THE CONTRACT (2006)
Starring Morgan Freeman, John Cusack, Jamie Anderson, Alice Krige, Megan Dodds, Bill Smitrovich, Ned Bellamy, Jonathan Hyde, Corey Johnson and Mircea Monroe.
Written by Stephen Katz and John Darrouzet.
Directed by Bruce Beresford.
Distributed by Millennium Films. 96 minutes. Rated R.
The most surprising thing about The Contract is that it is being released straight-to-video without even the most cursory of theatrical runs. (At least in the US, there were some brief dump-and-runs last year in Europe.)
First of all – look at the stars. Morgan Freeman is a near guarantee that a movie will be interesting, even if it is not necessarily great, and he has an Oscar to prove it. John Cusack is one of the bigger, more interesting actors in the Hollywood scene – granted his star has been kind of on the wane in recent years, but he is still someone who should be able to open a movie.
To add to the confusion, The Contract is also Freeman’s reunion with his acclaimed Driving Miss Daisy director, two-time Oscar winner Bruce Beresford (Tender Mercies, Breaker Morant). The movie was obviously not made on the cheap, nor does it have the cheesy, low-budget made-for-DVD look.
Still it is being dumped straight into video stores with little fanfare – making it one of the highest-profile films yet to not even get a sniff of the multiplexes. Which left me wondering when the review copy of the DVD arrived in the mail – how bad could it possibly be?
Turns out not that bad at all, though rather formulaic. (In fact, the basic storyline is extremely similar to last year’s action film The Marine with wrestler John Cena – though The Contract does handle the plot much more skillfully than that tepid potboiler.)
Freeman plays Frank Cordell, a former CIA spook who has been under-the-radar for the 30 years since he left the agency and turned into a gun-for-hire. He is in the middle of planning a hit when a freak car crash puts him back into the eye of the law.
When Cordell is being transferred to jail, a botched escape attempt by his team leaves him in the middle of the woods, where the fed who is accompanying him tells two campers to be sure to get him to jail – right before dying. The campers are Ray Keene (John Cusack), a former-cop-turned-teacher and his son (Jamie Anderson), who are trying to mend the rifts in their relationships.
Thus begins a cat-and-mouse chase through the woods where Keene and his son try to lead Cordell past his men, all the while his men take on the law. There are crosses and double-crosses, crooked feds, multiple crashes and shootouts. Nothing stunningly original, but it’s mostly done in style.
The Contract would have never been a huge hit, but it is too good a film for the ignominious fate it was assigned – skulking into the vid stores, hat in hand. Hopefully enough people will find it on the lower shelves and give it a shot to redeem itself.
Copyright ©2007 PopEntertainment.com. All rights reserved. Posted: July 28, 2007.