Contract Killers (2014) (NTSC)
Audio Commentary-Director / cinematographer / editor Mathew John Pearson
Featurette-Behind The Scenes
|Year Of Production||2014|
|Running Time||98:55 (Case: 95)|
|RSDL / Flipper||No/No||Cast & Crew|
|Region Coding||1,2,3,4,5,6||Directed By||Mathew John Pearson|
|Pan & Scan/Full Frame||None||English Dolby Digital 2.0 mono (192Kb/s)|
|Widescreen Aspect Ratio||2.35:1|
|Video Format||480i (NTSC)|
|Original Aspect Ratio||2.35:1||Miscellaneous|
|Annoying Product Placement||No|
|Action In or After Credits||No|
In a pre-credits sequence a drug deal is interrupted by two, unconnected, contract killers who between them assassinate everyone else in sight. The two introduce themselves to each other as Sebastian (Tony MacIver) and Marshall (James Trevena-Brown) and when an explosion badly injures Sebastian, Marshall carries him to safety. Two years later, and now into the credits, contract killer Lee Seng (Rob Young), complete with black leather trench coat and dark glasses, arrives from Hong Kong and is given his assignment by a man (Kerry Glamsch) who is, at this point, unnamed. Lee Seng is given a list of five contract killers, and their locations; his job is to kill the five and then kill Sebastian and his handler/controller Dorio (Dallas Barnett) in one night before catching the plane back to Hong Kong in the morning.
Lee Seng gets on with his task with ruthless efficiency, completing his first 4 kills without difficulty. While he is doing this we learn that Marshall has become one of Dorio’s contract killers and has a job that night; we also learn that he has fallen in love with Dorio’s niece Annabella (Renee Catoldo). It turns out that all the contract killers targeted by Lee Seng are Dorio’s men and Marshall is to be the fifth. When Marshall kills his target, Lee Seng attacks him but Marshall, although injured, fights him off and returns to Dorio. But Lee Seng is also on the way and Marshall and Annabella are forced to run; can Marshall figure out who has ordered Lee Seng’s killings before he and Annabella also become victims?
Contract Killers is an ultra-low budget (the director in his commentary says it cost $30,000) New Zealand film by director / cinematographer / editor Mathew John Pearson, his first and only feature. It is not so much bad as amateurish; the dialogue delivery is wooden, the acting stilted and the camerawork sickening with a constantly jerky camera, sudden zooms in and out, swirling pans and, in places, unfocussed frames. This results in the fights, both gunfights and martial arts hand to hand scenes, being chaotic and all over the place so sometimes it is hard to tell who is who and who is doing what to whom.
And yet, and for all this, Contract Killers is impossible to dislike because of the sheer energy it generates. The first two thirds of the film’s running time occur in the space of one night and the action is relentless and varied. There are assassinations in strip clubs (we are informed in the end credits that no strippers were harmed in the making of the film), on roof tops and in alleys and gunfights in bars and factories as well as a car chase. Given the budget, the effects, such as blood sprays, explosions, gunshots, debris as bullets impact and the car overturning are pretty good and everything speeds by so quickly that if there are weak effects they rapidly disappear amid the carnage. The extended climax in a “training facility” mock-up features more explosions, a variety of weapons including a machine gun and multiple extras being shot down. The body count, as well as the sections which feature gunmen shooting with pistols in both hands were clearly inspired by John Woo’s Hong Kong films; but if you are going to steal you may as well steal from the best!
Contract Killers is certainly not high art and I just wish the camerawork was less jerky. I also don’t think that much of the budget was spent on the script. But the film has humour and never takes itself seriously, it has energy, some good stunts, unrelenting action and is never boring. Which is something that far more expensive films sometimes cannot claim!
Contract Killers is presented in the original 2.35:1 aspect ratio, is 16x9 enhanced and utilised the NTSC code.
Most of the film takes place at night and with the swirling, jerky camera work detail, and shadow detail, is lost. The film also has had the colours desaturated so that it often looks monochrome and white, although the yellows of explosions are bright. Detail on faces is fine, skin tones natural, brightness and contrast consistent.
There were no marks but there was some aliasing such as the lines on the road (78:41) or the shimmering broken glass at 88:57.
No subtitles are provided. A small white font automatically translates a few sentences of Chinese.
Audio is English Dolby Digital 2.0 mono at 192 Kbps.
Dialogue is clear and easy to understand, although there is not a lot of it. The effects were decent enough, such as engines, explosions, the crashes and impacts of martial arts while the various types of weapons such as pistols, AK47s, other automatic rifles and the machine gun, sounded different. The score by Markus Ojala was effective and sounded great in the mono.
Lip synchronisation was fine. Pops and hisses were absent.
|Surround Channel Use|
Director / cinematographer / editor Mathew John Pearson provides a delightful and interesting commentary about low budget filmmaking including what you can get for free by begging or borrowing, the cast, the locations, the gritty look of the film, computer generated muzzle flashes and cars! He is honest and points out mistakes, where he had to make do, improvisations and adds pieces of information, such as that Rob Young is a dentist!
Pretty much a roving video camera around the set, mostly raw footage showing the stunts or fights being blocked or practiced. No names, no titles, no narration or comments. This is divided into seven short segments which can be selected individually or there is a play all option. The segments are:
NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.
I cannot find any reviews but I doubt that the US Region 1 DVD of Contract Killers would have anything more by way of extras. Our release from Bounty is NTSC and Region Free. The UK Region 2 release is listed on Amazon as PAL and running 120 minutes which could be an error; the IMDb gives the running time as 95 minutes and I can find no information about alternative versions.
Contract Killers has received some poor reviews and is currently at 3.7 on the IMDb. The rottentomatoes.com audience score is 13% and there is no critics score. The blurb about the film in rottentomatoes is however totally inaccurate – whoever wrote it has certainly not watched the film. The film is amateurish in many aspects but as an exercise in delivering some intense, entertaining action on a minimal budget I think it succeeds pretty well. Prepare to put you mind into neutral and you might just have some fun. As well as the DVD, the Bounty site offers the film in VOD.
The video and audio are acceptable. There are extras including an excellent audio commentary.
|DVD||Sony BDP-S580, using HDMI output|
|Display||LG 55inch HD LCD. This display device has not been calibrated. This display device is 16x9 capable. This display device has a maximum native resolution of 1080p.|
|Audio Decoder||NAD T737. This audio decoder/receiver has not been calibrated.|
|Speakers||Studio Acoustics 5.1|