Reviewed by

Christopher Armstead

Julian Wright (Jason Clarke) is a big time, smooth talking, Madison Avenue type advertising cat hanging out at the bar chatting it up with the KRAZY hot and oddly named Michael (Paz Vega). Unfortunately for Julian, Michael is not the object of his desire this particular night as he is instead waiting on a booty call that he would gladly ditch in order to get to know Michael just a little bit better. Thus we have the launching point for the directorial debut of one Jada Pinkett-Smith’s new film ‘The Human Contract’ which is a heavy, character driven drama which shows Ms. Pinkett-Smith to be confident and skilled behind the camera but is still a movie that is flawed and I’m thinking could’ve benefited from a little compressing from a tighter edit.

We know almost immediately that Julian is screwed up mentally because in mid stroke of this booty call he throws up on the girl. Many cool points have thus been lost. Julian has quite a bit on his table you see as he is in the middle of a nasty divorce, his advertising company is on the verge of a Billion Dollar merger that he is in charge of bringing home, he has an awful relationship with his mother Rose (Joanna Cassidy), he has a much better relationship with his beloved sister Rita (Pinkett-Smith) and his twin nephews, but his sister is an abused woman which only adds to Julian’s high stress level.

Then he meets Michael. Being sheltered as I am, Michael is the kind of woman that only seems to exist in movies. Insanely beautiful, generous to a fault, incredibly freaky and also has hot friends that are even freakier still. Outstanding. Suddenly all Julian’s stress and problems don’t seem so great anymore as he begins spending quality time getting to know Michael, but unfortunately this is a temporary situation for poor Julian as Michael has a few issues and a couple of secrets too. Secrets that end up serving the purpose of intensifying the problems that Julian has previously been experiencing.

The question is why is Julian so screwed up? Why can’t the man maintain a decent relationship with anyone? Why is he on the verge of messing up a deal that will set him up him up for life despite the pleas of his boss (Ted Danson) and his best friend and concierge (Idris Elba) to focus. Why does Julian want more from this crazy hot woman who has breezed into life outside of the nasty commitment free sex and inappropriate expensive gifts? Beats the hell out of me, but I think it has something to do with the fact that he hates his mom.

Working form her own script Ms. Pinkett-Smith has crafted a drama that is an interesting look into the lives of some seriously screwed up people. What makes the film work is that Pinkett-Smith has created a cold atmosphere which seems to work perfectly for these cool detached people to exist in. Everything seems inaccessible, just as the characters themselves seem inaccessible. The story she has written is a good one, though I am still wrestling with what she is ultimately trying to say with these characters and I am at a loss trying to pinpoint the greater meaning of it all. The movie also has some very good performances turned in by Joanna Cassidy as the seething mother, Pinkett-Smith’s abused wife and especially Paz Vega who does simple, crazy, hot, and matter-of-fact easy about as well as anybody has ever done it.

So why didn’t I like this movie more? One of the problems I had with the movie rests with the films star Jason Clarke. Make no mistake that this is Mr. Clarke’s movie as he is in virtually every scene and as such he is saddled with the burden of selling us on a couple things. A). That he is a smooth operator capable of running a multi-billion dollar advertising agency during the day and at night has the charm to sweep a woman as hot as Paz Vega off of her freaky feet and B). Has the ability to kick your ass. I bought into part B but he couldn’t sell me on part A. There was nothing in the way Clarke represented the character of Julian, from the way he carried himself to way he dressed that made me believe that he was the man equipped to pull off these afore mentioned things. When the character fell from high flying ad-man to fist flying thug, there was no real descent to follow since he seemed to be the fist flying thug from the get go. It didn’t help matters that his co-star Idris Elba can and has played just this kind of role, and honestly seems tailor made for this part but I suppose that’s neither here nor there about now.

There were moments where ‘The Human Contract’ tended to drag and lose its pacing and these were the moments that it seemed things could’ve been compressed a little to keep the narrative flowing more smoothly. And as I said earlier I’m not sure what the overall message of the film was supposed to be… that is other than if a man can’t be satisfied by a hot woman blessing this man with nasty sex while requiring nothing of this man except that he show up, then said man needs to seek mental help. If that’s the message then I totally get that. Still, with all that being said, I did ultimately enjoy ‘The Human Contract’ as Jada Pinkett-Smith has a definite visual flair, the woman knows how to tell a story and for the most part has solid control of her actors. Based on this we do look forward to what she might have coming up next.

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