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DVD Review: The Contract

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The Contract has a lot going for it, including two heavyweight film stars, John Cusack and Morgan Freeman.  It also has Bruce Beresford (Driving Miss Daisy, Tender Mercies) behind the camera, but after only a few minutes it becomes readily apparent why the film had no theatrical distribution in the U.S., making it one expensive direct-to-video release.

Freeman plays Frank Cordell, a professional assassin leading a band thugs in a series of executions.  When one goes awry, it leaves Frank in a car wreck that puts him first in the hospital and then in the custody of the local cops. During Frank’s transfer to the Feds, his crew stages a spectacular break-out on the highway, but it goes off with one large hitch — Frank's car ends up in the river, and he is subsequently rescued by Ray Keene (Cusack) and his teenage son Chris (Jamie Anderson).

Ray is an earnest do-gooder who recently lost his wife to breast cancer and is taking his troubled teenage son on a camping trip in an attempt to set said son back on the straight and narrow. And, of course, Ray is also a former police officer, which means he’s more than just a citizen trying to do the right thing — he feels obligated to get Frank back to the Feds.

At the same time that Ray is working on this, Frank's crew keeps trying to kill Ray and Chris, and all the while Frank tries to persuade Ray to let him go. There are other bit characters throughout, but most make little to no impact in the film. Even Freeman and Cusack seem to be phoning it in, maybe because the lines they have to deliver are so ridiculous it’s painful.

The special effects department should also be taken to task for first delivering the best hit-and-run scene I’ve ever witnessed and later the most absurd helicopter crash ever put on film.

The film is presented in anamorphic widescreen (2.35:1) and does offer some beautiful cinematography. Sound is offered in a choice of Dolby 5.1, DTS 5.1, or Dolby stereo, and optional English and Spanish subtitles are also included.

The main extra feature is a 20-minute piece, "Inside The Contract," that contains on-set interviews and gung-ho attitude. Also included are a gallery of production stills and a series of previews for other First Look releases.

The Contract is a barely thrilling thriller with two great actors, and lots of bad actors, delivering tons of cheesy dialogue. Without Freeman and Cusack, it has nothing going for it. With them, it’s still pretty tough to watch.

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