Movie Review: ‘The Contractor’

Review by James Lindorf

Six years ago, Chris Pine and Ben Foster played Toby and Tanner Howard, a pair of bank-robbing brothers in “Hell or High Water,” which would earn four Academy Award nominations. On April 1st, in a day and date release, they reteam as brothers in arms in “The Contractor.” Pine and Foster were Directed by Tarik Saleh (The Nile Hilton Incident), with a script from J.P. Davis (The Neighbor), and are joined by Kiefer Sutherland, Gillian Jacobs, and Eddie Marsan.

Pine stars as a husband, father, and Special Forces Sergeant James Harper. After suffering a debilitating knee injury, Harper is involuntarily discharged from the Army and cut off from his pension. As the pile of past-due bills grows, Harper turns to his friend and former commanding officer, Mike (Foster), for help. Mike is part of Rusty’s (Sutherland) private underground military force that offers lucrative black-ops work. Everything seems above board, and Harper is thrilled to be back defending his country and supporting his family. Unfortunately, his first assignment goes awry, and the elite soldier finds himself hunted and on the run.

When he sat down to write “The Contractor,” Davis didn’t want to create the generic action film prevalent on streaming services. He wanted to talk about some of the more controversial topics surrounding the American military. The first half of the film is peppered with well-intentioned but on-the-nose speeches about the treatment of veterans. At one point, Rusty declares that “we gave them our minds, our bodies, and our spirit. And they chewed us up and spit us out.” Once the mission is underway, the topic under the microscope is the use of mercenary groups and who precisely their work serves. Are they protecting national or personal interests, or are they just another way for the rich to gain more wealth? Once the mission begins, the main focus shifts to the action.

The action is, in a word, fine. Pine is no stranger to this style of action, and the stunt coordination is effective if unimaginative. There isn’t a single thing done that hasn’t been done a dozen times. Sometimes better, sometimes worse. The problem with most of the action elements is a mix of the editing and the choreography. There is a big four-way shootout at one point, and what should be this frantic moment feels meticulously thought out and times. Almost as if someone wrote down second by second rules for where the scenes would need to be cut and what would follow instead of finding the flow that pulls a viewer in and makes filmmaking an art.

Pine and Foster are perfectly cast. They have proven many times over their careers that they can play these complex men blending hope, despair, loyalty, and betrayal. They may have their reservations, but they only know how to do one thing well enough to support their family. And that is a mission they will take on no matter the consequences. In the dissection of the film, there is more to say about what these men are going through and how they feel than is said in the movie. Even with a great acting duo, Davis’ script barely scratches the surface of the controversial topics. It is not just enough to shine a light on a problem when everyone already knows it exists. I believe the script shows that Davis is a talented writer. Still, with only a handful of films under his belt and the last one coming 15 years ago, he may have been too rusty to provide this story with the depth it required. “The Contractor” has lofty goals and fails to meet those aspirations but still comes out ahead of most of its competitors and earns a 3 out of 5.

Rating: R (Violence and Language)
Genre: Mystery & Thriller, Action
Original Language: English
Director: Tarik Saleh
Producer: Basil Iwanyk, Erica Lee
Writer: J.P. Davis
Release Date: April 1st, 2022
Runtime: 1h 43m

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