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on July 12, 2009
Actually the acting by Freeman and Cusack isn't bad at all in this action thriller that goes way beyond believability. An ex-cop/High school gym teaching baseball coach out for a reconnecting morning hike with his errant teenaged son, turns into a crazy game of cat and mouse with a team of professional assassins.

If you want a moving drama, this probably isn't it, but if you want a fun popcorn movie to take a thinking break with, then "The Contract" isn't too bad of a choice.

3 ¼*
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VINE VOICEon May 12, 2011
In this cliché-riddled drama/thriller, John Cusack and Morgan Freeman turn in tired performances for a quick cash payout. Either filming was directly after daily morning marathons, there were epic late night whiskey drinking contests, or both had substantial mob loans with escalating vigs. To say they were less than vehement would be like saying the Bataan Death March was less than energetic. Don't get me wrong. Both are great actors and did fairly well compared to others. Hence, the issue. The remaining cast literally gave me an ulcer, and a child actor made me seriously consider a vasectomy.

The plot, if you can call it that, is a tale as derivative as the 6th Police Academy movie. But maybe not as good. Ray (Cusack) is a gym teacher who has experienced problems lately. Father-son drama after Mom died (or left because of the kid's acting), son gets into a little Mary Jane, camping ensues. Because, like, the kid was an aspiring Eagle Scout or something and this will totally get them to overcome their transparently poor attempt to look at odds with one another. Don't worry, it's hardly explained in the movie either. Things go awry when filming starts...I mean, when they run into Frank (Freeman), an assassin with government/CIA ties, and his team of incompetent mercenaries who possess slightly more training than the local donut munching police in the non-distinct woodsy Washington town. Ray is positioned as a pawn who must deliver Frank to the law. Along the journey plot incontinence occurs.

Character development is atrocious. Aside from the aforementioned, the details are minimal. We learn nothing of Frank's past, his motives, or his training. It's all thinly veiled masturbatory excerpts from dog-eared Soldier of Fortune magazines. His mid-movie acquisition of a conscious is even more poorly contrived. Oh, did I mention that the only reason a trained merc. isn't gutting Ray's kid, decorating the forest with his entrails, and happily escaping is that Ray used to be a cop? Because totally explains how he is able to not only control Frank but also survive the Three Stooges routine from the others. Speaking of plot problems. Off the top of my head, the helicopter scene was ridiculous, the midway addition to the cast is unexplainable fodder, and the twists involving federal agents were so underdeveloped they should have been deleted scenes. The most egregious gaffe, however, is the murderer who stops mid-hunt, while just behind the guy he plans to kill, while hoping to save his boss who has all monetary access, while in a dense, cell coverage eliminating forest, to play chess online. Read that again.

Add in an ending that had all the deliberation of a duck-walk to the bathroom after a 3-day Taco Bell bender and you have a movie that not only deserved to go straight to the DVD bin despite its two stars, but maybe didn't deserve that much. Checkmate.
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VINE VOICEon January 7, 2008
I see John Cusack and Morgan Freeman's face on the cover of a DVD box, I buy it. Not that these guys have never made a bad movie, but they've certainly never made a movie worse. The same is true here, although the movie was already pretty bad to begin with.

Gym teacher Ray Keene (Cusack at his most vacant) has a pubescent son who is grappling with several dull plot contrivances (the Dead Mom and Infrequent Pot Smoking). In an attempt to bond with him before he goes too far down the wrong path, Ray takes his boy hiking. Turns out they BOTH end up down the wrong path, in the middle of which is escaped-assassin, Frank (Freeman, who gives new meaning to the phrase "phoning it in"). Frank is pursued by his team of assisstants (assassisstants?), who want badly to be paid, but not far behind are also a group of snobbish U.S. Marshalls who have their own agendas. It's Ray's job to avoid these two deadly (?) forces and bring Frank to justice.

No, wait. Ray's job is a gym coach, making the next several hours of his life a pretty amazing feat, as he scales bluffs, outwits and outmanuevers a whole cadre of military-trained mercenaries and political heavies that appear to have no skills beyond complaining about coffee and smirking smugly at the incompetent local lawmen. And, to be fair, the local lawmen are remarkably incompetent.

Who wrote this thing? Furthermore, how did they get Driving Miss Daisy's Bruce Beresford to direct? That must be, at least, how they got Freeman to lend his Oscar-winning weight to the title. And that would explain Cusack (because who WOULDN'T want to star next to the incomparable Freeman?). But none of it explains the script's tired dialogue ("You said mom would be okay!" Ray's son, Chris, keens. "But she wasn't okay! She wasn't okay!"). None of it explains the crumpled story-line or the ludicrously two-dimensional characters (Alice Krige's skullish Gwen Miles is so flat she seems concaved). And the plot holes! Let's just say that they eventually become an acquired taste. By the time you get to the scene I call the "Helicopter Crash Conversation," you'll be shaking your head AND laughing.

The really funny thing, though, is that it's obvious SOMEONE put a lot of work into the film. Certain scenes (the hit-and-run at the start, the accident that leads to Frank's initial capture) are smartly done. And in the hands of an abler scribe (it was penned by the late Stephen Katz, who did mostly teleplays for The A-Team and Hardcastle and McCormick) it might have pulled together into something you could take a passing interest in. Instead, there's this silly, incomprehensible glob of a film, notable only for being the first time I've ever seen Morgan Freeman look tired without also thinking he was doing a great job of acting like it.
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on November 3, 2010
Bruce Beresford is a remarkable Australian director, skilled at nearly every genre (from Driving Miss Daisy to Tender Mercies, from Black Robe to Double Jeopardy), but sometimes a project just doesn't quite gel. 2006's "The Contract" is a case in point.

The story of a ex-military-trained paid assassin (Morgan Freeman), leading a team on a high-level 'hit' under orders from 'the Executive Branch' (represented by senior agent Alice Krige), winding up in the middle of the wilderness as the accidental prisoner of an ex-cop/gym teacher (John Cusack) and his son (Jamie Anderson), with good AND bad guys after them, is enjoyable, but simply doesn't hold up to close scrutiny.

With the star power involved, a gifted young performer (Anderson), making his acting debut, a crew of brilliant award-winning technicians, and fabulous locations (primarily in Bulgaria's lush wilderness), you would expect something really special. But the script, originally written by the late Stephen Katz, then updated and polished by first-time scribe, John Darrouzet, borrows heavily from many sources (including The River Wild,Shoot to Kill, BOTH versions of 3:10 to Yuma, and more), and simply never creates any real tension. The film seems more a series of strung-together moments, than a decisive 'whole'. Many are entertaining (Cusack's lack of enthusiasm about camping, Freeman's remark about the kind of school Cusack would teach at), some are moving (Anderson attempting to explain the rift with his father), some ridiculous (Why would you climb down a mountain in a rainstorm? And how do two killers and Cusack ALL arrive at the exact same location, at the same instance?), some gratuitous (poor Megan Dodd, the closest thing to a 'romantic interest' in the film, does a totally unnecessary nude scene when she first appears).

Apparently, financing was a major problem during production (the list of producers in the opening credits is huge), and Beresford invested his own money to finish the film; it then went directly to DVD (I found no box office totals listed for the film). All of which explains why this 2006 release received so little fanfare.

If you are a fan of Beresford, Freeman and/or Cusack, I think you'll still enjoy this film (there is a very entertaining 'Making Of' documentary in the Special Features, with their observations), and I admit, I've seen MUCH worse than "The Contract". Sadly, I've seen much better, as well...
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on January 21, 2015
One of the worst films I have seen morgan freeman in. It is so very predictable and the cops and FBI are so lame they belong in a comedy. Over all I would find another film to watch.
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on September 30, 2017
Good picture and audio quality
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on March 25, 2015
This film was not worth the price -- even if it had only cost a dollar!
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VINE VOICEon August 6, 2007
A contract killer and his team run into an ex-cop and his kid in the woods.

Problem is, in this movie it doesn't really matter that John Cusack's character is an ex-cop. It barely figures into the plot or his actions or decisions at all. This is not a Die Hard lookalike (the actor or the movie). He could have been a circus clown, and the movie would have essentially been the same (except for one tussle). It doesn't really matter that Morgan Freeman's character is an experienced, ex-military contract killer. He radiates danger, but he isn't able to sufficiently confound an ex-cop.

A key point, for example, is his desire to be found by his buddies versus Cusack's demand that he go with them. Freeman could have simply refused to budge and lain on the ground. What could Cusack do? Yet Freeman goes with them - because Cusack's waving a gun in his face? Come on! But he does have a couple of good lines. (Watch for one of them delivered to a female hiker.)

His buddies don't fare much better for trained killers. One of them is dispatched in a truly amateurish fashion. The action is nothing to write home about.

The US Marshalls ... also clueless and careless. The only point of the movie is that the right-wing US government kills its own citizens, and the target deserves to die because he opposes stem cell research (and supports groups who oppose it through violence). Whoopee.

Entertaining enough with enough brain cells on hold.
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on April 25, 2017
Bottom line: Will you buy a story about an ex-cop (John Cusack), now teacher, and teen son who run into a handcuffed hit man (Morgan Freeman) in the woods while hiking in Oregon and then feel obligated to turn him into the authorities, with the hit man's cohorts hot on their trail? If so, this is fine to pass the time. But, in certain scenes, your dog may blurt out, "Are you kidding me with this?" ;) because this is the kind of probably too implausible movie that, I feel, will prevent the Academy Awards from ever seriously thinking about nominating Cusack for an Oscar (like his sister, Joan Cusack, for "In and Out"). For example, the movie is rolling right along when suddenly our lovable trio of Dad, son, and hit man are scaling dangerous cliffs, in the pouring rain, which reminded me of a scene in 2007's "Pathfinder" (which has a similar cliff-scaling scene, but oh yeah, in that movie it's done by a Viking who was raised by Indians) and another scene where Cusack takes out a man more than twice his size without a gun. The plot is also more complex than it needs to be, and the lighting in some scenes is too dark to follow what's happening. By now, Cusack has more than enough film credits to graduate to the next/higher echelon of cinema, something to look forward to.
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