Sometimes there are movies that, after you watching, you say to yourself “why was that even made?” The Contract is one such film, as, despite starting out strong, quickly dissolves into a film that has no real flow and ends up boring the viewer.
While on a hiking trip to reconnect with his son, Ray Keene (John Cusack) stumbles into a nightmare scenario of paid assassins and ex-military guns-for-hire. Frank Cardin (Morgan Freeman) is attempting to fulfill a contract to assassinate a high profile businessman when things go awry and he ends up in the custody of the U.S. Marshalls. After an ill-fated attempt by his com[patriots to free him, Frank finds himself in the custody of ex-lawman Ray and his son (Jamie Anderson). As they try to make their way back to civilization they are relentlessly pursued by Frank’s friends who are intent on freeing their leader in order to collect on the contract. But one may be more foe than friend.
While the films premise may have sounded good on paper, the execution was just incredibly dull. None of the characters were fleshed out (Keene and his son are given a generic scenario where the mother died and the son is distancing from the father more so each day) and it was overall just an annoying film to watch. While Cusack and Freeman were great to watch in scenes together, whenever the camera was away from them and on Freeman’s men or the FBI, the film immediately fell apart. The acting on both the henchmen and the FBI’s part was sub-par and worthy of a direct-to-DVD (which I believe this film essentially is, as I couldn’t find any box office records for it) or made-for-TV feature. I guess the films budget was spent on Freeman and Cusack as no one else, save for maybe Jamie Anderson as Cusack’s son, Alice Krige as Miles or Megan Dodds as Sandra, could stand up to the plate and deliver the scripts without making the lines sound worse than they really were or make their characters completely shallow.
The end result of the film (Frank ending up getting to his target after all and Sandra seemingly ending up with Ray despite just having lost her husband after being pursued by Frank’s men) is perhaps one of the most annoying aspects of all. The whole wrap up of the film seemed tacked on, with the only real idea for the film being the trek through the forest with Freeman and Cusack. Once the first and second acts were over the film lost all stability it had and was thrown into a “hurry up and finish” mode.
Looking back, the name of the film doesn’t even really have as much poignancy as you would think based on the first few minutes of the film and the tagline, “Every killer meets his equal.”, is equally confusing. Ray and Frank are in no way equal each other and while the two may have formed a bond over the course of their journey in the woods, Frank’s message to Miles at the end of the film about leaving Ray and his son alone is perplexing. In addition, we’re given this mysterious aspect of Frank’s character from early on in the film and it ends up never being resolved, aside from some notes that he was ex-military or some such. Some may say this was done to leave the viewer guessing, but the film was so poorly put together that I doubt there was anything ever planned for Frank’s character.
Overall this film is not even worth a rental. It’s a really big waste of time and don’t let the names of Cusack and Freeman drag you into viewing the film—it’s not horrible, it’s not great, it’s not anything. It’s just a film and one that no one’s going to be better off having seen. Skip it.
Apparently this film did well enough on DVD and HD-DVD back in July 2007 that First Look Studios decided to dump this one into their ever-expanding Blu-ray library as well. Aside from a format change and an Elite Blu-ray case, however, the differences between this release and the HD-DVD release are minimal, if any. Granted I don’t own the HD-DVD version, but I have seen it and from what I can recall this appears to be made up of the same fundamental goodies.
The video arrives in a VC-1 encoded transfer that looks quite remarkable. Although the film was slightly muddy on DVD, the forest, cabin and every rush of water or gravely shore looks fantastic here. I may not have enjoyed the film the first time (or second time), but it certainly was easier on the eyes the second time around. I’ve reviewed plenty of First Look’s DVDs over the years, but this is one of the first Blu-ray’s of theirs I’ve seen and I have to say I’m quite impressed. Although their video for DVD is always a 480i interlaced transfer, this 1080p edition looks nothing short of fantastic.
Also included here is a TrueHD 5.1 track that is about the same as the standard DVD edition, if my memory serves correct. It’s not bad in any way, it just doesn’t particularly impress at all either. There are some nice surround effects with cracking sticks in the woods, but other than that you’re going to be focused primarily on the main channels.
The only special feature on the set is a “Making of” documentary which contains interviews with the cast and crew (mainly crew who sing the praises of Freeman and Cusack). This documentary is your standard fluff piece, running over twenty minutes in length and condensing everything from casting to locations down to a suitable run time for a film such as this. The making-of documentary even has a low production quality feel about it, which is a bit of a shame.
Overall if you buy a release for a film and this film is nowhere near worth owning. The extras on this disc certainly doesn’t warrant a purchase and as much as I hate to say it about a film with Cusack and Freeman in it…Skip it. There’s nothing worthwhile to see here and you’ll only wish you had rented another title instead.
The Contract arrives Blu-ray December 2nd.