There are movies that you watch that you don’t see in theaters or buy on DVD, but instead either catch late at night on cable or perhaps rent for a few dollars from your local video store. These aren’t the best movies by any stretch of the imagination, but when you can’t sleep and there’s nothing else on, or when you seem to have rented everything else on the shelves, these are the films that we turn to. Honestly, many of these films are terrible and not worth watching no mater how much you can’t sleep. But every now and then one of these films, while not being the greatest achievement in cinematic history, still manages to be effectively entertaining.

Frida Farrell stars as Jane, a loving wife who also happens to be a highly efficient contract killer for the CIA. Having settled down into a normal life with a loving husband, Jane finds that her world quickly falls apart when she is drugged and framed for the murder of her husband. With the police and FBI at her front door ready to take her in to custody, our lovely heroine is forced to act quickly. She tries to contact her CIA handler, but that does no good, so kicking up a cloud of dust, Jane takes off with the cops and feds hot on her trail. Not sure of what is going on, she begins to piece together why she’s been framed murder, but with another contract killer (Rhett Giles) hot on her trail, she is forced to keep on the move. Making her way to Trinidad, Jane crosses path with Lars (Christian Willis), a hapless tourist who is soon caught up in her deadly game of cat and mouse with the American counter-intelligence community.

Contract Killers is one of those movies that exist in an uncertain limbo of direct-to-video that can be deadly. The film is cast with actors only known to members of their families, and the DVD packaging seems to scream of low budget filmmaking of the most questionable quality. This is the sort of DVD that you pick up because the front looks moderately compelling, and then put back down because the back of the box isn’t doing its job of making you want to watch the actual product. And yet, despite the things working against it, Contract Killers, for what it is, is a decent little flick.

There are several key things to keep in mind about Contract Killers. First is the fact that this is a bit like The Bourne Identity, only with a chick who doesn’t have amnesia. Second, the movie lacks the sort of budget to put it on par with the Bourne movies, even though that’s what director Justin B. Rhodes is going for. Third, where films of this pedigree often go for more of an exploitation angle, complete with gratuitous nudity and over the top violence, Contract Killers seems intent on taking more of a cinematic high road, which may or may not disappoint some viewers. And finally, there are times when the movie seems in danger of being betrayed by its low budget, as if the filmmakers were pushing their luck in terms of what they could pull off given their resources.

It is important to realize that while Contract Killers is not a great film, it is far better and more entertaining than you’d probably expect it to be. Rhodes’ handles the direction capably, although the script itself could have used some tweaking here and there. Still, the story is compelling enough, and the movie moves at a quick enough pace that it manages to be consistently engaging. Likewise, the actors are all solid enough that you can forgive the fact that at times some of the cast seem to lose their American accents. Farrell seems like an unlikely CIA assassin, but her performance is strong enough that she manages to carry the film.

Contract Killers is a well-paced thriller that rises above whatever limitations it has, resulting in a movie that is entertaining enough that it warrants watching. Would I buy it? No. But would I rent it and not feel completely ripped off? Sure.

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