The Contractor opens with the voice of a preacher delivering a sermon as we watch U.S. Special Forces sergeant, James Harper (Chris Pine, Star Trek, Z for Zachariah) go about his business, and spend time with his wife Brianne (Gillian Jacobs, Hot Tub Time Machine 2, Bad Milo) and son Jack (Sander Thomas, Breaking Up Together, The Keeping Hours).
However, things are about to take a turn for the worse when the regime of steroids he’s been using to rehab a combat injury blows a drug test and gets him discharged without his pension. Now with money running short and his options limited he sees only one way out, take a job as a mercenary with a security contractor despite his promise to Brianne not to.
He gets his former commanding officer Mike (Ben Foster, 3:10 to Yuma, 30 Days of Night) to introduce him to Rusty (Kiefer Sutherland, 24, The Lost Boys). But of course, things do not go smoothly and he’s soon caught up in a massive conspiracy and hunted by all sides.
The script by J.P. Davis (Fighting Tommy Riley, The Neighbor) has a fairly standard start with our hero being screwed over and forced into a no-win situation. But then, rather than dive right into the action, The Contractor switches gears to deal with PTSD and the baggage Harper’s abusive father left him with.
Director Tarik Saleh (Gitmo, The Nile Hilton Incident) handles all of this well despite it being his first English language feature. But between them and scenes of Harper doing surveillance on his target things start to drag a bit. Considering The Contractor runs an hour and forty-five minutes there’s no reason these scenes couldn’t have been trimmed.
Once the action gets going the pace picks up considerably. Trapped in Berlin Harper needs to stay alive long enough to find out why he was set up and exactly what is going on. And then come back home and get revenge. While it never really breaks any fresh ground, The Contractor does at least deliver enough action in its second half to avoid being another all talk and no Glock “action” film. There’s a nicely done chase and two on one fight in a rat-infested sewer and a couple of good shootouts.
On the downside, The Contractor has some questionable plotting and motivations and several of the plot devices feel false. Given what we see Harper and his team do at the start of the mission it’s a bit hard to feel much sympathy for him for a large part of the film. One can argue that he thought he was dealing with a terrorist (Alexej Manvelov, The Unthinkable) so it was justified, but that doesn’t cover laying waste to half of Berlin’s police department in the ensuing gunfight.
For a guy who runs a security company and must have a lot of powerful and well-armed enemies, Rusty’s home is seriously lacking in security of its own. I expected him to live in a walled and gated compound, not a house you can just drive up to and start shooting. That turns what could have been a great final showdown into a rather generic scene we’ve seen plenty of times before.
The Contractor does benefit from a solid performance by Pine in a role that’s a long way from the Star Trek and Wonder Woman films we’re used to seeing him in. It’s also nice to see him and Ben Foster working together again after Hell or High Water, but even they can’t elevate this above the middle of the pack.