The Contractor is deep, The Bubble is embarrassing, Alone a worthy horror story

Contractor unexpectedly deep

Familiar but well done, Tarik Saleh's The Contractor is a serviceable actioner that elevates itself above other genre entries with its insightful look at the plight of displaced soldiers. A solid Chris Pine is James Harper, a former special forces officer who's drummed out of the service for failing a drug test. With bills piling up and his sense of self-worth plummeting, he accepts a job with Jennings (Kiefer Sutherland), who runs a private security firm and solves national security issues under the table. Promised a big payday for a single operation, Harper signs up and is shipped overseas.

There wouldn't be a movie if things didn't go sideways, and they do just that. The action scenes are convincing and exciting but what makes the film memorable is its examination of directionless soldiers put out to pasture before their time. Lost, and perhaps craving an adrenaline fix, they sell themselves to the highest bidder, the moral imperative of their missions inconsequential. By focusing on the human cost, the film's violence is not of the disposable nature found in typical action movies. There's a weight to The Contractor that demands it be seen. In theaters and streaming on Paramount+.

Embarrassing Bubble bursts

Some films you watch with your mouth agape, in awe of what you're seeing. Others you watch with the same response but for completely different reasons – you just can't believe how spectacularly bad it is. Judd Apatow's astonishingly awful The Bubble falls in the latter category. On paper, it looks like a winner, but something goes horribly awry from concept to execution. The cast and crew of the dinosaur-based film franchise Cliff Beasts have reunited to make the sixth movie in the series. That this is going to be done at the beginning of the COVID pandemic is of little concern to the self-absorbed, pampered actors, their every need being met...until they aren't.

There's a good movie in here somewhere. The cast, which includes Karen Gillan, Fred Armisen and Keegan Michael-Key, are all adept at generating laughs, while the ego-driven behavior of their characters and the tension it produces are all fodder for a laugh riot. And yet somehow, it doesn't work. Every joke flops, not a single laugh, guffaw or chuckle produced. The only thing the film accomplishes is validating actor Edmund Gwenn's maxim, "Dying is easy, comedy is hard." Streaming on Netflix.

Alone a worthy, elevated horror entry

Focus Features is promoting You Won't Be Alone as an elevated horror film that promises thought-provoking chills like those found in David Egger's The Witch or Ari Aster's Midsommar. To a certain extent, this European import delivers its share of scares but there's much more at play in Goran Stolevski's debut feature.

Set in 19th-century Macedonia, Maria (Anamaria Marinca) is a witch who longs to be a mother. She strikes a bargain with a local villager, forcing her to turn her secluded daughter over to the crone when she turns 16. The transaction is made, but the hoped-for result is not achieved. The witch abandons Nevena (Sara Klimoska) for being uncooperative, but not before passing on her ability to take possession of another's body.

Longing to find out what it's like to be human, Nevena becomes an abused wife, a dog and a young man in her quest to find her place in the world. Slow but thought-provoking, Alone purposely upends expectations and requires repeat viewings to be fully appreciated. Whether audiences have the patience to give it the time and attention it deserves remains to be seen. In Theaters.

About The Author

Chuck Koplinski

Writing for Illinois Times since 1998, Chuck Koplinski is a member of the Critic's Choice Association, the Chicago Film Critics Association and a contributor to Rotten Tomatoes. He appears on WCIA-TV twice a week to review current releases and, no matter what anyone says, thinks Tom Cruise's version of The Mummy...

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