REVIEW BY: Darren Zakus
"The Contractor" squanders the ever talented Chris Pine, forcing him into a general action thriller that is entertaining yet predictable, but instantly forgettable once the credits begin rolling.
I think Chris Pine is truly one of the most underrated actors currently working in Hollywood today, and I never pass up on a film he is starring in. So when "The Contractor" hit Amazon Prime Video, I knew I immediately had my Friday night plans sorted. I went in with low expectations given the release strategy Paramount Pictures chose for this film, and while I had enough fun to sustain my attention over the course of the film, I can't help but feel cheated as this could have been a much better action thriller.
Pine stars as James Harper, a recently discharged U.S. Special Forces sergeant who takes on a job as a contractor with a private organization. However, his first mission goes sideways in Germany and James is stranded, injured and forced to fight to survive as he is hunted down. It’s your generic action thriller, reminiscent of a Tom Clancy story, with betrayal, gun fights and chase sequences. However, what is missing from the story is any sort of emotional connection to Pine’s character or a larger conspiracy that provides a meaningful and convincing explanation for all the events that transpire over the course of the film. The film’s first fifteen minutes focus on James’ wife, portrayed by Gillian Jacobs, and his son, but it's a short amount of time that gives you no sense of the relationship or who these characters are. They literally fill the role of wife and son in the script, acting more as plot points to provide James with a reason to survive, rather than as fully developed characters for the audience to attach to so you feel James’ struggle as he fights to return home to them. This is no fault of Jacobs, who is a great actress, but is barely given any dialogue or material to work with as she is merely delivering plot points in dialogue to set up her husband taking the private contracting job. And then there was the explanation for the events that leave James stranded on his mission, and it was just so lackluster. There was really not much to it, and while there was enough happening to keep the film moving, you can call the twist from the beginning and it did induce some eye rolling when it is revealed to be that simplistic and generic.
Luckily, Pine is great in the lead role. He captures the tortured spirit of his character fighting for survival with a quiet intensity that carries the entire film from start to finish. While it’s not an incredible performance by any standard, Pine elevates the writing and makes the most of the material he is given to create an engaging film. Ben Foster and Keifer Sutherland co-star, and while both are good actors, they are both given relatively small amounts of screen time without a lot to do, which prevents the film from fully realizing their talents. Luckily, the action in the film is decent and fills up the majority of the second half which helps create a high octane sprint to the end of the film. Florian Munteanu appears as one of the men hunting James, and his menacing stature, combined with Pine’s performances, makes for a solid action sequence.
Aided by a short run time, the film never drags nor overstays its welcome. The film doesn’t promise anything incredible from the trailers or the description, you know exactly what’s coming your way when you sit down to watch this film. It’s just a missed opportunity as the film never rises to the occasion to become something truly great, as small action thrillers like this can break out to be successful hits, insteading feeling like every other action thriller with a similar plot. You can never go wrong with Chris Pine, and he makes The Contractor an entertaining watch, even if the generic and predictable story and paperthin supporting characters allow you to forget this film almost immediately once the credits begin.