HTS Moderator , Reviewer
Title: Contract to Kill
HTS Overall Score:67
I think I have to announce myself as insane now. They say that the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again expecting different results, and that’s exactly what I do with Steven Seagal movies. I KNOW that his DTV action films are going to be horrible, but I still look forward to them hoping that I will be proven wrong. Yet time after time I continue to be disappointed by yet another chuckle worthy action flick from the overstuffed marshmallow martial artist. I mean, it’s not his WORST DTV movie to date (those distinctions actually lie in his early 2000 ones), but “Contract to Kill” is just another excuse for Steven to revel in the fantasy that he’s still a rough tough guy that can manage to be some cool ex-military or special forces guy that can kick some serious butt despite his massive girth and horrible mumbling.
Well, let’s get down to the nitty gritty. Can you guess what Seagal will be playing? Yup, he’s yet again another ex DEA/CIA enforcer, named John Harmon, who’s living life on the down low after doing hundreds of black ops missions for his country and basically being superman, god and the entire Navy Seals all in one man. However, a former handler activates him once more after letting him know that there are some high value targets entering the country illegally in the form of Islamic radicals, and that they are meeting with a Mexican Drug Lord named Rivera (Mircea Drambareanu) in order to form an alliance that will allow terrorists to funnel into the U.S. via the already loose Mexican drug routes. Against his better judgement, Harmon agrees to go down to Turkey and spy on Rivera and the radicals in an effort to find out the meeting spot for the U.S. Government.
Assembling a 3-man team with himself in charge, and an ex-girlfriend turned FBI agent (Jemma Dallender) and tech wizard Matthew Sharp (Russell Wong), Harmon heads down to Turkey and starts playing the two parties against each other in order to shake them up. Almost as soon as he’s there, Harmon’s team is pulled off the case, and the DEA/CIA enforcer is given a NEW mission, the real mission. It seems that this meeting is just a ruse to scare out a bomb maker who has made explosive devices for the radical Islamists, and Harmon is supposed to ice him before he can make any more weapons of destruction. Against orders, the blubbery assassin continues the operation of his 3- man team and promises them that they will finish this once and for all.
[img]http://www.hometheatershack.com/gallery/file.php?n=92153[/img]There’s not a whole lot of nuance to “Contract to Kill”. It’s a Steven Seagal film where he continues to play some super incredible military/government agent who wipes the floor with people and hits on women half his age (the scene between him and Jemma when he recruits her is disturbingly creepy). However, for a martial arts action flick that’s exactly out of the norm. What we really want to see is good fight scenes and lots of bullets flying. Well, we get the lots of bullets part, but the action and hand to hand combat sequences are so broken up with three thousand edits and cuts per second that you can hardly see what is going on. Part of it is due to Seagal slowing down with age (much like Liam Neeson in the last two “Taken” films), but part of it is also due to director Keoni Waxman wanting EVERY car chase, and EVERY action bit to have these cuts. Something with makes the action look a blurry mess in my opinion.
Acting is notoriously bad, with Seagal mumbling into his goatee and mustache, while rocking a fake rug on his head that looks like it came from Sam Levitz. Jemma is pretty weak, but then again, she’s not exactly given a whole lot to work with either. Surprisingly, Russell Wong is actually the strongest character in the movie, but he is a solid actor in most things he does, and his physical shape allows for his fight scenes to look the best out of the film. On the other side of the coin, I do admire Steven’s dedication to good gunplay in his films. The man is an avid shooter and he always employs good fire control and the use of a his favored 1911 in just about every movie he’s ever in, and the attention to detail shows.
Rated R for violence, language and brief sexuality
[img]http://www.hometheatershack.com/gallery/file.php?n=92161[/img]“Contract to Kill” sports a decent looking 2.35:1 AVC encoded transfer, but it’s not one that has much pop to it. The DTV flick has a distinct yellowish hue to it that looks a bit overly sallow and desaturated of major colors. It strangely shifts form this yellow tone to a clearer and more precise looking image when Harmon visits the FBI office with clean whites and clear imaging. Fine detailing can be quite impressive, but it also can shift to a bit of a smooth and processed look at times, only to shift to a brightly lit scene that looks INCREDIBLE. Black levels are really good though, and manage to keep strong shadow detail in the recesses of the drug cartel houses and other areas that Harmon and his team infiltrate. It’s a pleasing enough transfer for a DTV film, and there is more than enough detailing and crispness to the film to for me to tip my hat to it.
[img]http://www.hometheatershack.com/gallery/file.php?n=92169[/img]Well, “Contract to Kill” is certainly an aggressive track, I’ll give it that. Lionsgate’s 5.1 DTS-HD MA mix is full of pep and pizazz from the opening scene with Harmon kicking butt and taking names down in Mexico with the punks. The bass line is heavy and powerful throughout the entire film, keeping a sustained feel of power and immersion. My only complaint is that it’s not exceptionally DEEP or nuanced. The LFE feels a bit one noteish even though it is unabashedly ferocious. Dialog is crisp and clean, although I had to chuckle at the obvious mismatches in redubbed lines that were added in (you could tell that when Russell Wong gets compromised on the rooftop and walks away that it’s NOT his voice speaking that final line. It’s a voice that doesn’t even remotely resemble his). Surrounds actually get a pretty impressive array of sounds, ranging from the roaring of a Camaro on the streets or the smash and rattle of gun fire when the Delta team assaults Rivera’s estate. It’s a good track, and one that has a great deal of intensity, despite being slightly hampered by a lack of nuance.
• "The Making of Contract to Kill"
• The "Contract to Kill" Trailer
• Other Lionsgate Trailers
“Contract to Kill” is just about what you’d expect from modern day Steven Seagal. It’s trashy, full of quick cuts and edits to make his ever-slowing frame look like a semblance of being able to do all the cool stuff his characters are capable of, and hilariously bad dialog. I have to say that it IS on the better side of his trashy movies. The films that he did in the early 2000’s were sooooooooooooo bad as to be almost unwatchable. These last few years he’s gotten into a groove with decent DTV directors, even if he can’t land a good Hollywood job to save his life. The audio and video for the Lionsgate release is more than satisfactory, but the extras are a bit anemic as usual. Personally, unless you’re a huge Steven Seagal fan and love DTV action movies, I’d just skip it.
Starring: Steven Seagal, Russell Wong, Jemma Dallender
Directed by: Keoni Waxman
Written by: Keoni Waxman
Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1 AVC
Audio: English: DTS-HD MA 5.1
Runtime: 91 Minutes
Blu-ray Release Date: February 28th, 2017
Buy Contract to Kill On Blu-ray at Amazon
Recommendation: Skip It
More about Mike