Mar 21 2012 by Ian Bunting, Airdrie & Coatbridge
CONTRABAND features Mark Wahlberg as former smuggler Chris Farraday; a man determined to try and stay out of the world of crime.
But when his brother-in-law Andy (Caleb Landry Jones) owes a debt to drug dealer Tim (Giovanni Ribisi), Chris is forced to set up a crew and travel to Panama to score millions in counterfeit bills to prevent Tim harming Andy or his family.
Contraband is actually a remake of 2008 Icelandic movie Reykjavik-Rotterdam.
The star of that film, Baltasar Kormakur, directs this remake and supplies a perfectly watchable crime thriller.
Original film writers Arnaldur Indrioason and Oskar Jonasson are given a script credit, with Aaron Guzikowski adapting the screenplay.
The old ‘crook forced into one last job’ story has been done to death and Gone in Sixty Seconds covered a similar set-up (ironically, with Ribisi in the Landry Jones role).
But the script doesn’t ram home Chris’s one last run too much, justifying it with a need to protect loved ones (“family is family”).
Chris starts out having a good time at a wedding before being pulled away when Andy is attacked.
He seemed to be content with his life on the straight and narrow, humorously owning his own security installation firm, but doesn’t moan and groan about returning to life in the underworld; “I love it”, he tells Andy.
Wahlberg shares a natural chemistry with his team and there’s a light tone sprinkled throughout the predominately dark subject matter with some good banter between the guys.
In particular, Wahlberg and Ben Foster (Sebastian) feel like real-life best friends, which adds further heft to later scenes.
Most of the film takes place on a ship, where Chris’s plan unfolds under the nose of the suspicious Captain Camp (J.K. Simmons).
There’s a good character twist about halfway through and Ribisi’s tattoo-covered cocky loudmouth is suitably slimy as the main antagonist.
Landry Jones has been better and more prominent (The Last Exorcism, X-Men: First Class) but is enough of a weasel to warrant both your sympathy and annoyance.
Kate Beckinsale (Chris’s wife Kate) does fine but her character only seems to exist to get into frequent positions of peril.
Kormakur doesn’t make much of his New Orleans and Panama locations and an armoured truck takedown, set in the latter, with slo-mo explosion and gunplay is very random.
The wrap-up is also a bit too convenient and doesn’t act as a conclusion befitting the often intense earlier build-up.
Contraband is slight on action and true thrills but the cast impress and there’s enough skullduggery and twists and turns to hold your attention.
Not sure it’s worth a repeat viewing, though.
Rating – 6 out of 10.