Contract to Kill Poster

Contract to Kill (2016) Review

Contract to Kill was directed and written by Keoni Waxman (The Anna Nicole Smith Story, Alpha Code), stars Steven Seagal (China Salesman, Code of Honor), Jemma Dallender (Strain 100, Daddy’s Girl), Russell Wong (Escape Plan: The Extractors, Romeo Must Die), Sergiu Costache (Prowl), Mircea Drambareanu, Andrei Stanciu, and Ghassan Bouz. It is about a group of specialists discovering a terrorist plot against the United States and turning the belligerents against each other before they strike.

The Plot: Waxman’s script for Contract to Kill is dismal, bland, and entirely predictable. Ex-DEA agent Harmon (Seagal) previously killed the leader of the Sonora cartel, now the new leader, Rivera (Drambareanu) is attempting to broker a deal with ISIS and AQAP to smuggle terrorists into the US according to two men apprehended by the ICE. He is enlisted by Beck (Stanciu) to stop it. Harmon grills one of the men for information, figuring out that the meeting between the groups will be in Istanbul.

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Harmon recruits Hayek (Dallender) to be his support and Sharp (Wong) to be his drone pilot/recon. The trio spies on terrorist leader Al-Mujahid (Costache) and Rivera, but they see Sharp’s drone, causing them to leave early. From that point onward, the plot becomes about finding ways to cause the groups to distrust each other. The team learns from Beck that the real target is not Al-Mujahid or Rivera, but Rauf (Bouz). The rest goes as expected.

The Characters: No characters exist in Contract to Kill. Harmon is just a blank slate that happens to have been in the DEA and FBI in the past. Hayek has even less of a backstory, literally only getting the fact that she used to be Harmon’s girlfriend and that she is of some indeterminate agency. Sharp somehow gets even *less* than either of the aforementioned two. His only trait is that he is good with drones. Fantastic.

Al-Mujahid, Rivera, and Rauf are caricatures of bad guys, with all of nothing to make any of them interesting. Rivera is a drug lord, Al-Mujahid is an Islamic terrorist who wants to kill non-believers, and Rauf is a bomber. None of the performances should even qualify as acting. Sure, the people involved are called by names that are not their own, but they do not emote, deliver dialogue effectively, or even look different than they normally do. Seagal is as dead behind the eyes as he has been for umpteen years and is clearly reading from the script/cue cards off-camera, and everyone else is just awful.

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The Action: Action is nearly nonexistent in the Contract to Kill, with there only being a single chase scene, a fight scene in Harmon’s safehouse, and a gunfight towards the end. Seagal does his aikido either from a sitting position with him in frame or with quick cuts to hide a double. What little action there is in this “action”/”thriller” has more cuts than your average slasher movie and suffers from bad editing like nonother. The chase sequence is forgettable and resembles thousands of others and creates no tension because it is in a Seagal movie where it is guaranteed that Seagal will never be in danger of being harmed in any way. It is vile.

The Technics: Technically, Contract to Kill is bad. Waxman’s direction is as horrendous as ever, and his writing is below that of Wiseau. At least his writing was laughably bad, this is just regular bad. The first 25 minutes of the movie are, without hyperbole, all exposition that gets dumped endlessly and without any of it being cleverly conveyed, delivered, or written. What’s worse is that the movie insists on forcing in flashbacks for events that happened mere minutes ago, why these bits are written into the script is beyond me. Maybe Waxman thinks his audience is as stupid as his writing.

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Greenscreen usage is especially clear in every situation it is utilized in, with parts taking place in vehicles looking like something out of the film noir days, but at least those had the excuse of being made 60-plus years ago. Everything in Contract to Kill looks cheap, from the camerawork to the locations to Seagal’s hair dye. Horrible.

Yet again Keoni Waxman demonstrates his lack of talent in writing, directing, and casting. I’d like to say that Seagal is better than movies like Contract to Kill, but I would be lying through gritted teeth.

Contract to Kill is available on Blu-ray, DVD and Digital from Lionsgate.

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