Sony // 2009 // 107 Minutes // Rated R
Reviewed by Judge David Johnson // June 30th, 2009
Bound by desire.
It's Jada Pinkett Smith's directorial debut and she somehow makes Paz Vega parading around in translucent lingerie lethally boring.
Julian Wright (Jason Clarke) is a big deal honcho in a lucrative marketing firm, on the cusp of achieving his life's ambitions by scoring a huge merger deal that will pay out millions. Just as he's about to make those dreams comes true, he meets an exotic woman (Vega) who bewitches him with her flowing hair, sexy accent, skimpy underwear, and erotic acrobatics. No sooner does he get his illicit affair on, Julian's life hits a tailspin, alienating friends, family, and coworkers, jeopardizing his promotion, and flirting with self-destructive violent outbursts.
That synopsis may sound kind of cool, interesting, and sexy, but trust me...The Human Contract is mind-numbing. First-time director Jada Pinkett Smith has a nice visual touch and can develop a stressful atmosphere, but her pacing and storytelling needs some serious help.
At its heart, The Human Contract is the simplest of stories: successful man meets mysterious woman, falls in love, has a secret, and emotionally implodes. The End. There may be other themes bubbling beneath the surface, like the question of why a man who has everything must pursue the unattainable, or how the true nature of lust and control lays to waste everything on the periphery, blah blah blah. In a film as dreadfully slow as The Human Contract, those messages are drowned in a quagmire of tedium.
The biggest problem is that not a single character here is worth investing in. As the molasses-slow narrative marches on, I didn't give a fig, making the viewing that much more of an endurance trial. Idris Elba is worth rooting for, but that's just because the guy's an awesome actor and I want to see him get as much screen time as possible (alas, he's wasted here as Julian's lawyer/ignored-conscience). Both Julian and his wife aren't terrific people. The former is an impulse-driven crybaby, the latter a manipulative weirdo. Julian can't seem to get it into his head that the only cost for having a carnal relationship with someone who looks as hot as Paz Vega is to not go all crazy over the fact that she's married to some guy who doesn't mind his wife boinking other dudes. Now I'm not endorsing infidelity or aggressive limo sex with strangers, but if that's your scene -- as it is obviously Julian's -- don't look a gift horse in the mouth, nancy-boy!
This one may be geared towards R-rated content surveyors, but don't let the "Strong sexual content" warning fool you. For a film built solely on unbridled libido and lingerie, there is no nudity here. I suppose you could classify the limo scene as "strong," but that's mostly for the fully-clothed gyrations and grimacing. Hey, it doesn't make a bit of difference to me. The disc art, though, seems intent on pushing the erotic angle of the film.
My disappointment aside, The Human Contract is a well-staged film and carries a solid noir sense into its clean 2.40:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer. Two 5.1 tracks (English and French) supplement. Extras: Commentary from Pinkett Smith and cinematographer Darren Genet, and a pair of solid making-of featurettes.
Don't sign this Contract. You may risk a coma.
Guilty of Overusage of the Fast Forward Button in the Third Degree.
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Scales of Justice
* 2.40:1 Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (French)
Running Time: 107 Minutes
Release Year: 2009
MPAA Rating: Rated R