Claude is a young man with a regular job, no history of trouble with the law and no chance of making any real money. He also has the brains and emotional detachment to make the big bucks as a hit man, and that becomes his new job title. A string of successful hits gets him sent to Los Angeles for his latest job. There he is accompanied by two goons: one who is perpetually nervous and the other who quickly worships the young man as a hero. The cold, ruthless hit man finally becomes unglued when he finds out that his latest target is a woman. She's a witness, set to testify against his boss, and guarded day and night by the police. It's her femininity that worries Claude: women are unpredictable, they don't do what you expect. Claude eventually proves that he is the unpredictable one and his own worst enemy. Written by
Murder by Contract is a unique little film. It operates within its own little hermetic (back- projected) world, and it is no accident that one of its main scenes is set on an abandoned film studio. Vince Edwards plays a disaffected antihero, and, with its brilliant minimalistic guitar score (by Perry Botkin) it could be possible to read this film as Jarmushian WAY avant la lettre! The ending is quite disappointing - the film just kind of peters out, but there are so many beautifully observed details along the way. Not for nothing is the great Lucien Ballard the cinematographer. But who is Irving Lerner and what happened to him? Hershel Bernardi plays such a perfect kind of Second Avenue Theater role as one of the two "boys" who are the hit-man's handlers, and the over-sensitive call-girl scene is hilarious. Highly recommended
see it in a theater if you can! A film like this makes me angry at
films like the way - over-hyped Reservoir Dogs. That film is SO overdetermined - the antithesis of a modest work like this one, which only reveals itself to the patient viewer.
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