The Contract Review
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When I first heard about this straight-to-DVD release starring John Cusack and Morgan Freeman, I couldn’t wait to see it. Sure, the whole straight-to-DVD thing is rarely a good sign—but I refused to believe that two such brilliant actors could possibly make a bad movie. I figured that, together, Cusack and Freeman could make up for any problems with the plot or the directing—or anything else, for that matter. So I started making all kinds of excuses for the film’s not playing in theaters—most of which revolved around studio politics. But after about three minutes of actually watching The Contract, I realized that studio politics had nothing to do with it. It didn’t make it to theaters because it’s just plain bad.

Freeman plays Frank Cardin, a US military-trained assassin whose latest job has taken him and his crew to a small town in Washington. While he’s there, he’s in a serious car accident, and he’s rushed to the hospital. There, the doctors notice Cardin’s gun and call the police, who manage to figure out who’s in their custody. They call the government, and the US Marshals are sent to transport Cardin to Washington, D.C. But Frank’s crew isn’t far away—and they’re prepared to do whatever it takes to free him.

Nearby, Ray Keene (Cusack) is trying to reach out to his troubled teenage son, Chris (Jamie Anderson). The widowed ex-cop-turned-high-school-gym-teacher decides to try to bond with Chris by taking him camping—but while they’re hiking through the wilderness, they meet the recently-escaped Cardin and his almost-dead escort. The dying US Marshal hands Ray his gun and tells him to get Cardin to the cops. And though Cardin assures him that his men will kill them if he and Chris don’t just walk away, Ray refuses to let him go.

Had I had a few drinks before watching The Contract, it may have rated as craptastic. It is, after all, so bad that it’s funny. But even its laughability couldn’t save this one.

The main problems in The Contract revolve around the writing. The characters are completely unrealistic—and they’re constantly changing. For example, at one point, bad-guy Cardin decides to save young Chris Keene’s life. But, soon after, he tries to beat up Ray—after which they all sit down and have a nice, friendly chat over dinner. The film also features a stereotypical pair of small-town hick cops (who live in a town where no one knows what a croissant is), as well as a pair of random campers—a whiny rich girl and a guy who’s supposed to be her boyfriend (despite the fact that the bandana tied around his neck suggests that he’s probably not all that interested in girls after all).

The plot also has so many holes that there’s very little left. For instance, as Ray and Chris drag Frank through the wilderness, trying to get to a place that has cell phone reception so they can call 911, Frank’s crew follows on behind—with a laptop clearly has some kind of Internet access (which allows one of the guys to keep up with his online chess game). Other scenarios are so ridiculously implausible that it makes it impossible to take the movie seriously.

On top of all that, the dialogue is corny and melodramatic—which, in turn, makes for some painful overacting. Not even Cusack and Freeman can make the writing work—and Freeman, especially, spends most of his on-screen time looking irritated by the lines he’s forced to deliver.

When you add all the parts together, the sum is just so ridiculous that even two brilliantly talented actors couldn’t salvage it. Just take my word for it—this one’s best left on the shelf.

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