Grossing only $2 million worldwide against a $50 million budget, The Contractor should now be marked in everyone’s minds as one of the worst flops this decade has yet seen. But due to its obscurity, thanks to a limited release and almost zero marketing, it has evaded such a notorious reputation. It is debatable whether this is a good or a bad thing; is a negative reputation better than no reputation at all? Either way, this action-drama vehicle for Chris Pine has been condemned by the ruthless movie gods to spend the rest of its release in cinematic purgatory, where no one will ever talk about it, much less come out to see it.
It’s unsurprising but also undeserving, because the film isn’t bad. Pine stars as James Harper, a decorated soldier who is suddenly discharged from the military after they discover he has been using steroids for medical purposes. To compensate for the benefits that the army have stripped from him and to keep his family out of debt, he joins a secret operations force in the Department of Defence run by Rusty Jennings (Kiefer Sutherland). After the first mission to assassinate a terrorist associate goes deadly wrong, James abandons his colleague and friend Mike (Ben Foster) to complete the operation, but then quickly falls into a web of lies and double-crosses, to the point where his relationship with his family is jeopardised and there are assassins left and right who are out for his blood.
What the film really has going for it is Pine’s performance. He proves his worth as a dramatic actor as well as a dynamic action star. In the nicely brutal fight scenes (which are occasionally diluted by some phoney CGI blood) Pine is convincingly ruthless and aids the realism that the movie strives for. James Harper certainly isn’t a clean-cut 12A hero: he’s a believable soldier who will do anything to complete a mission, effortlessly turning cold-blooded when the situation calls for it. Although, like a typical movie hero, he somehow endures the kind of pain that no human would suffer without collapsing from exhaustion, Pine nonetheless grounds his character with a realistic emotional depth, unafraid to display deep anguish. He has definitely proved himself to be the thinking man’s Gerard Butler, but it’s a depressing thought that Butler’s movies still make more cash.
The Contractor is released digitally on demand on 6th May 2022.
Watch the trailer for The Contractor here: