The Human Contract


by Johnny Web (Uncle Scoopy; Greg Wroblewski)

Want to make your own films? It will really help if your husband is one of the richest guys, one of the biggest box-office draws and one of the best-liked guys in the film business. The Human Contract marks the debut of Jada Pinkett Smith as the author of a full-length screenplay, as well as her debut as the director of a feature-length film. She and husband Will produced the film.

The premise:

A massive conglomerate is looking to buy a boutique advertising agency and convert it to an in-house advertising/marketing department. Two agencies will pitch head-to-head for the account. The head of one of the ad agencies is confident that his young marketing genius will have the right ideas, but is not so sanguine about the whiz kid's private life. The conglomerate is an ultra-conservative family firm which has built a squeaky clean image upon a "family values" platform, but our hero is about to get divorced, seems to have some dark secrets, and has an explosively violent temper.

He also runs into a major complication in the days running up to the big presentation. A beautiful, free-spirited woman seduces him, and leads him into sexual adventures which would scotch the deal if the lily-white conglomerate found out about them. To make matters worse, she is a married women, which would be a total deal-breaker.

Will he be able to keep his life under control long enough to close the big deal?

Jada Pinkett played a little game with this script. She set it up as an erotic thriller. About thirty minutes into the film, it seems obvious that the seductress must be working for the opposing agency, trying to discredit our hero in the eyes of the conservative conglomerate. This becomes even more apparent when she insists on filming some of their adventures. Then it turns out that is not the case at all, and the film plays out as a serious (if contrived) drama about a tragically doomed romance between wounded people. There is good and bad news about laying out a film with that strategy. The good news is that it is original and subverts genre conventions, so the plot never really goes where one expects it to, and that can be interesting. The bad news is that it makes the entire set-up a waste of time, in essence a very long red herring. The big competition between the two agencies is never used as part of the plot. The film would play out exactly the same if the second agency did not exist at all. The seductress just turns out to be a quirky, free-spirited woman who is trying to get through the defenses of an uptight corporate soldier. That's all.

There is also a second storyline involving the executive's family - a mother with a tragic past, and a sister with an abusive husband. All of that heavy drama folds together uneasily with the erotic relationship, at least until the erotic relationship becomes just as laden with tragedy. Frankly, the entire film just doesn't work. The erotica is not original, nor very erotic. All of the main characters are unsympathetic. The secrets are not very interesting, and their revelation is downplayed, generating nothing more than a reaction of "That's it? So what?" There is never a clear connection between the main character's dark secrets and his present unhappiness. Parts of the exposition prove to have been unnecessary (like the second ad agency). Worse than unnecessary, those parts are boring. Finally, the payoff is flat, and the resolution of the romantic relationship is unsatisfying in many ways.

The Smith's money was enough to get her the jobs and the budget, but it was not persuasive enough to land a theatrical distribution deal. Obviously, a lot of potential distributors had the same kinds of reactions I had to this odd film, thus forcing it straight to video. Nonetheless, there were things I admired about The Human Contract. The sets are interesting, and the visuals are sometimes spectacular. The script tries to deal with complex and profound ideas, and some scenes do work well on their own, even if they don't quite seem to be part of a master plan.

I get the feeling that Jada has talent and may make and/or write good films.

Unfortunately, this is not one of them.


widescreen anamorphic, 2.40

Full-length commentary by auteur Jada Pinkett Smith and cinematographer Darren Genet

(21:34) Making-of featurette

(4:01) A short interview with Director Jada Pinkett Smith and the main talents


There are no graded reviews online from major reviewers, but you can find Hollywood Reporter's comments and a few other reviews linked from IMDb




4.9 IMDB summary (of 10)




Straight to DVD.



Paz Vega played the seductress and provided the film's kinda-sorta near nudity. She appears in a see-throgh bra, and is seen briefly in some see-though panties, albeit from the rear and at a great distance.

(In all fairness, it is very sexy, even though there is less flesh than we would like.)



Our Grade:

If you are not familiar with our grading system, you need to read the explanation, because the grading is not linear. For example, by our definition, a C is solid and a C+ is a VERY good movie. There are very few Bs and As. Based on our descriptive system, this film is a:


A serious drama which starts out masquerading as an erotic thriller. It has interesting parts, although the whole is not so satisfying. Jada did better as a director than as a writer.

Even though the film is mediocre, some good commentary and making-of features make this a great DVD value at the used price of four or five bucks.