattoo, Ben Foster, Kiefer Sutherland, Kiefer Sutherland covered in tattoos, a pig in a cage, noise cancelling headphones, Chris Pine sleeping in a bathtub naked and holding a silenced handgun, multiple international incidents, Chris Pine spit cleaning his face, lying to a kid, street drummers at night, attempted steak, Chris Pine cleaning his gun, and an oddly moving final shot.

Best lines: “What are you doing?,” “I’m okay. That’s exactly what Mason said to Susan. I’m really fucking scared,” “He would have hated this. The ceremony or dying?,” “Roger Clemens over here!,” “You don’t fall off the grid for two months if you’re good. What’s up?,” “We’re all just mercenaries in the end,” “I got a job,” “Baseball cards stay here,” “We all know what one motivated radical can do. So let’s cowboy up and get it done and go home to our families. Giddy up,” “Fox Two down!,” “We shot cops. We did what we had to do,” “You motherfucker did you kill him?,” “You American? A fucking Marine,” “You can never go home,” “It’s okay. You’re safe here,” “It’s much easier to kill but it’s harder to survive,” “When I reach out I break things,” “Motherfucker!,” “There is only one way this ends,” and “Put some fucking music on.”

The final score: review Very Good
The 411
The Contractor, directed by Tarik Saleh and in theaters, on digital, and On Demand starting April 1st, 2022, is a slick, well-made action thriller. It isn’t anything action movie fans haven’t seen a million times before, but the movie is told with just enough style and precision to make it stand out more than you expect it to. The movie also features several fine performances, especially from stars Chris Pine, Ben Foster, and Kiefer Sutherland. Definitely well worth your time. See it, see it, see it.