Cast: Morgan Freeman, John Cusack
Direction: Bruce Beresford
Here's a stalwart director who is associated with powerful, socially conscious dramas both in his native Australia (The Getting of Wisdom, Breaker Morant) as well as in Hollywood (Tender Mercies, the Oscar-winning Driving Miss Daisy).
Besides the prospect of catching a work by an assured director, The Contract headlines a couple of top-marquee actors.
So what more could you ask for? Narrative clarity for one. Clearly, the Aussie helmer is ill at ease. The screenplay becomes a springboard for a convoluted story full of sound and fury signifying precious little. Not surprisingly, the thriller wasn't released theatrically abroad, going straight to the DVD market.
The plot unravels against the backdrop of scenic woodland. A widower (Cusack) and his teenage son (Jamie Anderson) are on a hiking trip when they stumble upon a ruthless contract killer (Freeman).
So far, so comprehensible. Enter the assassin's incompetent accomplices and a team of equally ineffectual F.B.I. agents (are there any other kind in the movies nowadays?). Relentlessly pursued by the cops and the killers, the beleaguered widower is determined to ensure that justice is done. Heard that one before?
The contrived events stagger towards a ludicrous conclusion. The visual style is quite drab. Worse, the staging of the action scenes is stodgy.
As the gunman-for-hire, Morgan Freeman is surprisingly lacklustre. Obviously uninterested in the project, the Oscar-winning character actor merely goes through the motions mechanically. John Cusack barely makes an impact. His cipher character is devoid of any recognisable emotions.
Recommended? No way.