The Entrepreneur – Film Review

There’s a certain category of mainstream releases — found in dollar theaters and Redbox kiosks across the country — that are thriving on dwindling expectations. Perhaps you know that feeling: a moment during your viewing, recognizable only in hindsight, where you let go of the potential of the film as a whole and cling instead to individual scenes or performances. If you can understand this turning point, then you can understand how The contractor is both a mediocre film and a film with enough interesting parts to (perhaps) warrant your attention.

James (Chris Pine, still our best Chris) needs the money. All that’s left of his decade of service is a bad knee and an honorable discharge; before long, the devoted family man is ready to sell his skills to the highest bidder. So when his friend and former commander Mike (the ever-reliable Foster) turns him on to a private black ops contractor, James is thrilled to find a job that allows him to continue serving his country. But when his first mission takes a sudden and bloody turn, James soon realizes that dollars matter a lot more than sides in the world of paramilitary units.

In Against all oddsPine and Foster presented a sort of blue-collar depth as two brothers who resort to violence to navigate a broken financial system. The contractor, at least in theory, plays in the same corner of the sandbox. JP Davis’ screenplay targets a generation of broke military veterans. James uses a cocktail of performance-enhancing drugs just to stay in the game; when he is fired from the service due to a failed blood test, he more apologetically than angrily, despite frequent acknowledgments that his base had taken a no ask, no tell approach to doping. This puts the blame squarely on the shoulders of the military – or would, if The contractor was ready to keep pulling on that narrative thread.

With no medical pension and looming bills, James chooses to go into private contracts, and The contractor is never better than when it touches the boundaries of paramilitary culture. In a later scene, we are introduced to Virgil (Marsan), an American who operates a word-of-mouth field hospital for independents. They sit and compare their trips; we recognize that Virgil is a potential path that James could follow. These are the times – when The contractor pulls back the curtain on a semi-organized culture of disillusioned soldiers – where the film finds its voice, and Pine is the perfect vehicle for a generation of warriors who would rather be helpful than righteous.

But even as we cling to these concepts and performances, we recognize that it’s probably too late. The contractor seems torn between two types of film: the direct-to-video staple of a reluctant soldier bearing arms to protect his family, and a darker condemnation of private contracting (and the systems of power that require his survival). It’s the second movie that flashes first, leaving Pine and Foster to lead the remaining scenes to their generic conclusion. Ultimately our expectations change – there is enough here to do The contractor watchable even if we close the door, it’s still good.

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