A pitch that is reminiscent of the first feature film Impossible mission and many other films where a protagonist is duped by his superiors and is forced to increase the global death rate for the rest of the story. On paper, The Contractor does not stand out for its great originality. Kind American hero James leaves the army and takes care of his sweet family… before returning to the service to try to save them – not from an evil terrorist, but from severe debt.
The identity of the antagonist takes shape fairly quickly and the course of the action is rarely disrupted by violent reversals. Short, The Contractor goes from point A to point B. But throughout a miserly first part in action, the more personal and sensitive stakes of the characters take shape. Chris Pine’s difficult return to the fold combined with Ben Foster’s concern for his disabled child gives body to the main protagonists.
“I want you on my team!”
Patterns that do not serve as a gimmick for a story on autopilot. The screenplay by JP Davis also insists surprisingly on the rage of the scientist’s family and on the brief exchange between Chris Pine and one of his attackers in a bad state following a chase. By focusing on the feelings of semi-tertiary characters, collateral damage of the events of the plot, the feature film directed by Tarik Saleh goes beyond the simple actioner nag which connects the inconsequential adventures and scriptwriting clichés.
The bifurcation towards a more muscular second part is then all the more engaging, The Contractor arming himself with some nice technical know-how during his action sequences. The precision of the editing and the harshness of the cutting are then combined by striving to find a happy medium between a palpable crudeness and a barely spectacularized brutality. In its stakes and its staging, The Contractor does everything possible to be tangible and human.
Chris Pine at the end of his life
the fine red pine
The feature therefore tries to do not succumb to clichés, or even better, to play with. In its first 15 minutes, this former soldier – who, like all American heroes, jogs – finds his family and spends time with them. The short aerial lens of Tarik Saleh’s camera follows the protagonists to the municipal swimming pool where the father teaches his son to swim, an American flag above their heads.
This fantasized and deliberately accentuated vision of the American family crumbles later when JP Davis’ screenplay reveals the violence behind the flag. A social violence at first, with the abandonment of former soldiers without financial cover, but also psychological considering the marks, physical or not, left by the exacerbated patriotism of the father of Chris Pine on his boy.
A hero more fragile than it seems
A body that is not spared during the film. Between his knee injury – prior to the story – and the sacred blows that James receives: the hero’s flesh is abusedthe character does not emerge from the film hopping, cheerful and joyful. Chris Pine is fragile here and does not hesitate to indulge in outbursts of animosities against his opponents, especially during the same chase sequence which ends in the sewers.
Violence also regularly arises abruptly in the story, cleverly playing on the balance of downtime to spark a bloody conflict at any time. Whether it’s the bifurcation already present in the trailer that leads to the hunt for Chris Pine or the conclusion of the break with Eddie Marsan: hidden violence explodes without warning in the feature filmdeploying a rather stimulating constant restlessness.
What becomes of the American hero in 2022?
Make America Great Again
The figure of the classic American hero is therefore abused in The ContractorJP Davis and Tarik Saleh preferring to direct a human, vacillating character, rather than a morally blameless bulldozer. In this idea of reworking the American-style savior, actor Kiefer Sutherland – whose fame is very much centered around his character as an anti-terrorist agent in the series 24 hour clock – interprets here the great manipulator of the story.
A way of playing with this image of a former hero who would now be one with the system, its manipulation and its violence. years later A history of violence, blue velvet or Triple frontierTarik Saleh and JP Davis therefore discover that the sweetness of the American dream is only an illusion, that capitalism individualizes and that Americans should not be bothered too much. A not very innovative speech as such, but backed up with honesty by the attention to the gallery of characters running through the film.
With her Chris Pine trapped, alone and wanted, The Contractor progresses towards a vengeful and desperate third third, which is reminiscent of the films of the great American filmmaker Sam Peckinpah (The Wild Horde, Bring me the head of Alfredo Garcia). If Tarik Saleh and JP Davis do not go to a conclusion as dark as those of one of the masters of New Hollywood, they nevertheless explore with The Contractor a bitter gravity quite rare for an actioner of this type.
The Contractor has been available on Amazon Prime Video since April 4, 2022 in France.