“The Contractor” has an all-star cast which, lucky for writer J.P. Davis and director Tarik Saleh, elevates the familiar and predictable story with a few poignant messages interwoven into this thinning veil of a story. Chris Pine stars as James Harper, a dishonorably discharged Special Forces officer who, when struggling to make ends meet and provide for his wife and son, joins forces with fellow former officer Mike (Ben Foster). Connections are everything and Mike’s confidant and employer Rusty (Kiefer Sutherland), also ex-military, who could use a skilled militia man like Harper to execute his next directive. This mission, going blindly and following orders as a soldier is trained to do, pushes Harper to his limits as he awakens to the realities that lie just below the surface.
Harper’s discharge from the military is shrouded in a cloud of uncertainties. Unable to verbally defend himself, he is left to tell his wife he no longer can provide for them as they slowly drown in a sea of debt. Rusty promises to make all this stress go away with the completion of one mission in Berlin. Mike and Harper along with countless masked and unnamed men and women coordinate the plan but of course, everything goes awry. Mike is injured and Harper is left on his own where he finds he can trust no one.
“The Contractor” initially finds an elegant tone to convey some of the disservices our service men receive. Pine’s character lives to serve and when his one and only road is blockaded, he must pave his own path with no backup. Harper plunges into the depths of government espionage, secrets, and political mayhem while soldiers are pitted against one another all for the almighty dollar and power.
Unfortunately, the writer feels that a tense drama must have more gun fighting scenes than the Netflix film “Extraction.” OK, perhaps not that many, but the writer didn’t allow the material to develop as he interjected dizzying battles and chase scenes that make you forget why we are rooting for our hero.
Pine pulls off the confused and conflicted role with ease, but always edging too closely to imitating a Jack Ryan-type of character. His skills are as dizzying as the machine gun battles repeat and we see Harper dodging bullets, and swimming underwater and through sewers better than a NYC rat. Foster also brings his A game to a C level script adding depth to a character who could have easily been one-dimensional. His own family issues and the path he has taken seem almost justified as long as he keeps his head down and his brain turned off.
Finances, support, mental health, treating our returning service people with honor and teasing out who the “bad guys” really are, is at the heart of the film, but it’s overshadowed by the need to be more action than thriller with its countless battles and explosions. “The Contractor” is a predictable, formulaic story that has the bones upon which to build an interesting story, but drops the ball, lacking confidence in itself to do so.