Hard Contract (1969)

hard contract

By Richard Winters

My Rating: 3 out of 10

4-Word Review: Hit man becomes humanized.

John Cunningham (James Coburn) is a professional hit man hired by Ramsey Williams (Burgess Meredith) to do one last ‘big score’ by rubbing out Michael (Sterling Hayden) of which Ramsey suffers a large financial debt to. John has done many of these jobs before and travels to Europe with the expectation that this one will be as routine as the others, but then he has an encounter with call-girl Sheila (Lee Remick) who plagues him with self-doubt and forces him to question his purpose in life.

This film was written and directed by S. Lee Pogostin a long time TV writer who finally at the age of 55 got his big break to do an actual feature film. Unfortunately for him his script is excessively heavy with dialogue and little to no action. There is only one brief segment where we see John actually doing his job and offing someone and it comes in the form of watching him drop a large trunk with a dead body inside of it out of an airplane, which is kind of a cool visually, but that is about it and the rest of the film consists of nothing but talk and long winded, flowing conversations dealing with theories and philosophies that regular people, particularly those in the crime and prostitution business, just don’t have.

Coburn and Remick are both excellent, but the scenario that their characters are placed in is ludicrous. The idea that a high paid prostitute would suddenly fall for one of her clients is quite doubtful. Had the Coburn character been somehow kind or gentle towards her then maybe, but instead he is cold and distant and treats her more like an animal than a person, so why, especially after all of the other men she has already presumably slept with, would she get so worked up over this guy? It just makes no sense and the same thing goes for the Coburn character. He’s slept with hundreds of prostitutes before and even brags about it, so why would this one stand out?

The conversation that Coburn has with Hayden, amidst a large wheat field and while sitting on a tractor, is pretty good and the most engrossing moment in the film. The scene where he drives a car speedily down a winding road, which gets the other passengers quite nervous, isn’t bad either. The European locations are scenic and the supporting cast all give strong performances especially Karen Black as a talkative hooker arguing with Coburn over political candidates. However, the script tries too hard to make a statement and comes off more like a protracted concept than a story with a pretentious flair that just doesn’t work.

hard contract 2

My Rating: 3 out of 10

Released: April 30, 1969

Runtime: 1Hour 47Minutes

Rated R

Director: S. Lee Pogostin

Studio: 20th Century Fox

Available: None at this time.

3 responses to “Hard Contract (1969)

  1. The Lee Remick character wasn’t a call girl, she just pretended to be.

  2. I agree with anonymous. I got the impression that Remick went along with the call girl bit because she realized that it turned Coburn on and perhaps she realized he was incapable of commitment and preferred sex with pros.

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