The Contract (1999)

The Contract (1999)- *1\2

Directed by: K.C. Bascombe

Starring: Laurent Imbault, Johanna Black, Matthew Olver, Doug Richardson, and Billy Dee Williams

Luc (Imbault) and Hannah (Black) are professional assassins on the mean streets of Toronto, Canada. They always execute their CONTRACT killings with efficiency, but they get more than they bargained for when they enter the world of Senator Harmon (Billy Dee). Described as a “hardliner” by his critics, they don’t know how right they are – Harmon seemingly has no qualms about eliminating potential threats to his rise to power…permanently. When a conspiracy unravels that puts Hannah and her boyfriend James (Olver) in jeopardy, they go on the run and link up with their associate Ozzy (Richardson). After many trials and tribulations, the inevitable final confrontation comes between Hannah and Harmon. But will the ultimate CONTRACT be fulfilled?

Unfortunately, The Contract was a disappointment. There are many factors at work here that ultimately sink the movie, any one of which might not do so on its own, but here it’s a case of death by a thousand cuts. The whole thing is very Canadian, but it’s supposed to be set in the U.S., which is always a mistake. Just embrace your Canadian heritage and things always go better in the end. It was the late 90’s, which was a death time for DTV productions like this. It has a downmarket, low-budget feel. It’s a Tarantino Slog, as we call them, and the world just didn’t need another one of those, especially one of this puny stature that couldn’t even compete with the bigger and more well-known T-Slogs of the day.

Most of the action consists of “assassination shootings”, and the few fight scenes (such as the kitchen fight) have this silly slo-mo effect which doesn’t do anyone any favors. The climax makes very little sense, and that’s after a movie which doesn’t have powerful forward drive or verve, not to mention a well-thought-out or well-written plot that would involve viewers. There’s also a lot of soundalike music on the soundtrack, with songs or musical cues that by turns sound like Pearl Jam, Pink Floyd, The Mighty Mighty Bosstones, The Dave Matthews Band, or Paula Cole/Meredith Brooks/Shawn Colvin or any number of Lilith Fair-style female singers at that time.

On the bright side, Billy Dee Williams is extremely charming, as ever, and he has a lot of screen presence and magnetism. The movie is hanging on by a thread as it is, without BDW it would be nothing. He did seem out of place here, however. Johanna Black brought a certain Nancy Kerriganesque charm to the proceedings. She did her best against impossible odds. A point of interest came up when Ozzy started talking about his record collection, saying that he has over 2,000 vinyl albums. After we perked up upon hearing this, the movie then went back down to its default position of being lame.

The Contract reminded us of a less-professional Killing Time (1998), but without the actual Portishead music. Instead it featured artists we’ve personally never heard of such as Juke Joint, Adam’s Curse, Vivian George, Shikasta, Heartbreak Hill, and Babelfish. They probably couldn’t afford the original hits by the original artists, we understand that. One of the songs does feature the lyrics “growing up in Canada makes you strong”, evidence of which cannot be found in this film. Of course it all ends in a Final Factory Fight, as so many movies do, but we as viewers simply don’t care about what we’ve just seen. To be fair though, this movie is significantly better than Conspiracy of Fear (1995). So, it’s good to keep perspective on things.

With better writing, tighter editing, More original dialogue, more focused direction, better music, and giving our heroes more goons to fight, The Contract would have been vastly better. Only the presence of Billy Dee Williams keeps things afloat…barely. The woman in the artwork doesn’t even appear to be Johanna Black. Sadly, we cannot recommend The Contract, except for Billy Dee Williams completists.

Comeuppance Review by: Brett and Ty


Shotgun (1989)

Shotgun (1989)- * * *1\2

Directed by: Addison Randall

Starring: Stuart Chapin, Rif Hutton, Jastereo Coviare, and Katie Caple

Set amongst the sleazy milieu of Hollywood’s hookers, strippers, and porno shops (you know the shops are sleazy because the store clerk wears a leather vest and no shirt), two heroic police officers are there to clean up the streets. Ian “Shotgun” Jones (Chapin), and his partner Max Billings (Hutton) just want to do their jobs, but, of course, bureaucratic red tape is always standing in their way. When a Zipperface-style leather-clad maniac goes on the loose killing the local prostitutes, Jones and Billings snap into action. Of course, Shotgun’s sister Tanya (Caple) is one of said prostitutes and ends up dying at the hands of the so-called “Basher”. This leads to turmoil that ultimately winds up with Shotgun having to turn in his badge and gun. 

He becomes a bounty hunter, AKA a skip tracer, while Billings ends up getting promoted to Sergeant. It all comes to a head in Mexico, where Shotgun meets up with a Machine Gun Joe-style character who looks exactly like Paul Rutherford from Frankie Goes To Hollywood. They make a tank together and blow up the local Mexicans. But have we heard the last of SHOTGUN?

Shotgun. Sometimes simplicity says it all, really. This PM outing from the golden video store year of 1989 is a ton of fast-paced fun. It’s silly, it’s funny, it’s absolutely ridiculous – and it’s a must-see! With Miami Vice going off the air in January of 1990, the stage was set for the replacement for Crockett and Tubbs in the hearts of viewers – Shotgun and Billings, of course. 

Of all the COTEs (Cops On The Edge) we’ve seen to date, Shotgun Jones must rank as one of the COTE’iest. What today would be seen as a serious anger management problem that requires rehab and therapy, in Shotgun’s day it meant only one thing: results. The man punches and/or shoots anyone he darn well pleases. He has long red hair, a red beard, and comes off as Eric Stoltz with rage issues. He has a great voice and is unafraid of confrontational behavior. He wears a cowboy hat and duster coat when the mood strikes him. He’s our new hero. 

Interestingly, Stuart Chapin is the brother of Robert Chapin, of Comeuppance favorite Ring of Steel (1994) fame. What a family! Sadly, however, Stuart Chapin passed away last year after a criminally short acting career. But he did far more than many more prolific actors have done: he left us with Shotgun, a fantastically entertaining piece of work and a great showcase for his talents. He will be missed. 

The main baddie, the Zipperface guy, should have been played by Chard Hayward. Maybe this is before PM could afford him. But as everyone searches for him, they all call him “The Kinko”. Presumably this doesn’t refer to his ability with a copying machine. When Billings is promoted, he keeps a stuffed Kermit the Frog doll in a prominent position in his office. It’s probably why he wanted an office in the first place. It might be the best piece of office d├ęcor since the Garfield phone appeared in all those Godfrey Ho movies.

Despite (or maybe because of?) low budget obstacles, director Addison Randall – a man whose name we’ve seen so many times in the credits we feel like we know him personally – created a real gem here. 

All the other PM behind-the-scenes credit names we’ve seen countless times before are here too, including Jastereo Coviare, who contributes an absolutely fantastic title song. He appears briefly as one of Shotgun’s quarry as well. Coviare and PM mainstay John Gonzalez did the score, which consists mainly of wailin’/shreddin’ guitars and be sure to keep your ears open for the immortal lyrics: "The shotgun of Jones!"

The movie speeds by at 84 minutes. There’s literally no reason not to own – or at least see – Shotgun. It will put a smile on your face for sure. Anyone with a sense of fun should step into the world of Ian “Shotgun” Jones! 

Comeuppance Review by: Ty and Brett