• Contract To Kill

    Released By: Lionsgate
    Released On: February 28, 2107.
    Director: Keoni Waxman
    Cast:Steven Seagal, Russell Wong, Jemma Dallender
    Year: 2016
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    The Film:

    There was a time, from about 1988 to 1992, when Steven Seagal could do absolutely no wrong in my eyes. From Hard To Kill to Under Siege, I saw his films in the theatre, I bought them on VHS, I re-bought them on DVD, and then picked them up again on Blu-ray. To this day, I consider 1991's Out For Justice to be an absolute masterpiece in the world of action cinema, and hell, I even enjoyed and own the sub-par entries On Deadly Ground and Under Siege 2: Dark Territory. But somewhere shortly after; probably when I watched Seagal the bluesman jamming out with his acoustic, I lost interest, and subsequently, paid no attention to the string of Direct To Video films that Seagal was cranking out. And if his latest, 2016's Contract To Kill, is any indication, I certainly have dodged a fair number of speccrapular bullets.

    Seagal plays John Harmon, a U.S. government asset living in Juarez, Mexico, essentially just hanging out and being a man-in-the-know. Fluent in all manner of covert ops thanks to his extensive history with the F.B.I., C.I.A., D.E.A., and a ton of other organizations you've never heard of, he's the ideal candidate for operative Matt Beck to "reactivate"... to bring back into the fold. It turns out that there's a seriously nefarious plot afoot involving some radical Islamic fundamentalists who are attempting to team up with Mexican drug lords to use existing drug-smuggling routes and tunnels to transport dirty bombs into the United States for terrorist purposes. Harmon isn't up to much, anyhow, aside from protecting the dignity of the local senoritas who are unbelievably taken by the portly agent, and whisper-mumbling nonsense dialogue about how rad he is while sporting ridiculously over-sized clothing in an attempt to cover his sizable girth.

    Anxious to help, being that he's the best "wet mechanic" in existence, Harmon agrees to intercept the meeting between drug boss Rivera and terrorist Ayan Al-Mujahid in Istanbul, provided that he can put his own team together. Zara Hayek (Jemma Dallender) is an obvious choice as she's good-looking and has a past working (and apparently) physical relationship with Harmon, and given that the new surveillance thing is all about the drones, he brings in drone expert Matthew Sharp (Russell Wong) to be his eyes in the sky. After a debriefing, in which the three engage in a contest to see who can spit out the most acronyms, the plan is set, but, running recon on an initial meeting between Rivera, the team are compromised when Al-Mujahid sees the giant drone that's stealthily lit up like a goddammed Christmas tree hanging outside the window. Good thing that he's a trusting kind of terrorist, though, because he agrees to have a second meeting where more players will be in attendance and the smuggling routes will be revealed. But just as Harmon is getting ready to mess shit up Yojimbo-style by turning all of the players against each other, he's ordered to stand down on his initial objective by Beck. Why? Who cares? By the time the film hits this point, it makes no sense, anyhow.

    Contract To Kill is not only a sad contrast to the great Seagal films of yesteryear, it's also an absolute piece of garbage and a waste of time. Is this supposed to be an action film? Probably not, as there's not much action to be found in the 90-minute running time, aside from some laughable sequences of "Seagal" fighting off bad guys. An espionage-typed thriller, then? Sadly, no. The dialogue in this film is pathetic, the plot is a joke, and the twist that shows up contains no shock or revelation. This is lazy, stupid writing from Waxman, who appears to have made a career out of writing lazy, stupid direct-to-video films. Seagal, who should be the main draw, is an absolute turd, appearing to have issues just sitting there and marble-mouthing his dialogue, and the fact that there's a (thankfully brief) love scene between he and Jemma Dallender... 40 years his junior... highlights what a unrealistic douchebag this guy and his writers are.

    Not even the competent acting pulled off by Dallender in the context of this shitfest can save it, as Waxman's direction, or lack thereof, consistently louses up the screen. Loonnnnng sequences of drone-cam, shared with lonnnnggg sequences of Russell Wong intently staring at his drone-controlling hardware, flashbacks to moments that happened ten minutes before, inability to hold a camera still...if there are any redeeming qualities to Contract To Kill, they're buried under the avalanche of missteps and nonsense. Crap writing, crap acting, and crap directing make this a must-miss home theatre experience.


    Contract To Kill comes to Lionsgate Blu-ray (with Digital HD Download) in a 2.40:1 transfer that looks pretty snappy. Indicative of modern action films shot in this form, it of course features a decent whack of abnormal-looking filters, but blacks are relatively solid and detail is crisp.

    Audio is handled courtesy of an English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track that sounds fine, with liberal use of the surrounds and sub. No hisses, pops or crackles are evident, and any issues with dialogue being incoherent and requiring subtitles is down to Seagal's dialect, and not the track itself.

    Speaking of subtitles, English, English SDH, and Spanish subs are provided for the feature only, not the extras.

    And speaking of extras, the main entry in the supplements is Making of Contract To Kill (14:46), which features Seagal, Writer/Director Keoni Waxman, and other cast and crew talking about the film and the influence of Yojimbo on the plot. Seagal discusses how his "20 years in law enforcement" helped him prepare for the role, and they also discuss the stunts in the film.

    A Trailer and a Lionsgate Promo Reel are also included.

    The Final Word:

    Seagal must have a serious chunk of change in his name to keep producing these films, because if this one is any indication, his DTV output is terrible. An episode of TV's The Blacklist is far more impressive than this, and spares you from creepy Seagal love scenes.

    Click on the images below for full sized Blu-ray screen caps!

    Comments 4 Comments
    1. AngelGuts's Avatar
      AngelGuts -
      Great review. No doubt a hundred times more entertaining than the movie.

      A "must-miss" Gold, Mark.
    1. Mark Tolch's Avatar
      Mark Tolch -
      Hahaha, thanks. It was mind-blowing in its sucktacularosity.
    1. Jason C's Avatar
      Jason C -
      Fun review.

      I bailed after On Deadly Ground. Good to see I didn't miss anything.
    1. Mark Tolch's Avatar
      Mark Tolch -
      I did see one after that....Exit Wounds. It was not terrible.