The Contractor, 2022.
Directed by Tarik Saleh.
Starring Chris Pine, Ben Foster, Gillian Jacobs, Eddie Marsan, Florian Munteanu, and Kiefer Sutherland.
A discharged U.S. Special Forces sergeant, James Harper, risks everything for his family when he joins a private contracting organisation.
Completely-fine movies that provoke few strong feelings either way are often the toughest to review, as is certainly the case with this competent enough, well-acted, and yet utterly programmatic action thriller from Tarik Saleh (The Nile Hilton Incident).
Sergeant James Harper (Chris Pine) is honourably discharged from the U.S. Special Forces after failing a drug test. He’s been using unsanctioned medication to treat nagging injuries he incurred during service, and in an attempt to wash their hands of any “problematic” soldiers, his career-minded superiors dismiss Harper, causing him to lose his Army pension and healthcare benefits.
Back at home, debts are piling up and Harper is struggling to provide for his wife Brianne (Gillian Jacobs) and son Jack (Sander Thomas). Against his wife’s wishes, he decides to enter the world of private contracting in order to pay the bills, teaming up with his old pal Mike (Ben Foster) to partake in covert ops “wet work” under the employ of grizzled veteran Rusty Jennings (Keifer Sutherland). Predictably, though, a job in Berlin quickly goes south and the pair find themselves left hung out to dry.
At once completely conventional and yet never less than decent, The Contractor is a mid-energy espionage romp; a modest, generic sortie that Paramount understandably sent to streaming the same day as cinemas – if not also because the plot hinges heavily around a virus, which may or may not have further delayed its release (it wrapped shooting roughly two-and-a-half years ago).
The pic’s themes are laid on with a brusque thickness; namely the U.S. government and general society’s abandonment of soldiers post-service, melded with a vaguely soap opera-y marital discord subplot and, of course, flashbacks to James’ troubled childhood.
If you’ll likely see just about every major twist and turn coming, this is at least a slickly shot piece of work distinguished by the re-pairing of Hell or High Water stars Pine and Foster. Some of the film’s best scenes amount to little more than James and Mike quietly talking shop and shooting the shit, though it’s a shame that Foster’s role is considerably smaller than Pine’s, as he abruptly ducks out of the story on more than one occasion.
Elsewhere Kiefer Sutherland is perfectly cast as the no-bullshit ops leader, and there’s a fun cameo for Eddie Marsan as Virgil, a survivalist-type who provides temporary refuge for James once the proverbial hits the fan. As the only remotely prominent female presence here, it’s a shame that Gillian Jacobs is meanwhile given so little to do as the typical suffering wife; she doesn’t want James doing contract work, and that’s about the extent of her character.
It all builds up to a rushed-yet-predictable final plot twist and fitfully entertaining shoot ’em up showdown, albeit one that paints in corners we’ve all spent far too long looking at within the genre. Saleh’s direction throughout is efficient yet hardly remarkable; a thunderous mid-film shootout with the police boasts strong sound design, but the bad guys have Stormtrooper-caliber aim to the point of unintentional comedy.
Utterly cliched and predictable, The Contractor is at least never less than watchable thanks to the efforts of the vastly overqualified Chris Pine and Ben Foster.
Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★ ★ / Movie: ★ ★ ★
Shaun Munro – Follow me on Twitter for more film rambling.