The Contractor


I’m going to break tradition for a change. Let’s have some backstory before we proceed.

2013 is one hell of a time to be Mexican. Maybe the best time. If you’re in California, you’re now in the majority, sending the expected cultural and economic shockwaves from coast to browner coast. If you’re in Texas, you’re slowly but surely turning a solidly red state a proud shade of blue, giving the moribund Democratic Party a fighting chance for the first time in a generation. You’re influencing elections, shifting the debate, and, most amazingly, forcing reasonable immigration reform to the table. You’re doing more than mowing our lawns and raising our kids, you’re damn near running our lives. And if you’re Danny Trejo, you’re in every third movie released in the United States, with dozens more in the pipeline. In fact, it’s pretty much an open secret that President Obama himself, in order to nail down the Latino vote well into the next century, guaranteed Trejo that he’d never go more than 24 hours without being seen in public. In many ways, he’s the most ubiquitous Mexican of all time, leaving the Taco Bell dog and Speedy Gonzalez to chase their own tails in shameful obscurity. And, hateful conservative rhetoric to the contrary, we’re all the better for it.


That shit’s depressing if you’re a white guy. Are you sure this is for the best?

Brother, we stole their land. Like, damn near all of it. Not only that, we turned a proud people into a race of criminals, illegals, and maids. The least we can do is give Danny Trejo more work than he knows what to do with. Consider this the opening salvo of a better, deeper relationship.


But I’ve seen the DVD cover for, what do you call it again….The Contractor? It’s Trejo holding a big-ass knife, essentially telling all white people that he’s coming for their blood. That’s not exactly Kumbaya.

Never you mind, as the cover promises way more than it delivers. Sure, Trejo is disgruntled, furious, and bent on revenge, but the body count is so damn low that, well, um…hell, I’ll just go ahead and spoil it. The only one who dies in The Contractor is Trejo himself. At the hands of a white woman!


Wait a second, here. You go ahead and proclaim 2013 the Year of the Mexican, then cite as evidence a film where the one and only Mexican character is shot down like a dog by a gringo bitch?

I didn’t say this would be easy. There are growing pains and all that. But yes, Trejo dies, even though his cause is, well, pretty legit. He has a genuine beef with these white people, and he doesn’t get what he wants.


You’re going to have to flesh out the story a bit, as I have no idea what you’re talking about.

Long story short, Trejo is Jorge Reyes (a.k.a. Javier, as if any white person gives a shit or knows the difference), a grieving father who lost his son to gang violence. It seems that two months prior to the events of the film, Jorge’s son, Omar, was killed in prison by gang rivals. Only Omar wasn’t in a gang. Hell, he wasn’t even guilty of a crime. Seems he was railroaded by a racist justice system that, predictably, arrested the first available Mexican for first degree murder. He was just protecting his girlfriend from potential rapists. But no one cared about the truth, least of all Paul Chase, the ambitious prosecuting attorney who was on the fast track to greatness, one innocent Mexican at a time.


So what the fuck does the title mean? I don’t get it.

Jorge, in order to get revenge on Paul, poses as a contractor to gain access to the Chase home. From there, he’ll break into email accounts, monitor cell phone calls, and hide in bushes, spying on the family between bouts of sawing 2×4’s. If he feels like it, he’ll even lick his lips from the garden as Mrs. Chase does her yoga. To maximize the dread and foreboding, Jorge will be shot the entire time like he’s Jason Voorhees, all slow footsteps and a chilling musical score.


Where did a semi-literate Mexican acquire the skills to monitor phone calls? Don’t tell me he’s a secret CIA agent or something.

No, he’s just an ordinary guy. But before his wife died of cancer and his son got a raw deal, he worked for the telephone company. Apparently, according to Omar’s former girlfriend, dude’s pretty smart. Don’t judge a book by its cover, man.


I suppose Omar was a saint, too. Aren’t they all?

He was a good kid. “Part of a new generation,” as his father says. He was going to college and loved to work with computers. But you just saw him as a common criminal! Trust me, all this is funnier if you say it in Trejo’s voice.


So why doesn’t Jorge just kill Paul and his family right off the bat? Why play cat and mouse?

As Jorge tells Paul time and time again, he wants him to feel what it’s like to lose. A quick murder wouldn’t accomplish that one bit. So Jorge fucks around with bar receipts and out-of-context photos to help build a case that Paul is cheating on his wife with his hot assistant. Which isn’t too far-fetched, after all, since she likes to rub his shoulders and comes to work in the world’s shortest skirt. And all is going according to plan until Mrs. Chase catches Jorge in Paul’s office and demands that he be let go. Paul is the one to drop the hammer, and what follows is the sort of argument where Jorge massages each and every sharp tool in his belt so we might think he’s going to kill Paul right then and there. Instead, Jorge leaves him with vague threats and frightening promises.


So Paul’s wife wanted Jorge fired, even though he wasn’t really doing anything wrong? I mean, he was, but she didn’t know that. Isn’t she just a racist?

Paul and Elizabeth are typical Southern California racists, the kind who hire the Mexican to remodel their house simply because he charges the least. And Elizabeth is always screaming in fear whenever Jorge pops around a corner unexpected. Of course, I’m not sure that’s racism so much as coming face to face with a man who looks like Danny Trejo. With that mug, he’s got to expect being stereotyped now and again. He shows up, something’s missing from the jewelry box, no fucking doubt.


So how does Elizabeth find out that Jorge isn’t what he claims to be?

She checks a website called Mugshot Central, of course. Problem is, there are 28 pages of Javier Reyes. Which is sort of funny, though not as much as insisting that his character is only supposed to be 50 years old. Elizabeth narrows it down when she punches in his actual first name, and this is where she discovers that he was arrested for contempt of court after his son’s conviction. Her husband put the kid away! That’s got to be why Jorge is hanging around, right?


How does Paul handle the news?

Like a good lawyer, he calls a few tough guys he knows to “take care of” Mr. Reyes. But this is Danny Trejo. He knocks both dudes out cold, and grabs one of the unconscious guy’s phones to text Paul that “it’s done.” Paul relaxes, thinking he’s in the clear. Only shit’s about to get real.


Okay, then, now we’re talking. Paul has a hot teenage daughter, so the film decides the best course of action is to have Jorge kidnap her, tell her sweet little lies, and end up in the pool like Machete and Lindsay Lohan….

In a perfect world, yes, but while Jorge holds a gun to the girl’s head, no clothing is removed and no part of her is even tempted to paw Trejo’s scarred chest. McKenzie, as she’s known, is actually a good girl, despite her lies to sneak away with her boyfriend. Hell, she even tells her boyfriend to take it easy when the kissing gets hot and heavy. So very disappointing. And, for no reason whatsoever, McKenzie is asthmatic, so there are no fewer than four references to remembering her inhaler. Cinema logic tells us that she will be without it in the end and have an attack, but it never happens. Maybe in the director’s cut.


Any other sloppy bits of screenwriting?

Elizabeth eventually finds out that Jorge has been hacking email accounts and trying to frame Paul for adultery, but she still thinks her husband is guilty. I’m guessing this is so that Paul will be sent packing, only to be called back like a white knight when Jorge breaks into the house to kill them all.


So there’s a chase to wrap it up? Any chance of a rape? Somehow, that blond girl has got to get naked.

Jorge chases mother and daughter around the estate, ending up at the stables. I expected a talking killer, or at least a few choice one-liners, but all Jorge says is, “McKenzie….it’s time for your Spanish lesson.” Which is kind of cute, since he’s bloody and holding a gun at the time. But the chase is brief, and before you know it, she clocks Jorge with a shovel, grabs the gun, and blows his brains out by the door.


A happy ending, at least. A refreshing change of pace from all that Hollywood cynicism.

Happy for whom? White people? Fuck yes, as racial supremacy is restored. Any number of lessons follow from this. Mexican laborers are all biding their time until they can kill their gringo overlords. Mexicans are stealing all the good jobs through outrageous underbidding. If we let them in – house, stable, country – they’ll rob us blind. Paul even announces at the end that he’s going to work fewer hours and spend more time with wife and child. So all it took was killing a Mexican to heal the family’s wounds? Elizabeth even gets a pediatric center named after her, given her fundraising prowess. Life is good! But the poor Mexican man, whose life fell apart because white people behaved badly, is thrown in a pauper’s grave and forgotten. So fucking typical.


So despite the good news at the beginning, you’re not at all optimistic?

When I popped in the DVD, the Spanish subtitles were still on. Meaning someone had been here before me. Someone who spoke Spanish. Were there tears at the final message? Depression? Or will he, too, vow revenge? Or maybe the answer lies with the movies. Trejo movies. Debido a que todas las peliculas son peliculas de Danny Trejo.


Google translate?

Fuck you.

About Matt

Matt is the site’s Longest Serving Critic and chief misanthrope. He divides his time between classics of cinema and the most ridiculous movies he can find on Redbox.
Follow Matt: @mattcale52