by Hope Madden
Chris Pine is Hollywood’s unsung Chris, isn’t he? Under-sung, anyway. Just because he’s not an Avenger. He is a dependable, charismatic presence in any film, though, which is why each of his efforts deserves a little optimism. Even one as seemingly unremarkable as The Contractor.
Pine plays James Harper, a Navy Seal with 5 tours under his belt. One shredded knee, one worthless lung and a host of other physical consequences from his time under fire mean that Harper is no longer of use to the US military. Debts at home have him entertaining offers he probably shouldn’t.
After too lengthy an Act I, The Contractor pivots to tight action thriller. Pine delivers vulnerability and honor as the damaged service vet, and director Tarik Saleh surrounds him with able support.
The great Ben Foster arrives about 20 minutes into the feature, and that’s never a bad sign. The film’s biggest draw is the chance to see Pine and his Hell or High Water co-star reunite. Foster is among the most effortlessly authentic actors working, every character’s backstory hanging on his face and haunting his eyes.
He and Pine have a lived-in camaraderie that goes a long way toward deepening the emotional underpinning of what is otherwise a blandly repetitive, unimaginative military action flick.
The real surprise is that Saleh — who began his career with the bizarre and amazing dystopian fantasy Metropia — couldn’t produce something a little more intriguing. The by-the-numbers script from J.P. Davis doesn’t help, but aside from a handful of decent fisticuff sequences, Selah does not prove himself as an action director.
Gillian Jacobs, Fares Fares, Eddie Marsan and Kiefer Sutherland — all underused — do what they can to bring nuance to underwritten characters, but it’s not enough to salvage the film.
Rather than elevate a bland picture, the performances feel wasted in this derivative and formulaic thriller.