‘Contractor’s Routine’ Review

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Contractor’s Routine
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Directed by: Yuri Tsapayev
Written by: Yuri Tsapayev
Starring: Kevin Giffin, Tom Sizemore and Richard Frederick
Genre: Drama, Thriller

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Contractor’s Routine shows signs of brilliance but proves rough around the edges.

With Contractor’s Routine, you know you’re in for something of a treat from the opening few minutes. A monologue delivered by an art teacher (Tom Sizemore) delves into analyzing art and reality. His speech exudes an intelligence that makes you realize this is going to be one interesting ride of some great depth.

Contractor’s Routine tells the story of Jacob Borschevsky (Kevin Giffin). It takes us through a day in the life of this man. Soon you begin to realize he has a rather quirky and even disturbing side, though appears to be fairly harmless. So out there is he, though, that the line between reality and fantasy has blurred for him as you watch a fantasy world being played out around him. This takes an ever darker twist when these fantasy scenarios begin depicting him brutally murdering those around him who piss him off.

Fed up with society and the human condition, Jacob becomes more and more frustrated, causing him to dive deep into that darkness. Letting that madness overtake him as he travels the world alone. However, in his little fantasy world he’s not alone. In steps his conscience which is personified in a sidekick name Esau (Richard Frederick). Esau serves as a mentor and alter ego to Jacob, constantly trying to talk him down from his fits of rage. As the movie progresses, though, and that rage begins to overtake Jacob more and more, it becomes unclear whether Esau can really steer Jacob down the right path. Feeling his work is a part of God’s work and what the universe needs, Jacob begins to rationalize these fits, falling deeper into those depths of insanity.

Along the way, the two do partake in some very interesting existential debates and conversations. This is where the movie really shines. Going back to the beginning, like I said, you know you’re in for a treat from that very first monologue. Written with such intelligence, you realize that first time writer/director Yuri Tsapayev definitely has a knack for this. Honestly, from the start I’m reminded of Tarantino, with the dialogue seeming very Tarantino-esque in nature. Whether this is a good or bad thing for you, I consider it a compliment. For me, Tarantino is an absolute genius when it comes to dialogue. If he has a strong point, that’s it. So, to say that Yuri’s writing reminds me of Tarantino’s shows me this man holds a good bit of promise.

However, he’s not up to Tarantino standards. Yuri does show he’s still an amateur. While overall there is some very pithy dialogue and it’s all intelligently written, there are times when Yuri falters. He does get in spots where the writing seems a bit clunky and even unnatural or forced. This shows he’s a bit rough around the edges and needs some polishing.

Overall, though, Yuri delivers some definite food for thought. Contractor’s Routine will have you thinking on a multitude of things and examining society’s rules and code of conduct. Questioning that which has been taken as a given and challenging whether the truths we know are truths at all. From conversations about whether intent to kill and failing is as bad or worse than accidentally killing with no intent. To conversations about the need to procreate possibly being a selfish and narcissistic concept on some level. This movie will definitely leave you thinking well after the credits roll, pondering the depths and intricacies of existence.

Beyond the philosophical and existential debates and diatribes, the story itself leads you down a path that you have no idea where it may lead. Given that nature of the movie (a day in the life of) many scenes can be rather mundane. For this reason, it can get dull at times and drag on a bit. The pacing being choppy in this manner is another sign of Yuri’s skill still being a tad amateurish and in need of some polish. It does, however, provide an interesting ending. One that, once seen, will have your mind racing back questioning everything you’ve seen up until that point; looking at it all from a different perspective. In that sense, this is a movie that definitely should be seen a couple of times to truly appreciate and get all you can from it. In the end, you’re left wondering what’s real and what’s not. Which seems to be a recurring theme in Contractor’s Routine as it exams such conflicting ideas as good-vs-evil, creation-vs-destruction and civility-vs-violence.

This is further shown in the naming of the two main characters: Jacob and Esau. Where Jacob illustrates the “evil” one seeking truth, while Esau embodies heart, compassion and forgiveness as the “good son”. Yes, this has some slight religious undertones. Being non-religious, I could’ve done without that part, but it’s never preachy, though hardly seems necessary as moral code and good-vs-evil can be examined with such things.

Kevin Giffin turns in a fine performance here as the lead character Jacob. He does a good job at capturing the persona of this disturbed character that is in desperate search of a truth. Battling with some inner turmoil, he remains a disturbed and desperate man on the edge. The best of them, though, was Richard Frederick, I felt. His performance was equally as impressive as he played the counter to Jacob’s disturbed character; an anchor to this drifting soul. His role is performed with an intelligence and quirkiness that you can’t help but be drawn in by him and sucked into his mentoring diatribes, much like Jacob.

All in all, Russian writer/director Yuri Tsapayev makes a moderately impressive debut with his first film Contractor’s Routine. This thought-provoking psychological thriller challenges you to think and examine life as you know it. Despite having it’s faults and suffering from pacing issues, this movie is a fine first attempt that shows plenty of promise. Yuri Tsapayev should be one to definitely watch in his coming films to see how he progresses as an auteur. It should be interesting to see if he smooths out those edges and polishes his skills to further bring out that brilliance that peeks its head out from time to time in Contractor’s Routine.

 ★★☆☆ 

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