Directed by Tarik Saleh and written by J.P. Davis, The Contractor reteams Chris Pine and Ben Foster after they co-starred in the unforgettable Hell Or High Water. Here, Pine stars as James Harper, an Army lifer who gets medically discharged. With his family, his wife Brianne (Gillian Jacobs) and young son Jack (Sander Thomas), going into mounting debt, James turns to his old military buddy Mike (Ben Foster) to obtain a private security job. Naturally, Mike vouches for James to his boss, Rusty (Keifer Sutherland), who hires him on the spot.
James runs a “coffee import/export business” which actually deals in government contracts, interrogations, and subterfuge. So, without much ado and missing his son’s birthday, James is on a plane to Berlin with Mike, where they contact Katia (Nina Hoss). She gives them the rundown of their target, scientist Salim (Fares Fares), but the mission goes pear-shaped. Now, James is on the run for his life, unsure if he can trust anyone, including Mike or the seemingly friendly Virgil (Eddie Marsan).
Saleh hit the scene with the stunning Metropia and has steadily been working since (a lot of popular television shows). With The Contractor, he delivers a more emotional story than expected. Davis’ screenplay takes its time establishing James and his life before getting to the action. This gives audiences a personal investment in the protagonist and ups the stakes, as we all care about what happens to James. Mike and Rusty are also given decent characterizations, though all the other characters are sidelined.
There are half a dozen or so members of Rusty’s mercenary operation, and I cannot name anyone outside of James and Mike. Unfortunately, this extends to those actors as well. Fans of Jacobs will be sorely disappointed, as her character is given little to do, and the actor barely makes an impression. The other mercs are indistinguishable from each other, both as written and how they’re portrayed.
“…the mission goes pear-shaped. Now, James is on the run for his life…”
But, all is not lost in The Contractor, as Pine, Foster, Sutherland, and Marsan are excellent. Sutherland is charming and sleazy all at once. Marsan is warm, though he still plays it close to the vest, ably hiding his character’s true intentions. Of course, Ben Foster is a firecracker, though he underplays a lot of it, making him all the more menacing and unhinged.
But, this is Pine’s show from start to finish, and he’s more than up to the task. Pine holds his own during the excellent action beats, making them feel real. Pine brings a lot of weight and charm to James, so even his poor decisions, born out of desperation, still make total sense. While early roles of his did not suit the actor much (he’s a dull Kirk, to say the least), Pine has found his strengths as a performer and gets to play to them all here.
Plus, The Contractor has great fight sequences. Most of the battles throughout involve gunplay, but in a more grounded way than the fantastical heights of John Wick or Nobody. This approach makes the plot easier to swallow, as the film is meant to be in the real world. It also has the added bonus of helping ground the emotions due to how Saleh and Pine approach the material.
If viewers long for the intrigue of the Bourne series, The Contractor will surely whet their appetite. Yes, most of the supporting cast is unmemorable, though underdeveloped characters don’t help them. But, the core cast, Pine and Foster especially, are superb, while the screenplay gives them plenty to chew on. At a quickly moving 105 minutes, the film is worth the time investment.
"…Pine holds his own during the excellent action beats..."