In what may or may not be the seventh Steven Seagal movie to be released in 2016, Contract to Kill finds the Dracula-haired burbler in characteristic form. This outing is directed by Keoni Waxman, making it the third Waxman/Seagal coupling of last year and the umpteenth coupling between actor and director overall. Waxman, by the way, also wrote the screenplay.
Contract to Kill touches on many Seagal clichés, like a haunting reputation and the purported association with special agencies like the DEA, CIA, FBI, and YMCA. It features the hero wearing all black and invulnerable to punches, kicks, knives, chairs, guns, and boobs.
Seagal stars as inactivated asshole asset John Harmon. He’s at his favourite cantina when government dude Matt Beck (Andrei Stanciu) tells him about a summit between a Mexican drug cartel and Islamic terrorists. The terrorists want to use the cartel’s access points to get into the United States.
Harmon is tasked with getting information about the aforementioned meeting, so he collects a team that includes ex-girlfriend Zara (Jemma Dallender) and drone devotee Matthew (Russell Wong). Harmon gets the intel, but he thinks something else is cooking and goes after the bad guys himself. Also, Zara is kidnapped.
The plot of Contract to Kill is complicated in a way that suggests much of it was made up on the fly. The primary political bent is as apparent as Seagal’s lack of participation in any scenes that require bending at the waist and one can imagine a certain tangerine leader drooling over the various nefarious suggestions.
In essence, bad hombres are conspiring with other bad hombres to do bad stuff in the US and the government has manacled the good guys so that nothing good can be done. Seagal’s character is mighty pissed off. He wants to bring the thunder on the cartel and the terrorists, bureaucracy be damned.
There are references to ICE, apparently comprised of Native Americans good at tracking and telling Mexicans apart from Arabs, and there is a futile drone to ensure the audience that things are “current.” There’s also a plane explosion in Crimea to ensure that the good guys have further moral motives for busting in and killing everyone.
Everything in Contract to Kill takes an incredible amount of time. Waxman focuses on the drone so much that it crosses the line to silly fascination, like he’s showing off the best special effect he’s ever had and can’t keep from leering at it. He even fixes the camera on it after it lands, just so the audience can revel in all the cute lights.
And then there’s Seagal, who explains the living hell out of everything over and over and over again. When he’s not purring about exposition or grabbing a girl eight times smaller than he is, he’s bubbling over with absurd lines designed to sound significant. “The location of the meeting is in 24 hours,” he says. “They [Puerto Rico] have a situation now where it’s…kinda distinct,” he says.
Sometimes Seagal fights, which is nice in theory. But the camera flitters around so much that it’s impossible to see who’s really doing the deed. Fortunately, the lens doesn’t move when he drifts over Dallender’s character in the peculiar “sex scene” and the viewer gets to see his entire romantic repertoire unfurl in 3.8 seconds. And yes, he keeps his goddamn clothes on.
Contract to Kill isn’t the worst Seagal movie, in fairness. Hell, it’s not even the worst Seagal movie of 2016. That honour goes to the calamitous The Perfect Weapon. But make no mistake, this thing is bad. And it’s made worse by all the wonky politicizing lurking under the surface.