Trying to figure out what went wrong with THE CONTRACT is headache inducing. Watching the film, it was obvious that this wasn't some throwaway "paycheck" picture, where it wouldn't matter if it got a theatrical release or not. No, this had a moderately hefty $25 million budget, and a two-time Academy Award nominated director at the helm (Bruce Beresford, of DRIVING MISS DAISY fame). And of course, you've got John Cusack and Morgan Freeman, two of the great actors of our time. So, just what the hell happened?
I could be wrong, but I think I've figured out the source of the problems: nobody read the script. That's it. That's all I've got. I just can't imagine why anybody would want to be associated with a screenplay so blatantly generic and cliché, not to mention filled with numerous astoundingly inane plot mechanics. It's baffling.
Aside from the dialogue and characters, nothing about the movie is explicitly awful. It is, however, aggressively mediocre. If there were a contest to make the most dull and lifeless film imaginable, THE CONTRACT would win. Taking into consideration that this stars John Cusack, one of the most charismatic sons of b*tches on the planet, I'd say that's a pretty impressive feat.
That said, Cusack isn't bad. He rarely is. But all of the characters are so painfully one-note, it's impossible to care about any of them. Morgan Freeman's teammates are the tip of the iceberg, as not one of them evolve beyond two adjective descriptions—there's the sarcastic new guy, the chess-playing smart guy, the sassy black guy, and my personal favorite, the always-wears-headphones-because-he-loves-classical-music-so-much guy. While Freeman and Cusack manage to pull off their roles easily enough (as weak as those roles may be), the rest of the actors could be outstaged by cardboard cutouts of themselves. It'd be fitting too, since that's basically what the characters are already.
If there's one thing THE CONTRACT is good for, it's that it proves you need more than money to make a worthwhile movie. Although technically, it also proves that with enough money, you can turn a lousy movie into... well, the same lousy movie, but with a few cool money shots kicking the visual spectacle up a notch. (The scene with the car speeding down the mountain ledge was particularly awesome.) Too bad the CGI sucks. I get the feeling that once the studios found out how poor the film was, they decided to cut the budget short. Makes sense. It would also help explain why the ending was so anti-climactic. The movie kick-starts with a small handful of (very mildly) entertaining moments of action, but when it gets to the very end, almost nothing exciting happens. Realize though, when I say "exciting", I'm keeping it in terms relative to what the earlier sequences offered. So, a pretty low standard. And the film isn't even capable of paying up on that.
Inside The Contract (21:00): It would've been interesting to see a real in-depth look at what problems occurred to prevent the film from taking off like it should've, but instead we just get the standard praise-filled interview clips we've all seen before. What a shock.
Aside from the featurette, there is also a Photo Gallery and some Previews.