Contraband (2012) – Review

2 1/2 Stars

Mark Wahlberg returns to the screen for the first time since his turn as Mickey Ward in the Oscar nominated Fighter. Unfortunately Contraband is nowhere near as high class an affair. It’s an overly familiar so called action thriller with one of the strangest references to famed painter Jackson Pollock I’ve ever seen in a movie.

The story follows a retired smuggler, Chris Farraday (Wahlberg) now happily married to a beautiful wife (Beckinsale) raising two children. Farraday works in the home security installation business until being forced back into the criminal underworld to clear a debt his brother-in-law has accrued with a local drug lord (Giovanni Ribisi). So it’s off to Panama to secure and transport a shipment of counterfeit bills into America.

Contraband is in fact a subpar remake of the 2008 film out of Iceland titled Reykjavik-Rotterdam. That film starred icelandic actor Baltasar Kormákur in the Mark Wahlberg role. Kormákur is making his Hollywood directorial debut here and it becomes apparent very early on that he is in way over his head. Scenes are staged flat and the overall execution is sloppy. Any tension that is mounted quickly dissipates when the tone veers into light moments. It’s as if the filmmaker was aiming for a dark hard edged smuggling flick and the studio wanted The Italian Job 2.

Giovanni Ribisi is the most effective in the role of the drug lord that lures Wahlberg back into action. Ben Foster turns in a nice supporting performance as the shifty best friend with questionable ethics. It’s poor Kate Beckinsale that has the most thankless role. Anytime she’s on-screen it’s only to be threatened, tortured, or beaten. After awhile you just want the thugs to leave this innocent bystander alone.

Contraband isn’t a bad movie but it’s not a particularly good one either. For years Wahlberg (serving as producer) has attempted to get a film version of the infamous documentary Cocaine Cowboys into production. That would have made for a far more intriguing story than what we are presented with here. In this day and age with theater prices at an all-time high, I can’t recommend you go out and see this. In actuality Contraband is ideal for a dollar rental in your local Redbox kiosk.

Director: Baltasar Kormákur
Stars: Mark Wahlberg, Kate Beckinsale, Giovanni Ribsi

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