Film Review: The Contract

Reviewer: Richard Maguire

Writer: Stephen Katz and John Darrouzet

Director: Bruce Beresford

Coming to Digital Download is The Contract, the 2006 film directed by Bruce Beresford (Driving Miss Daisy, Double Jeopardy). It hasn’t aged particularly well, but surely even in 2006 this Deliverance-lite movie featuring Morgan Freeman and John Cusack would have seemed tame. Take out the swearing, and this film seems perfectly suited for afternoon fodder on the GREAT! Movies channel on Freeview.

The Contract begins promisingly like a heist movie with new recruit Davis (Corey Johnson) joining an established criminal gang headed up by Carden (a stern but, ultimately, an avuncular Morgan Freeman).  The nature of the gang’s job is vague, but all the careful planning is thrown up in the air when Carden is involved in a car crash. When he’s taken to the hospital, Carden’s real identity is revealed and the FBI arrives to take him in, forcing his criminal colleagues to engage in a rescue.

Meanwhile father and son (Cusack and Jamie Anderson) are on a bonding trip to the wilderness when they bump into Carden handcuffed to a dying cop. Cusack must now hand back Carden to the FBI. But can they do that before gang find him? Will the challenge prove to be the best bonding experience for the father and son, both grieving the death of the boy’s mother? It’s hard to care.

If you do pay for it you’ll get plenty of car chases, and thrills on precipices and mountainsides for your money. But there is little tension, and the constant humorous jibes and asides become more wearying than their trek across the forest. The gang argue and bicker, the local cops are useless while the FBI are smarmy and cold. All the jokes – none of them very funny – undercut the action scenes and so no set piece is especially exciting.

Freeman doesn’t make for a very good villain, but Cusack is fine in all his ordinariness. His adherence to right and wrong ensures that he does what is expected of him, but the adventure never really changes him. He’s still the same average Joe as at the start of the film. His son, however, has a narrative arc, but it’s pretty inconsequential, like much of the film in general. And The Contract’s final scenes are huge disappointments considering all the wilderness Beresford had at his disposal.

In 2006 this film was released direct to video. It might make a bigger splash on streaming services, or, then again, it may sink once more without a trace.

Signature Entertainment presents The Contract on Digital Platforms 13th December.

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The Reviews Hub Film Team is under the editorship of Maryam Philpott.

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