[Screen It]


(2022) (Chris Pine, Ben Foster) (R)

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Dramatic Thriller: A former Army ranger takes a job as a military-style contractor and must contend with a mission going wrong in the worst way possible.

James Harper (CHRIS PINE) is an Army ranger who's served in four combat tours over the past five years. But the injuries he's sustained have resulted in him using various drugs to combat the associated pain, something that doesn't sit well with his new commander who discharges him from service, without a pension or any benefits.

Needing to care for his wife, Brianne (GILLIAN JACOBS), and their son, Jack (SANDER THOMAS), James turns to his friend and former commanding officer, Mike (BEN FOSTER), for help. Mike has been working as an independent military-style contractor for Rusty (KIEFER SUTHERLAND), and he arranges a meeting between him and James.

The two agree to an employment contract and despite Brianne's worries, Jack is soon off on a mission with Mike and a few others to find and interrogate a scientist who's been labeled as a bioterrorist threat. But when that mission goes sideways, James realizes he can't trust anyone and uses his instincts and training to try to survive.

OUR TAKE: 5 out of 10

Considering the number of actors working in Hollywood (and elsewhere) and the number of films that are made every year, it's not surprising that some performers end up working together in more than one film. Sometimes that's purposeful based on recurring characters -- although that traditionally happened more in the past with the likes of Martin & Lewis, Abbott & Costello, Laurel & Hardy, etc. -- but more often than not it's more likely that coincidence plays a large part of such repeat pairings.

While they're not going to be associated with the duos listed above, Chris Pine and Ben Foster have now made three films together, the first two in 2016, with one being mediocre ("The Finest Hours") and the other being -- in my opinion -- the best picture that year ("Hell or High Water").

They're now paired together for the third time in "The Contractor," an action thriller that, alas, isn't anywhere as great as their last collaboration. It's the story of James Harper (Pine), a dedicated Army Ranger whose multiple tours of duty in combat zones have left his body ravaged and in need of pharma help to keep going.

His new CO doesn't like that showing up in his latest bloodwork and without so much as a "thank you for your service and sacrifice," he discharges him without a pension or benefits. With bills to pay and needing to provide for his wife (Gillian Jacobs) and their young son (Sander Thomas), James turns to his pal and former commanding officer, Mike (Foster), for help, knowing he's done military-style private contractor work that's brought in enough moola for him to live comfortably and care for his disabled boy.

Mike introduces James to the head of the contracting service (Kiefer Sutherland) and it's not long before the former Ranger is headed toward Germany with Mike and a few others on a mission to capture and interrogate a scientist believed to be involved with bioterrorists.

Naturally, things don't go as planned and end up headed sideways in multiple bad ways, meaning James must use his training and instincts to extract himself from his initially morally questionable to increasingly lethally dangerous pickle in which he finds himself.

As directed by Tarik Saleh from a screenplay by J.P. Davis, there's nary an original bone in the flick. That would be okay if it nevertheless was an edge of your seat but also a thinking person's thriller about otherwise discarded military vets still needing to make a living and contending with the physical and psychological aftermath of their previous government service.

Alas, while there are multiple shoot 'em up action scenes and the overall "how's he going to get out of this situation" storyline, and both Foster and especially Pine are fine in their roles, the film isn't gripping or engaging enough to overcome its lack of originality. It's not bad, it's just sort of blah. All of which means maybe the even-numbered collaborations between the two actors are the charm. Until we learn if that's true or not, we must contend with "The Contractor" rating as just a 5 out of 10.

Reviewed March 24, 2022 / Posted April 1, 2022

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