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Frank Carden (Morgan Freeman) is a hit man in the middle of a contract in Washington State, when he is involved in a traffic accident. The US Marshall discovers his identity and is transporting him into custody when Carden's thug associates try to rescue him - for no other reason than he is the only one who can access the offshore account. But Carden is flung with the Marshall into the river, and is found by former cop-turned gym teacher Ray (John Cusack), who is hiking on a camping trip with his rebellious teenage son Chris (Jamie Anderson). Soon everyone is after them - the thugs, the cops and the FBI.

Review by Louise Keller:
Having read about the extensive problems in the financing, scripting and casting of The Contract in director Bruce Beresford's diary (published July 2007), I was keen to see the result. Could any film overcome all those problems, including Beresford's own reluctance about the script and the project, to become good entertainment? It's not a bad film, but Beresford's instincts about the script are spot on. He directs with practised skill, while Morgan Freeman and John Cusack respectively as the hit man and gym teacher trying to bond with his teenage son, are as good as the script allows. (Kevin Costner was wise to turn down the Cusack role.)

Shot in spectacular mountainous settings in Bulgaria, this straight-to-video release looks great, but not one of the many story strands is convincing. The opening sequence, in which an elegantly dressed Freeman tells his thugs 'It's on' after receiving a mobile phone call, promises more than the film is able to deliver. I suppose there must be assassins like Freeman's Frank Carden - who look as though they would be more at home at the opera than giving instructions to their commonplace associates. At least the movies tell us so. But while killing seems to be a matter of fact to Carden, he confuses matters by showing an unlikely softer side, when he saves Ray's son Chris (Jamie Anderson) after they become lost together in the wilderness. Everyone is after them - Carden's thugs (lucky for Carden, he is the only one who has access to the offshore account), the cops and the FBI.

The exchanges between Cusack and Freeman are bland and unbelievable. 'I'm really sorry I met you,' Ray tells Carden. 'Not yet, sport. Not yet,' is the reply. When Chris asks Carden what he does, he is told 'I'm an exterminator; contracted to eliminate obstacles to progress.' Wow. Do hit men really talk like that, I wonder? Credit to Freeman for delivering lines like 'I don't have to help; I'm the bad guy' with a straight face. There is not enough happening, nor is any of it credible as the plot plays out. To Beresford's credit, he makes good use of everything he has at hand - the action scenes are tense, Dante Spinotti's cinematography is beautiful as is Herbert Pinter's production design and Normand Corbeil's music. The supporting cast is solid, but the characters are so paper-thin, they are nothing but caricatures. A great shame for all the talent concerned.

The behind-the-scenes featurettes offers a glimpse into the making of the film.

Published September 13, 2007

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(Germany/US, 2006)

CAST: Morgan Freeman, John Cusack, Jamie Anderson Megan Dodds Ned Bellamy Alice Krige Ryan McCluskey

PRODUCER: Randall Emmett, George Furla, Avi Lerner, Danny Lerner, Andreas Schmid, Les Weldon

DIRECTOR: Bruce Beresford

SCRIPT: Stephen Katz, John Darrouzet


EDITOR: Mark Warner

MUSIC: Normand Corbeil


RUNNING TIME: 97 minutes


SPECIAL FEATURES: Inside the Contract - behind-the-scenes featurette on the making of the movie.

DVD DISTRIBUTOR: Sony Pictures Home Entertainment

DVD RELEASE: September 12, 2007

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