Reuniting with his Hell or High Water co-star Ben Foster, Chris Pine leads a solid action thriller about the shadowy underbelly of serving one’s country. The Contractor aims to tell the story of one man's desperate attempts to do right by his family after being failed by the inept institutions that supposedly lookout for veterans. Just as Hell or High Water was a searing look at the governmental and institutional failures that lead people to desperate measures, The Contractor provides a similar tale that shines a glaring light on the un-patriotic nature of military service. However, while this film touts the leads of Hell or High Water, it doesn't come close to being as well-executed and is not as generous with its character development.

The Contractor, previously called Violence of Action, is — on paper — a Liam Neeson film. The title is even reminiscent of the recent string of action thrillers Neeson has starred in, where he plays a man with a particular set of skills who has been wronged and is out for blood. However, Pine is a damn good leading man who provides his rather lazily drawn character depth and nuance. Much has been said about the man’s dazzling blue eyes, but there is a great deal of talent there that gives us a deeper understanding of his character's pathos.

Related: The Contractor Trailer Sees Chris Pine On The Run From Shadowy Forces

the contractor review
Gillian Jacobs and Chris Pine in The Contractor

The Contractor follows James (Pine), a medical sergeant who, after many efforts to be deployed again after a knee injury, is dishonorably discharged. With little work to be found and a pile of bills, he turns to his army buddy, Mike (Foster), for help. Mike introduces James to a black ops team that specializes in super shady operations that are supposedly sanctioned by the president himself. This tribe of vets form a unit that executes a number of missions that range from recon to assassinations of suspected terrorists. Of course, any discerning viewer can see that this is not honorable work, but James takes the bait. The film, in many ways, is the antithesis of the likes of Zero Dark Thirty or 13 Hours. This is not a pro-military piece of art, which is understood from the opening scenes as viewers see the dark contrast of what is said about those who serve vs. how they are treated — as expendable weapons that are only good for killing and not much else.

Tarik Saleh’s directing is precise and brutal, but there is little flair on display to ground the messaging of J.P. Davis’ script. There is very little to enjoy overall — rather, the experience is a stomach-turning one. The Contractor is a white-knuckled ride that only gets more and more dizzyingly depressing as it carries on. All the pieces are there for a deeply poignant tale of the tragedy of being a soldier, a weapon for a powerful government. However, as the film nears its conclusion, all one feels is exhaustion and very little sympathy for our protagonist. The emotionally fraught third act, which holds a scene where Pine is capital-A acting, feels long delayed.

the contractor review
Nicolas Noblitt, Chris Pine, and Ben Foster in The Contractor

It is no surprise that this script caught the eye of Basil Iwanyk and Erica Lee, the former being a producer on Sicario and The Town. The Contractor does have a pointed message about what it means to serve one’s country, specifically the United States. There is also a layer regarding James’ traumatic upbringing with a pro-military father who chose to be a patriot over fulfilling the needs of his son. How the film falls apart is hard to discern, but it is worth noting that the internal struggle within James is only partially presented. Pine does a great deal of heavy lifting to carry the burden of giving a resonant and emotive performance that fills in the gaps in the script.

The Contractor is a dissatisfying picture that is caught between two missions. Mission one: tell an open and honest story of the horrors of military service, private contracting, and the dehumanization of soldiers during and after active service. Mission two: be a standard action-thriller about a man who has been wronged. There is a way to bridge these two elements together to have a thought-provoking film that also satisfies one's insatiable hunger for watching a badass film, but The Contractor fails to do so. Despite Chris Pine’s best efforts, the film fails to reach his level of commitment and emotional resonance.

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The Contractor opened in theaters, on digital and on demand Friday, April 1. The film is 103 minutes long and is rated R for violence and language.

Our Rating:

2.5 out of 5 (Fairly Good)
Key Release Dates
  • The Contractor (2022)Release date: Apr 01, 2022
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