Violent, unthrilling thriller with a message.
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A Lot or a Little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that The Contractor is a somber action/thriller about a U.S. Special Forces sergeant (Chris Pine) who's discharged without his benefits or pension and must resort to private contract work to support his family. Violence includes guns and shooting, characters being killed, blood spurts/bloody wounds, explosions, chases, fighting, punching, and hitting with a rock. A child is forced to get a tattoo, and he winces, enduring the pain. Language includes many uses of "f--k," plus "s--t," "motherf----r," "goddamn," and more. Men are shown shirtless, a man's naked bottom is seen at a distance in a shower, a married couple cuddle and kiss, and there's brief sex talk. The main character takes various drugs to manage pain; when he's discharged, it's for "drugs in his system." Adults also drink beer casually/socially.
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What's the Story?
In THE CONTRACTOR, U.S. Special Forces Sergeant James Harper (Chris Pine) is discharged without pension or benefits due to various drugs found in his system, which he takes to cope with the pain in his damaged knee. Strapped for cash and desperate to care for his wife (Gillian Jacobs) and young son, James speaks to his old friend Mike (Ben Foster) about becoming a private contractor. It's potentially dangerous work, but after meeting Dusty (Kiefer Sutherland), the man in charge, James agrees, and he and Mike are sent to Berlin to kill a potential bioterrorist. Unfortunately, James discovers that the target is actually a scientist who's developed an important vaccine, and he begins to question his role there. It's not long before the team is attacked, and a wounded James must make his way through hostile country to return to his family.
Is It Any Good?
A fair, well-acted movie with all-too-relevant themes, this thriller is also stuck with a somber tone and middling pace that unfortunately bring little excitement or emotion to its familiar story. The English-language debut of Swedish filmmaker Tarik Saleh, The Contractor is really about how American bureaucracy treats lives as disposable, caring for profits over people and creating situations that call for desperate measures. That's all clear enough, but that message could have been couched in a less heavy vessel to help viewers meet it halfway. Certainly Pine and the other performers try their best; Sutherland is nearly unrecognizable as the mission mastermind, and Eddie Marsan does powerful things with only a few scenes as a lone, lonely Special Forces guy who helps James.
On the downside, Jacobs has little to do other than play the waiting, worrying wife, and the casting of Foster in this particular role is rather lazy and predictable. Additionally, The Contractor has a dreary tone and a deadly pace. It moves quickly enough to finish in just 103 minutes, yet it feels both slow and not slow enough. It doesn't have enough time to linger over details or moments to let them sink in, but it also never quickens the pulse. The action scenes are choppy and uninspired, while the big showdown is more of a letdown, leaving off with an unlikely ending squeezed into place. Surely, there was a worthy movie in here somewhere along the line, but the final result isn't it.
Talk to Your Kids About ...
Families can talk about The Contractor's violence. How did it make you feel? Was it exciting? Shocking? What did the movie show or not show to achieve this effect? Why is that important?
How are drugs depicted? What does "self-medicating" mean? Are there consequences for using drugs here?
What are the movie's themes? Why do corporations and organizations seem so uncaring toward individual people? Do they really place profits over people? How?
Did you notice positive diverse representations in this movie? Why is that an important aspect to consider in the media we consume?
Is James Harper a hero? An anti-hero? A role model? Something else? What are the distinctions between these categories?
- In theaters: April 1, 2022
- On DVD or streaming: April 1, 2022
- Cast: Chris Pine, Ben Foster, Gillian Jacobs
- Director: Tarik Saleh
- Studio: Paramount Pictures
- Genre: Action/Adventure
- Run time: 103 minutes
- MPAA rating: R
- MPAA explanation: violence and language
- Last updated: March 30, 2023
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