There is a certain realm in which films with meager budgets should stay in order to entertain while still presenting a believable story. It’s no surprise then that low-budget films gravitate toward horror, where makeup and blood are relatively inexpensive, or character-driven pieces, where dialog substitutes visual pizzazz. There’s nothing more jarring than a film that oversteps its financial bounds. Contract Killers is almost that kind of movie.
Contract Killers is reminiscent of the Bourne films, except with a female lead named Jane (Frida Show). She’s a disavowed CIA agent trained in assassination. When she’s not eliminating marks, she enjoys a fulfilling married life. When her husband is murdered and the name “Lisa” mysteriously carved into his forehead, Jane suddenly finds herself hunted by the very agency she works for. She goes on the run, traveling to foreign lands, eluding authorities and counter-operatives and tries to derail the missions of corrupt American bureaucrats in order to get her life back.
From the beginning, Contract Killers barely clears the minimum production value to still be considered an enjoyable action film. Viewers may grimace at the low-budget substitutes when they see Jane lead police on a high-speed chase riding a dirt bike instead of a motorcycle. Another car chase sequence features the actors awkwardly firing over their shoulders out the window at their pursuers instead of through the rear window that would have normally shattered under a hail of fire. The film, however, is uniform throughout in its production constraints, slowly acclimating viewers into accepting this film reality. So when a chopper flies in with a mounted machine gun during the climax it’s a pleasant surprise.
The acting ranges from serviceable to good throughout the cast. Nick Mancuso as the villain Witkoff is appropriately shady while maintaining an air of administrative self-control. Frida Show slips in and out of credibility as a stone-cold trained assassin, but completely nails it by the third act. The rest of the supporting cast do a fine job with their roles, but aren’t particularly memorable as brilliant or terrible.
Overall, the film is a success as an international espionage actioner. The locales are varied, the sets are believable and the scaled-down action is still gratifying. The only significant criticism would be that the writing is spotty. The story starts off incomprehensible with too many questions that don’t get answered until very late in the film. Even then, some of the answers aren’t satisfying. Also, Jane does something that contradicts her impetus for waging war against her enemies that will have most viewers scratching their heads. All things considered, however, the weaknesses of Contract Killers are overshadowed by its many strengths.