Even if you were an elite sniper peering through a hi-tech scope it would be easy to misidentify The Contractor as a mindless action movie.
It is a Chris Pine vehicle in which the one-time Captain Kirk plays an ex-marine wading into the murky waters of the private military sector. Will our honourable soldier be able to hold his nose during a morally dubious operation far from home? If not, what vengeance might this highly trained warrior unleash?
That the film has such a generic title and is premiering on a streaming service rather than cinemas adds to the impression that it will be a disposable B-movie to be consumed like gloopy takeaway pizza: avidly in the moment, but with a twinge of guilt afterwards.
Thankfully The Contractor (from director Tarik Saleh, a Swedish film-maker who started out as a documentarian) is playing a deeper game. It may bear all the hallmarks of the 21st-century military thriller – a genre where advanced weaponry, surveillance tech and tactical jargon are not so much deployed as fetishised – but it is the opposite of gung-ho.
There is the requisite early scene of Pine’s special forces dude Harper fastidiously stripping and cleaning his sidearm, but it is an uncommonly long time before a shot is fired. Instead we are immersed in the civilian side of Harper’s life between deployments. That means going to church with his young son and wife Brianne (a brief but heartbreaking performance from Gillian Jacobs) and attending to the nasty-looking knee injury that could prematurely end his career.
When Harper’s attempts at self-medicating get him discharged, this lifelong soldier is abruptly rudderless but desperate to keep his family financially afloat. The early mood hews closer to Ken Loach than Michael Bay: burdened, brooding, downbeat.