You can frequently gauge the monetary outlay and impending quality of a thriller with the sort of computer programs they display on-screen to show the tracing of cell phone calls and the like. Bad films feature cheap-looking gimmickry, high-budget affairs look state-of-the-art — with seemingly often light-blue text, and menu screens with lots of graphic elements — and low-budget flicks that are smart about what sort of field upon which they’re playing do a good job of faking things, by just having people look busy, and/or harried. Contract Killers is one of those films that cuts away to a cheesy-looking screen in an already chintzy-looking office, and thus earns cringes early on that never really subside.
Co-written by Ric Moxley and Justin Rhodes, and directed by Rhodes, Contract Killers follows Sarah Bentley (Swedish-born Frida Farrell, aka Frida Show), a former CIA agent (codename: Jane) who finds herself on the lam after she’s framed for the murder of her husband. Forced in order to uncover the mystery of his death to return to a life that she tried hard to abandon, Sarah/Jane discovers that the particulars of her last official mission were entered into a database before it was ordered and completed, and that her former boss, Witkoff (Nick Mancuso), is behind a conspiracy. Now, she must get to the bottom of Witkoff’s dark secret before he and his men catch her first.
There’s no cool, breezy Mr. & Mrs. Smith-type snappishness to Contract Killers, and the film isn’t briskly shot or slickly constructed enough to stack up with any of the Bourne films, a wayward spy series that it clearly wants to emulate. I guess Jennifer Garner‘s kick-ass Sydney Bristow would be a good sort of comparison, but the dialogue here is marked by a preponderance of empty, coded vagaries (“Reality is just a buzz deep in your skull, isn’t it?” a character asks at one point, in a line that’s not even meant as a tossed-off, dismissive quip), and the action sequences aren’t particularly clever or interestingly staged. There’s lots of squib-hit cutaways, in other words — close-range shooting and missing by paid assassins.
Then there’s the acting. Physically, just in the face and as far as her body type, Farrell (above, in close-up) comes across as a cut-rate Amanda Peet, but she has problems convincingly wielding both dialogue and a weapon. Rhodes, meanwhile, directs the entire affair like an episode of 24, which is to say heavy on the lingering frames and handheld camerawork. In episodic television this sort of tack can take on an extra gravity or importance, because viewers have presumably come to know and identify with the lead characters over a significant period of time; if the story in a feature isn’t sufficiently gripping, however, it comes off as empty distraction, which is unfortunately the case here.
Housed in a regular Amray case, Contract Killers is presented in 16×9 widescreen, with Dolby digital 5.1 surround sound and Dolby 2.0 stereo audio tracks, as well as optional English and Spanish subtitles. Apart from a four-minute music video for Machel Montano’s “Toro Toro,” featuring Shaggy, and a collection of five trailers for other First Look releases, there are no other supplemental features. To purchase the DVD via Amazon, click here. D (Movie) D (Disc)