Standard thriller that rarely excites
In this new action thriller, currently streaming on Amazon Prime, Chris Pine stars as James Harper, a Special Forces Agent who is involuntarily discharged from duty without any benefits.
Now unemployed and with a family to support, he decides to take on work as a high-risk private contractor. Unfortunately for him, Harper’s first mission goes awry when he learns that he has been betrayed. Now on his own, Harper does what he can to dig himself out of trouble and seek revenge on the people who put his life in danger.
The plotline for the movie is certainly interesting, albeit a little familiar but if you’re looking for a tense and involving action movie, you are going to be disappointed. It might sound like another Bourne-type movie with Chris Pine taking on the kind of role that Matt Damon could probably play in his sleep by now, but it’s a pale imitation that does nothing to stand out in a very crowded genre.
This isn’t the fault of Chris Pine, however. He is fine as the disgraced army veteran who is let go by his superiors after drug traces are found in his body. He has the physicality to convince as a man who takes on dangerous assignments for a shady mercenary group (led by Kiefer Sutherland) but very few scenes of him in action get the pulse racing. Oh sure, he gets to ride a motorbike, swim underwater, and get into fisticuffs with the various foes that go up against him, but the direction isn’t inventive enough to make these scenes particularly interesting.
Pine isn’t the only ex-army guy going undercover. He is joined by Mike (Ben Foster), his former comrade in arms, but despite their friendship and working relationship, it doesn’t take too long to realize they won’t be joined at the hip for long. Still, before they are forced apart, the two set out to track down a Syrian biochemist with supposed terrorist links. They do what has to be done with ruthless precision but trouble arises when Pine realizes he has been double-crossed after completing the mission.
Could it be his friend Mike who betrayed him? Or is it Rusty Jennings, the mercenary leader who seems to be the antithesis of Jack Bauer, the character Sutherland previously played in the hit series 24? Or perhaps the truth lies elsewhere? I’m not saying – you can read our Ending Explained article for that! – but needless to say, you won’t be overly surprised when you find out.
Taken as an action flick, the movie is competent rather than thrilling. But the director and screenwriters try to give the movie an extra dimension by tackling the treatment of American veterans. Pine’s character is thrown out of the army, despite his years of service, and I can only assume that real-life veterans have been discarded in the same way, without the benefits that would aid them financially. Unfortunately, any plot points related to this are quickly dismantled in favour of shootouts and tired revenge tropes, which is a shame, as this could have been a more thought-provoking action thriller.
This review sounds rather negative but the movie isn’t awful. Its story doesn’t make much of an impact and besides a few bruising fight scenes, the action doesn’t either. But there are far worse movies out there, so it’s not your worst option on a Saturday night if you’re looking for something with a few basic thrills. If you’re looking for something with more brains than brawn, however, this won’t do much to satisfy you.
Foster and Pine play well together, despite the limitations of the script they have been handed. They are both talented actors but they were better served in Hell Or High Water, the western-crime drama that proved to be a success for both of them back in 2016.
Still, at least they are given the opportunity to add a few new dimensions to the formulaic characters that they play in The Contractor, unlike Sutherland, their badass contractor-in-chief, who growls his way through an underwritten role that gives him nothing juicy to play with. Gillian Jacobs, who plays Pine’s wife in the film, has nothing much to work with either so it’s a surprise that she bothered to turn up at all for a role that is far beneath her talents.
So, what we have here is another missed opportunity that could have used a sharper script and more inventive direction. It’s a serviceable thriller that might entertain if your expectations are low but it doesn’t do much to rise above The Bourne Identity, Shooter, and Chris Pine’s previous foray into spy-thriller action territory, Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit.
Still, it’s much better than the 2007 Wesley Snipes movie of the same name, so while 2022’s The Contractor won’t give you any triple A-thrills, at least it’s better than that direct-to-video misfire.
Read More: The Contractor Ending Explained
Verdict - 6/10