Contracts (2019) Review

Contracts Poster

Contracts made its premiere last year at the Toronto After Dark Film Festival where it picked up awards for Best Action Film and Best Fight Scene. That got stuntman turned writer/director/producer/actor Alex Chung’s noticed. It also helped set it apart from the many action films made by stunt performers who try to become the next Hal Needham or David Leitch. Is it the real thing, or just another case of festival judges not seeing things the same as general audiences?

Anthony Lo (Alex Chung) is a killer for hire who grows weary of the game. But he knows he can’t put down his guns until he finds out who killed the woman he loved, fellow assassin Malice (Margaryta Soldatova, Covenant). All he has to go on is the code name Ghost and that they kill other killers.

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Marc Sullivan (Jermaine Carty) reaches out to him. Someone is killing his people and he believes it’s Ghost. Here’s his chance to get his revenge. However, in this line of work things are never what they seem and he’s soon caught in a web of deadly betrayals. Will Anthony avenge Malice? Or join her in death?

Contracts is a very uneven film. The fight scenes are, as you might expect, plentiful and well done. Chung’s recruited plenty of talented people to populate the film’s many action scenes. Especially a long set-piece inspired by The Raid in an office building and the final showdown on a nearby beach. 

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Like that film, and even more so The Night Comes for Us, Contracts wants its fights to be bone-crushingly brutal and violent. And it frequently does get quite bloody. Unfortunately, while Chung doesn’t hesitate to have skulls crushed and eyes gouged out Timo Tjahjanto style he frequently keeps it off-screen relying on blood spray, frequently CGI, in place of the actual damage. Image if, in The Raid 2 you saw Julie Estelle swing her hammers but didn’t see them finish off her opponents. That’s how several battles end, and it’s disappointing.

I’m guessing that an extremely tight budget may have been responsible for that. Contracts was originally meant to be a forty-five-minute prequel to some of his previous shorts, one of which you can see below. Instead, it was turned into a seventy-five-minute feature in the middle of shooting. And it looks like it was done on the same budget they intended to shoot the short with. Which isn’t surprising as Chung says the film was mostly self-financed.

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That expansion is probably also the reason the Contract’s plot is, to put it mildly, a mess. It winds through murder for hire, politics, double and triple crosses, conspiracies and, for more than one character, personal vengeance. Much of it could have been left out or simplified without changing the film. Apart from making the film easier to follow it would also have spared the cast a lot of dialogue that they weren’t up to delivering. Because while they’re excellent stunt people, most of the cast, unfortunately, are equally bad actors. Some of them, especially Michael Carter who plays Headshot should look into acting lessons. With his look, build and moves he could have steady work in action films.

If you can put up with that then the fight scenes certainly make Contracts worth seeing. Anthony Chung and his team deliver plenty of them. Just keep in mind that even by direct to video standards this is very low budget and bare bones. Hopefully, next time Chung decides to make a feature he has a better budget, and someone to help him with the script.

Contracts premieres On Demand November 10th  from Indiecan Entertainment.

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