Contract, The (2006)

Rated: R .Grade: DCDF=D

Starring: John Cusack, Morgan Freeman, Jamie Anderson, and Ned Bellamy.

Summary: John Cusack and his rebellious son are trying to reconnect during a wilderness hike. Unfortunately for them, they stumble across Morgan Freeman, a hitman who was hired to kill a reclusive but politically extreme billionaire, got caught because of a car crash, and has escaped custody in the same forest. They must decide whether to mind their own business or return him to the police, and when they opt for good citizenship, they find themselves being hunted by Freeman’s henchmen.

Entertainment Value: D And I must say, I think I know why I never give movies an F for entertainment value. It’s because if they’re an F, I don’t finish them. This movie was bad enough that it was laughable, but not quite bad enough to quit watching. Plus I kept trying to figure out how such a pathetically inept movie managed to entice two of my favorite actors to be in it (Morgan Freeman and John Cusack). The plot is poor. The acting is poor, except for my guys, and I kept feeling like I was watching a remake of The Marine without the big explosions but with (slightly) better actors. Look at it this way. The movie cost $25 million to make and grossed only $1.5 million. Sorry, fellas, the public got this one right.

Superficial Content: C Drugs/Alcohol NA, Sexuality NA, Violence C, Language D, Illegality D. I actually was surprised to find this rated R for violence. I kept thinking it was PG-13 because of some of the restraint the movie had for language and sexuality. People get shot, many times. There are some fight scenes. There is some strong language, but not a lot.

Significant Content: D The key to success is the use of force. The authorities cannot really be trusted. Sometimes it takes a character-testing experience for your son to realize you’re really a great dad.

Artistic/Thought Value: F Ugh. So, like the central premise of the wilderness trek plot is the fact that the they can’t get cell reception, but the bad guys following them keep getting updates on the terrain and the situation on their laptop? That’s symptomatic of the whole movie. Morgan Freeman seems unharmed by surviving two major car wrecks within a day of each other. John Cusack claims to be a former cop who one minute doesn’t look like he’s ever held a gun and the next is shooting bad guys with the automatic weapon he acquired with Rambo-like guerilla skills. And despite the medium budget, half the scenes looked fake. The closest thing to interesting is the portrayal by Freeman of a confused modern day samurai who has core principles but finds himself doing morally dubious things.

Discussion Questions:
~To what degree is a citizen obligated to help law enforcement?
~Would you describe Freeman as a man of principle? Do his henchmen represent him well? Can you think of other movies that portray military/government spies who begin to question why they do what they do, even though they retain a strong sense of personal honor.
~What do you think went wrong in this movie which enticed Morgan Freeman and John Cusack but turned out so poorly?
Overall Grade: D Allow me to quote my wife. “I didn’t think it was so horrible…well, don’t get me wrong. It wasn’t good.”

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