The Contractor isn’t much for ambition, but it accomplishes precisely what it sets out to, and lets Chris Pine have a little fun in the meantime.
Is Chris Pine getting into the DTV action programmer game? You might think so after watching The Contractor, a perfectly respectable, largely formulaic little transmission that could just as easily have starred Liam Neeson or Jason Statham (not that they’d have actually been any good in it) and wound up on Netflix or in the $5 Blu-ray bin at Target. Pine plays James Harper, Army Special Forces. A shredded knee has had him in rehab and out of deployment, but when a drug test turns up all the hormones and steroids he’s been taking to get up to spec, he’s unceremoniously discharged and deprived of his federal pension, benefits, and healthcare. The bills start piling up, etc., and so Harper gets in touch with an old combat buddy, Mike (Ben Foster), who in turn hooks him up with a gig with a private contract security firm run by Rusty (Kiefer Sutherland). “It’s not dangerous,” he tells his wife. Uh-huh, sure. Harper’s first job finds him, along with Mike and a team of mercs (including Nina Hoss, slumming it, but hey, she gets to shoot people in this) in Berlin, surveilling a scientist who seems to be involved in bioterrorism. After a nifty little nighttime raid on the guy’s lab, an unexpected shootout leaves Harper on his own, wounded, weak due to his old injury, and, wouldn’t you know it, slowly realizing just how bad he’s been double-crossed.
Is there anything particularly novel about The Contractor? Nope, but that’s fine. Pine generates enough pathos and sad sap to carry the movie through the schmaltzy, expository first act, and then enough gravitas to be a convincing operator. Some late-film histrionics are a bit much, but hey, let the guy have something to chew on — given the lowbrow actioner territory, it’s only right. Director Tarik Saleh does a solid job with the action sequences, particularly a mid-film showdown with the police and a motorcycle ambush a little later on. Most of it is shot handheld for a little of that Bourne-style immediacy, but thankfully the cutting is slick and economical. Point is, even when things slow down a bit too much in the third act, there’s enough meat on this to keep it interesting. Sometimes you want a movie to do exactly what it says on the back cover, and The Contractor does precisely that. Small victories.