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The English-language German movie “Final Contract: Death on Delivery” (aka “Dark Ride”) reminds me of the English-language French movie “Riders” (aka “Steal”). The two films have very much in common, including a lack of ambition when it comes to storytelling, but International money to burn on stunts. But whereas “Riders” managed to rope some familiar American faces like Stephen Dorff and Natasha Henstridge to star in its “stunt a minute” so-called movie, “Final Contract” has elected to go the unknown cast route with lead American Drew Fuller, who is primarily known to TV viewers for his stint on the “Charmed” TV series, and Alison King, herself a veteran of English television.
As with “Riders”, there isn’t a whole lot of story to “Final Contract”. To wit: American delivery hunk David (Fuller) is in Berlin, Germany working at his Uncle’s business. He has a crush on college-bound co-worker Jenny (Tanja Wenzel), but can’t bring himself to tell her, even though she feels the same way and is just waiting for him to make the first move. David gets into all sorts of nutty trouble when he picks up undercover cop Lara (King) during a wacky car chase. Remember, kids, never ever pick up hitchhikers, especially if they’re hot and look like Angelina Jolie via the Tomb Raider movies.
Except it turns out that Lara is not a cop after all, but a notorious contract killer who is in Berlin to off three government witnesses to something-or-rather. She has already dispatched two unfortunate souls, and has conveniently framed the second body on David, who had gone to bed with Lara the night before and is seen carrying the tools of Lara’s trade. Now the cops, led by the unfathomably dense Hillman (Ken Bones), are after our hero, believing him to be the culprit, and the only person who can help David is — Jenny?
Yeah, it’s that kind of a movie. Which is to say, the story is a thinly plotted device that exists simply to lead into the film’s series of vehicular stunts. To be sure, fans of car chase movies will have a major hoot with “Final Contract”, as the film is chock full of incredible car chases. Heck, they even throw in a speedboat chase later in the film just to spice things up. German director Alex Sand, who does double duty as DP, has clearly put his sweat and blood into the film’s neverending series of vehicle chases. The results are impressive, with a number of stunts that defies reasoning, but sure looks good onscreen.
Predictably, the story is flimsy. Mind you, not that it matters. As with “Riders” and films of this pedigree, the main impetus for “Final Contract” is to be made competently, cheaply, and shipped overseas for Western (preferably English-speaking) consumption. I’d be surprised if you don’t see the film grace the shelves of your favorite video stores in the coming months (if they’re not there already). Despite the Berlin setting, English is the film’s only spoken language (even on the news!), and the primary cast (except for heroine Tanja Wenzel) are non-Germans. Films like “Final Contract” are made to be sold internationally, and to be easily and discreetly used to fill the space that Hollywood movies simply can’t fill up, and if they should make some money domestically, that’s just a bonus.
Most viewers who approach “Final Contract” from the right frame of mine (don’t take it too seriously) should get a laugh or two out of the picture and enjoy themselves. (As an aside, I actually like the film’s original title, “Dark Ride” better. Then again, if I was the producer, I would have called the film “Not-so-Smart David’s Wacky Ride Through Berlin”, but that’s just me.) The film is even humorous, some intentionally, others not so much. For instance, it’s pretty silly that a veteran Detective of Hillman’s ilk can’t seem to figure out that David isn’t the notorious hired killer he’s been pursuing for years. The biggest evidence? How about David’s age, genius. David looks to be in his early ’20s, although I’m almost certain the film is trying to sell him as a teenager. So when did Hillman think David started his infamous international life of crime, when he was 10?
To be sure, “Final Contract” really doesn’t have any reason to be better than, say, a Grade B action movie from the 1990s, but to its credit, it met and exceeded my expectations. The cast, while not outstanding, is good enough. Lead Drew Fuller is unquestionably a pro at this, and makes for an excellent Everyman Hero caught in a bad situation. Bad Girl Alison King’s character is obviously patterned after Angelina Jolie’s Lara Croft (heck, they even kept the same first name), and King is clearly having a wicked good time in the role. Had Sand and company hired a named cast, I’m not sure if the picture would have improved significantly. In fact, I’m certain that a leading man we instantly recognize might have hindered the believability of the David character as an intrepid Everyman.
If you were not inclined to pick apart “Final Contract’s” many plot holes and gargantuan Movie Logic (by which I mean the film only makes sense because it’s a movie and not real life), there is fun to be had. Consider a sequence near the end, when David puts on a pair of glasses to escape notice by a building full of cops, including Hillman. Now you would think that the (bruised up) face of a notorious cop killer who the cops have been chasing all over Berlin for the entire day would be instantly recognizable to any cop despite a pair of glasses, but you’d be wrong. I call this the Clark Kent Defense — in situations that takes place beyond the realm of the real world, a pair of glasses can fool anyone, even a hotshot investigative reporter like Lois Lane. Or, in the case of “Final Contract”, a veteran Detective and a building full of cops that are on the lookout for him.
Axel Sand (director) / Andreas Brune, Sven Frauenhoff, Sabine Leipert, Julia Neumann, Christoph Schlewinski (screenplay)
CAST: Drew Fuller …. David
Tanja Wenzel …. Jenny
Ken Bones …. Hillman
Sam Douglas …. Strasser
Alison King …. Lara
Tim Steed …. Koch