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The Contract
DVD disk
08.14.2007 By: Quigles
The Contract order
Director:
Bruce Beresford

Actors:
John Cusack
Morgan Freeman
Jamie Anderson

Rating:
Movie:
Extras:
Overall:

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WHAT'S IT ABOUT?
Out camping, a father (John Cusack) and son come across a dying cop and a convict (Morgan Freeman). The dad takes control of the situation by using the cop's gun to keep the prisoner captive. But as it turns out, the criminal is actually a big time contract killer, and his teammates will do everything in their power to get him back... even if it means killing those who stand in their way.
IS IT A GOOD MOVIE?
Straight-to-DVD or not, I was right along with THE CONTRACT as it began—nicely angled shots, good use of slow motion, slick camera move... And then Morgan Freeman uttered the first line of dialogue mysteriously into a cell phone: "It's on." Cue the music crescendoing into an intense blaring as the title fades onscreen. My hopes sunk right then and there.

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.
THE EXTRAS
Not much, expectedly.

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.
FINAL DIAGNOSIS
With 1408 and the upcoming MARTIAN KID, I had thought John Cusack (one of my favorite actors) was bringing back the good stuff. It's a little hard to believe that though, after just having endured the unthrilling thriller, THE CONTRACT. I don't know what happened during production to make this as bad as it ended up being, but I can say with some certainty that those who watch it will likely end up frustrated by how stunningly average and formulaic the whole thing is.
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