Courtesy IMDb

In Tarik Saleh’s The Contractor, Special Forces operator James Harper (Chris Pine) is forced out of the military when a change in command prevents him from utilizing his less-than-aboveboard medicinal treatments to rehab his lingering injuries. Faced with a loss of income, pension, and benefits, James signs up with a private mercenary group that claims to be in it for more than just money. Right out of the gate the first mission goes horrifically wrong, and James is forced to go on the run to protect his family and try to discover the true motivations of his new employers.

Saleh’s film neither goes above nor beyond in attempting to skirt the line between social message drama and man-with-a-unique-set-of-skills flick. There are some genuinely interesting issues at play in the treatment of veterans of America’s foreign conflicts, and the loneliness of those whose success in conflict doesn’t replicate to life at home, but sadly it largely shunts those aside to create a standard action plot. Family and greed are the two motivating factors character-wise, but only in their most basic senses, as the film stumbles on without investigating with any degree of nuance what leads to or develops from the sacrifices that we make regarding both. Saleh’s directorial decisions are both narratively simplistic yet overcomplicated, leaving little time for characters to develop in any interesting way. On a technical level the choreography of the action sequences is muddled by some bizarre editing choices and lackluster cinematography.

In a crowded field of lone-man operators-against-the-world action films, The Contractor doesn’t do anything well enough to finish the job. R, 103 min.

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