"The Contract" DVD Review

July 23, 2007 by Zach Demeter

Sometimes there are movies that, after you watching, you say to yourself “why was that even made?” The Contract is one such film, as, despite starting out strong, quickly dissolves into a film that has no real flow and ends up boring the viewer.

The Contract follows the story of Ray Keene (John Cusack) and his son who decide to go on a camping trip to get some father/son time in. During the trip they run into Frank Cardin (Morgan Freeman) who was in an accident when Frank’s men tried to spring him from FBI custody. The Contract is nothing more than Keene trying to keep Cardin away from his men and keep him and his son alive in the process.

While the films premise may have sounded good on paper, the execution was just incredibly dull. None of the characters were fleshed out (Keene and his son are given a generic scenario where the mother died and the son is distancing from the father more so each day) and it was overall just an annoying film to watch. While Cusack and Freeman were great to watch in scenes together, whenever the camera was away from them and on Freeman’s men or the FBI, the film immediately fell apart. The acting on both the henchmen and the FBI’s part was sub-par and worthy of a direct-to-DVD (which I believe this film essentially is, as I couldn’t find any box office records for it) or made-for-TV feature. I guess the films budget was spent on Freeman and Cusack as no one else, save for maybe Jamie Anderson as Cusack’s son, Alice Krige as Miles or Megan Dodds as Sandra, could stand up to the plate and deliver the scripts without making the lines sound worse than they really were or make their characters completely shallow.

The end result of the film (Frank ending up getting to his target after all and Sandra seemingly ending up with Ray despite just having lost her husband after being pursued by Frank’s men) is perhaps one of the most annoying aspects of all. The whole wrap up of the film seemed tacked on, with the only real idea for the film being the trek through the forest with Freeman and Cusack. Once the first and second acts were over the film lost all stability it had and was thrown into a “hurry up and finish” mode.

Looking back, the name of the film doesn’t even really have as much poignancy as you would think based on the first few minutes of the film and the tagline, “Every killer meets his equal.”, is equally confusing. Ray and Frank are in no way equal each other and while the two may have formed a bond over the course of their journey in the woods, Frank’s message to Miles at the end of the film about leaving Ray and his son alone is perplexing. In addition, we’re given this mysterious aspect of Frank’s character from early on in the film and it ends up never being resolved, aside from some notes that he was ex-military or some such. Some may say this was done to leave the viewer guessing, but the film was so poorly put together that I doubt there was anything ever planned for Frank’s character.

Overall this film is not even worth a rental. It’s a really big waste of time and don’t let the names of Cusack and Freeman drag you into viewing the film—it’s not horrible, it’s not great, it’s not anything. It’s just a film and one that no one’s going to be better off having seen. Skip it.

The DVD
Single disc amaray case with no insert, the only thing flashy about The Contract’s DVD release is the menus which are rather nicely done. Full motion and easy to navigate, the menus give the impression the film has higher production values than it really does.

Video and audio for the film is mixed. There is ghosting on the transfer that stays with it throughout the entire run time and the audio comes in a 5.1 and DTS mix which are nearly indistinguishable. DTS is a nice addition, but I don’t know why companies include it when it’s not much better than the standard 5.1 mix. The film contains Spanish subtitles and is close captioned.

The only special feature on the set is a “Making of” documentary which contains interviews with the cast and crew (mainly crew who sing the praises of Freeman and Cusack). This documentary is your standard fluff piece, running over twenty minutes in length and condensing everything from casting to locations down to a suitable run time for a film such as this. The making-of documentary even has a low production quality feel about it, which goes hand in hand with the rest of the DVD I guess (sans menus of course).

Overall if you buy a DVD for a film and this film is nowhere near worth owning. The extras on this disc certainly doesn’t warrant a purchase and as much as I hate to say it about a film with Cusack and Freeman in it…Skip it. There’s nothing worthwhile to see here and you’ll only wish you had rented another title instead.

The Contract arrives on DVD and HD-DVD on July 24th.

 

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