Review of “Contraband”

by Simon on February 10, 2012 · 0 comments

Mark Wahlberg plays another working class action hero in this gritty but convoluted story about double-dealing smugglers, wharfside corruption and family revenge. It’s a remake of an Icelandic thriller from 2008 which was produced by actor Baltasar Kormakur, who is in the director’s chair for this US$25 million Hollywood remake for Universal studios.

contraband-poster.jpgWahlberg plays ex-smuggler Chris Farraday, married with two kids and running his own private security company in New Orleans. But he seems to miss the bad old days – when he was one of the best of course – so when his young brother-in-law Andy (Caleb Landry) gets caught on the wrong side of drug smuggling deal that goes sour, Chris doesn’t take too long to decide that one more play is in order. After a visit to his dad in jail (smuggling seems to be a family business) where Farraday Snr is still running the show from behind bars, Chris joins the crew of a ship bound for Panama. His plan is to pick up a van full of fake banknotes that he will smuggle into America and sell in order to pay off the nasties who will otherwise do something fatal to Andy. But – as with all “one last robbery, I promise” stories – things don’t quite go according to plan and, as Chris fends off Panamanian gangsters and gets involved in a heist of an mega-valuable Jackson Pollock painting, his wife Kate (Kate Beckinsdale) has some serious trouble dealing with the nasties back home. And that’s just some of the plot.

Too long, too complicated, and way too cool (in that gritty, handheld, soft focus style that’s so in fashion at the moment), the film’s best moments are when Kormakur crafts some excellent suspense – with Walhberg and his loyal crew narrowly missing discovery on several occasions by customs officers, the ship’s captain or the collection of bad guys on both sides of the Panama Canal.

Although Wahlberg and Beckinsdale, along with the rest of the cast, are in good form and the action sequences are well staged, the film has a workmanlike quality – lacking the cheeky charm of many a good heist flick or the powering urgency of a good dramatic thriller. If you do get a tad bored, then watch how cleverly screenwriter Aaron Guzikowski and director Kormakur carefully craft a sympathetic central character out of someone who is actually engaged in some serious criminal activity. That’s the movies for you.

Rating: ★★★☆☆

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