Frank Carden is a hired assassin in the middle of a series of contract kills. He has one last hit to fulfill when he is involved in a freak accident and taken into custody. While being transported by U.S. Marshalls, his associates intervene and cause another accident, this one leaving Frank in the middle of the Washington forests where he is captured by a former police officer named Ray, who is camping with his son. Ray is determined to transport Frank into custody while being hunted by the associates, one of which wants Frank dead.
Sometimes a movie comes along and looks about as generic as you can get. The Contract is one of those movies. It stars John Cusack as an everyman and Morgan Freeman as a hired assassin. You can’t typecast any worse unless you cast Jean Claude Van Damme as a martial arts expert and Danny Trejo as a Mexican. It is testament to the skills of the performers that this movie is able to rise above the boring premise and end up an entertaining little movie.
John Cusack is Ray Keene, a single father trying to connect with his troubled son. There is a lot to Cusack’s back story but unfortunately it is all told to us and none of his character’s history ends up important to the story at all. Ray’s wife died of cancer and his son, Chris, uses this as exposition to explain how things don’t always turn out right. He also used to be a police officer who now works as a gym teacher. Neither of those traits matter either because with everything that happens in the movie, he could just as well been a banker or insurance salesman. We wouldn’t even know he was a police officer if not for one throwaway line of dialogue in the film.
Ray and Chris go on a camping trip to bond when they come across a hired assassin named Frank who just escaped from U.S. Marshalls when his associates killed the Marshalls escorting him, causing the car he was in to catapult off a cliff and into the middle of Washington State’s forests. Ray chooses not to let Frank go, takes him at gunpoint, and plans to turn him over to the police.
The movie is a typical B-action movie that presents Ray, Chris and Frank making their way through the woods while Frank’s associates follow, attempting to rescue their leader. Cusack is perfect in his role as Ray and Freeman is spot-on as the assassin, both of which should be no surprise. However, the actors didn’t just call in their roles and give it their all, making this a very enjoyable movie.
Director Bruce Beresford is a complete professional, directing the wonderful Horton Foote film Tender Mercies way back in 1983. He directed this completely average thriller to a level that left me satisfied with the experience. The cinematography by Dante Spinotti (Public Enemies) is beautiful, utilizing the Spokane, Washington scenery to its fullest. On Blu-Ray it looks even better. If nothing else, this is a beautifully shot film.
It is not a movie that will live as a classic in the genre and there are numerous thrillers I recommend above this. The script is overly simplistic and the depth is almost non-existent. The dialogue is not great, but the quality actors pull it off anyway. The best part of the story is the father/son dynamic between Ray and Chris but, as with the rest of the story, it is just there to move the story forward. It is not the best recommendation but there are worse ways to spend an evening.
There is one feature on the Blu-Ray called Inside the Contract (21:00). It is a decent making-of showing how much of the film was shot but overall it is just a glad handed effort. There are also trailers for Transsiberian, War Inc, Sukiyaki Western Django, and Meet Bill.