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The Contract
Genre Thriller
Year: 2006

The Contract comes to screen courtesy of Bruce Beresford (Double Jeopardy), and stars Morgan Freeman and John Cusack. Freeman and Cusack are two interesting casting decisions in The Contract. Freeman usually plays the good guy in crime thrillers like Se7en, Kiss the Girls and Along Came A Spider. His counterpart, played by John Cusack is even less synonymous with the mix of genres having played in The Ice Harvest and Runaway Jury. Together they seem like an odd couple since they’re both lead actors and usually play the good guys. Putting two good guys opposite each other in a crime thriller is pointless, and that’s the tone that sustains this run-of-the-mill forest fugitive caper as a father tries to use an escaped contract killer as his bargaining chip, when he and his son happen upon him while camping in the woods.

The Contract has resonance with Robert Redford’s The Clearing, except there are more people involved. It deals in inconsistencies and leaves the audience with a range of questions. Ray (Cusack) wants to redeem himself in his son’s eyes, and Carden (Freeman) wants to get back to finish his contract. So the two forge an unholy alliance as they try to get out of the woods. What complicates a 1, 2, 3… split is that Carden’s hired men are after the party of campers. They want Carden as their shield in case the men find them, and Carden wants to get back to what he does best. The henchmen have ulterior motives and the movie tries to inject sub-plots into the story to distract the audience from the action. The backbone to The Contract is flimsy and it’s one of those movies, which begs the question ‘why’.

Why are these characters so intent on bringing a criminal to justice? Why do they want to risk their lives in order to bring him down? Why is this the focus of the film, when an assassination is on the cards? The Contract never really explains these aspects and introduces a bunch of people with fancy wallets to make everything seem much more urgent and critical to national security. The Contract feels like it should’ve been a 15 minute segment to a larger film. The circles in the forest don’t have the same stamina and momentum as Sylvester Stallone in Rambo: First Blood or Harrison Ford in The Fugitive. The forest is beautiful and it’s great to see a film shot outdoors. However, the scenery only detracts from the talent of Cusack and Freeman, who would’ve suited more close ups. The stubborn ex-cop slash gym teacher is tenacious and puts his son in danger when it can be avoided. The contract killer is just a pawn in the movie and he never really poses any threat. The Contract gets to the crux and then acts as if the entire forest escapade was a speed bump in the narrative. The movie suffers from poor writing and gets so knotted in sub-plots that it forgets to introduce the smaller characters properly. All the minor characters cluster around, but don’t really integrate into the story. The performances are adequate, but Freeman and Cusack are wasted. If you enjoyed The Clearing, you’ll probably get a kick out of The Contract. It’s a standard crime thriller chase with a decent cast, but you should probably concentrate on the area around the holes.

The bottom line: Pointless.

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