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With: Chris Pine, Ben Foster, Gillian Jacobs, Eddie Marsan, Kiefer Sutherland, Nina Hoss, Amira Casar, Fares Fares, J. D. Pardo, Florian Munteanu
Written by: J.P. Davis
Directed by: Tarik Saleh
MPAA Rating: R for violence and language
Running Time: 103
Date: 04/01/2022

The Contractor (2022)

2 Stars (out of 4)

Pension Tension

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

A fair, well-acted movie with all-too relevant themes, this thriller is also stuck with a somber tone and middling pace that unfortunately bring little excitement or emotion to its familiar story.

U.S. Special Forces sergeant James Harper (Chris Pine) receives a discharge without pension or benefits, due to various drugs found in his system; he takes them to cope with the pain in his damaged knee. Strapped for cash, and desperate to care for his wife (Gillian Jacobs) and young son, he speaks to his old friend Mike (Ben Foster) about becoming a private contractor. It's potentially dangerous work, but after meeting Dusty (Kiefer Sutherland), the man in charge, he agrees.

James and Mike are sent to Berlin to kill a potential bio-terrorist. Unfortunately, James discovers that the man is actually a scientist that has developed an important vaccine, and begins to question his role there. It's not long before the team is attacked, and a wounded James must make his way through hostile country to return to his family.

An English-language debut by Swedish filmmaker Tarik Saleh, The Contractor is really about how American bureaucracy treats lives as disposable, caring for profits over people, and creating situations that call for desperate measures. That's clear enough, but this message could have been couched in a less heavy vessel so that viewers could meet it halfway. Certainly Pine and the other performers try their best; Sutherland is nearly unrecognizable as the mission mastermind, and Eddie Marsan does powerful things with only a few scenes, as a lone, lonely special forces guy who helps James.

On the downside, Jacobs has little to do other than play the "waiting, worrying wife," and the casting of Foster in his particular role is rather lazy and predictable. Additionally, The Contractor has a dreary tone, and a deadly pace. It moves quick enough to finish in just 103 minutes, but it feels slow, and yet not slow enough. It doesn't have enough time to linger over details or moments to let them sink in, but it also never quickens the pulse.

The action scenes are choppy and uninspired, while the big showdown is more of a letdown, leaving off with an unlikely ending squeezed into place. Surely, there was a worthy movie somewhere alone the line, but this final result isn't it.

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