Film Review “Contraband”

Starring: Mark Wahlberg, Ben Foster and Giovanni Ribisi
Directed by: Baltasar Kormakur
Rated: R
Running time: 1 hour 50 mins

Our Score: 3.5 out of 5 stars

As a freighter ship approaches New Orleans it is suddenly surrounded by boats and helicopters manned by members of the Customs and Border Protection team. Fearing the discovery of his “shipment,” one of the crew members tosses a package overboard. That package cost somebody a pretty penny. And now it may cost him and his family their lives.

Told in a quick, straight ahead style, “Contraband” is an update of the 2008 Icelandic film “Reykjavik-Rotterdam,” which director Kormakur not only produced but starred in as well. The story concerns happily married father of two Chris Farraday (Wahlberg). Farraday was one of the best smugglers in his time, bringing pretty much whatever he wanted from anywhere he chose. He’s retired from the life now, happily running his own alarm company. And who better to know how to foil crime then a former crook. When he finds out his brother-in-law Andy (Caleb Landry Jones) has had to dump a major package of drugs he realizes that soon HE will be the one thrown overboard. After paying a visit to Andy’s “benefactor” (Ribisi, channeling Nicolas Cage in “Kiss of Death”), Chris decides to pull one more job, hoping the proceeds will keep Andy alive.

After a holiday season of more serious fare, it’s nice to see the new year start off with a bang. There are twists and turns, crosses and double crosses here and if you don’t pay attention you may fall behind. Wahlberg has always done “tough” well and he doesn’t disappoint here. Of course, growing up a bad ass in South Boston probably has a lot to do with it! His on screen relationship with wife Kate Beckinsale, who plays his wife, Kate, feels real and that is why you can’t help but root for him. As played by Jones, Andy is more a whiner then a tough guy. It’s obvious to me that, to paraphrase Joe Pesci in “Goodfellas,” Andy “would fold under questioning.” Foster is strong as Chris’ long time friend and partner Sebastian. The supporting cast that makes up Chris’ shipmates are also enjoyable as is J.K. Simmons, who plays the cargo ships Captain.

Kormakur uses an almost documentary style during the more quiet moments of the film but opens up the screen when the action calls for it. An armored car robbery, very reminiscent of Michael Mann’s “Heat,” is one of the highlights in the adrenaline filled second act.

One Reply to “Film Review “Contraband””

  1. It’s a good premise. Blue collar guy gets caught up with bad guys while trying to do good. But it’s tedious and Mark appears to be on auto-pilot a lot of the time. I’m hoping he’ll reach out and do a character so I can remain a fan.

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