The Contract

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“We’re from the government. We’re here to help.”

I bumped into this one on a stand of ultra-bargain DVDs, at a truck stop on the way home with Chris from an anniversary trip to Las Vegas. The cover, understandably, piqued my interest: the film didn’t manage to make such an impression, except in intermittent bursts. Hannah (Black) is an assassin, working under the tutelage of her father, Luc (Imbault). He spurns a lucrative contract, smelling a rat: Hannah goes behind his back and takes the job, only for Dad to be proven right, when the hit goes wrong. Luc is killed, leaving Hannah and her oblivious artist boyfriend James (Oliver) on the run from Senator Harmon (Williams). He’s a CIA honcho, who has just announced his plans to run for higher office, and needs to clean up certain elements of his past – now including Hannah and James.

Some of the action here is not bad, particularly a well-staged brawl in Hannah’s apartment while James is out for food (or something). It’s an impressive bit of hand-to-hand combat, which packs a wallop and leaves the apartment in severe need of redecoration. The hotel hit which starts the ball rolling is another highlight. Unfortunately, there are just not enough of these scenes, with the bulk of the movie being Hannah and James running away, or trying to find out what’s going on. This includes a spectacularly bad bit of technological babble. James suddenly reveals hacking skills, we discover that “You can trace the email using the graphic code,” and watch as the text of the message changes into numbers. Wot, mate? Do you even computer? I know this was back in the primitive days of 1999, but still…

The plotting is, in general, equally underwhelming. It took me a while to realize Luc was supposed to be Hannah’s father – I guess I should just have looked at the British DVD cover (right, and a bit spoilery)… Quite what Harmon is trying to do is also somewhat vague: it seems to be related to a long-ago black operation, which begs the question, why did he wait so long before deciding to tidy up all these loose ends? Williams makes for a half-decent villain and Black is also solid and watchable as Hannah. That isn’t enough, however, as the bland predictability of the storyline, one we’ve seen rather too often before, drags down the positives.

It all builds to the inevitable face-off, after Hannah tracks down the only surviving person who knows the truth about Harmon, who is now working as a school janitor. I guess being a government sponsored assassin doesn’t come with a decent pension plan. The final battle is actually the most disappointing bit of action here, swapping out the close-combat fights showcased earlier, for opponents standing some distance apart and popping off rounds at each other. You’re left with a solid appreciation for why this has been consigned to the discount racks at gas-stations.

Dir: K.C. Bascombe
Star: Johanna Black, Matthew Oliver, Billy Dee Williams, Laurent Imbault

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