Synopsis – A discharged U.S. Special Forces sergeant, James Harper, risks everything for his family when he joins a private contracting organization.
My Take – Considering that the last time Chris Pine and Ben Foster paired up on the screen together resulted in two excellent films, the much acclaimed Hell or High Water (2016) and the criminally under-seen The Finest Hours (2016), at least from an audience’ perspective it’s fair to expect their latest team up, in this Paramount released quasi-military thriller, was going to be an adequate watch, even if not necessarily on the same level of quality.
Sadly, this brand-new action flick, which was previously titled Violence of Action, ends up being as paint by numbers as they come, without any surprises or even a high entertainment quotient.
Despite a noteworthy cast that also includes the likes of Kiefer Sutherland, Eddie Marsan and Gillian Jacobs, here, director Tarek Saleh precisely executes the generic aim to sell, and Chris Pine, the mandatory famous face given the task of using his star power to elevate a formulaic plot, the film just never rises above fulfilling its most predictable expectations.
Sure, it contains a couple of captivating action sequences and some interesting moments, yet it never manages to free itself from its mediocre imagination-inhibiting shackles.
The story follows Sergeant James Harper (Chris Pine), who due to his usage of unsanctioned medication to treat nagging injuries incurred during service, finds himself honorably discharged from the U.S. Special Forces, that too without any pension and healthcare benefits.
With debts piling up at home and the struggle to provide for his family only getting tougher, Harper, against the wishes of his wife Brianne (Gillian Jacobs), ends up signing up with Mike (Ben Foster), a former superior and a close friend, to enter the world of private contracting.
Partaking in wet work under the employ of grizzled veteran Rusty Jennings (Keifer Sutherland), his first job takes him to Berlin to stop a well-funded bio-terrorist. But despite assurances, things don’t go according to plan.
While the film looks spectacular from beginning to end, simply told, director Tarik Saleh is unable to turn writer J. P. Davis‘ mediocre screenplay into something unique that can distinguishes itself in the already crowded genre. Instead it seems torn between becoming two types of films. One, the direct-to-video staple of a reluctant soldier bearing arms to protect his family, and the second, a bleak condemnation of private contracting.
Throughout its run time, the film struggles to make both of these aspects to work together, only to lead towards a generic conclusion. If only it had positioned itself as purely a B-film action spectacle, it might have been easier to forgive some of its other shortcomings.
Unfortunately it doesn’t, making it comes across as a highlight reel of better action thrillers haphazardly stitched together with a story that is far too paper-thin to carry itself for its entire 103 minute runtime.
It also doesn’t help that the action scenes are choppy and uninspired, with the ultimate climax showdown being the biggest letdown, leaving off with an unlikely ending squeezed into place.
No doubt, director Tarek Saleh shows some talent for conducting realistic military action, and seems to understands the importance of the quieter moments, giving them as much equal weighting as the action scenes, the familiar narrative and a dreary tone ends up playing spoil sport.
Unsurprisingly, Chris Pine ends up carrying almost the entire film and gives a solid performance in a role that’s a long way from the films we’re used to seeing him in. Of course, his scenes with Ben Foster end up creating some moments of high intensity, specifically in the final act.
But while Foster gives a controlled performance, his casting in the particular role ends up becoming predictable. In supporting roles, Kiefer Sutherland and Gillian Jacobs don’t get much to do, while Eddie Marsan at least gets a few scenes to shine.
However, in other roles Nina Hoss, J. D. Pardo, Amira Casar, Florian Munteanu, and Fares Fares are wasted. On the whole, ‘The Contractor’ is a generic run of the mill action flick that even the Chris Pine-Ben Foster combo can’t elevate.
Directed – Tarik Saleh
Rated – R
Run Time – 103 minutes