Longing for another edition of the Jason Bourne franchise? Chris Pine serves one up in a fairly effective ripoff called The Contractor, in which he is an ex-military guy on the run in Europe from unknown bad guys after he is set up on a hit job that turns out to be a bit more complicated.
That is the gist of the plot in this mid-range action film that gives the ever-reliable Pine a showcase and audition tape if they reboot Bourne and Matt Damon isn’t available. Paramount is sending the pic out Friday in “theaters” and on VOD after it changed hands from original distributor STX Entertainment, which lists the film as part of its bankruptcy proceedings. That hasn’t affected the release, though, and with an A-lister like Pine in the lead and a supporting cast including Ben Foster, Kiefer Sutherland, Gillian Jacobs, Nina Hoss and others, it should fare particularly well in the home sector.
Pine plays James Harper, an ex-Green Beret who served five deployments but has been forced into an “honorable discharge” due to drug intake for his bad knees. Unfortunately the military bureaucracy has taken away his benefits and pension as part of his exit and Harper finds he — like many other returning vets — is being hung out to dry financially, and is worried about his wife (Jacobs) and young son’s future.
The opening sequences are full of patriotic imagery at funerals for those not so lucky, their PTSD getting the better of them. When Harper’s superior and best buddy (Foster) provides entrance into what seems like an easy-money opportunity to work with a private contractor in need of someone like him and his special skills, Harper jumps at the chance. That would be Rusty Jennings (Sutherland), who sends them off for $50,000 to eliminate Salim Mohsin (Fares Fares), a man he describes as a bioterrorist working with Al Qaeda.
Invading his lab in Berlin along with another local partner Katia (Nina Hoss), they attempt the hit job, though Salim swears desperately he is not a terrorist but rather a scientist on the verge of a breakthrough with a life-saving vaccine. His pleas for his life don’t work, and the place is blown up after they kill him. But could he be telling the truth and Harper was set up by unknown evil forces with different agendas?
This sets the cat-and-mouse game in motion as he is now on the run, a target of unseen forces around every corner, and must not only survive but live to uncover a very dangerous operation. Along the way Harper lands in the safe house of a compassionate military operative (Eddie Marsan), as one chase leads to another, Bourne-style, with the scary prospect being the question he can’t answer: Who do I trust?
Pine is stoic throughout, a man caught up in circumstances beyond this control but with a skill set that matches the moment. It is also great to see him back teamed with his Hell or High Water co-star Foster, even if this material pales in comparison to that exceptional film. This is mostly predictable stuff, but director Tarik Saleh knows how to sell it, and J.P. Davis’ screenplay knows the expected tropes of this genre, while also reminding us that our military veterans are being too easily tossed aside once they are no longer of use. It is all entertaining as far as it goes. So as a handsomely cast VOD entry, this gets a pass — generic title and plot aside.
Producers are Basil Iwanyk and Erica Lee. Check out my video review with scenes from the film at the link above.
Do you plan to see The Contractor? Let us know what you think.
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