Review: Contraband

Directed by: Baltasar Kormákur.

Starring: Mark Wahlberg, Kate Bekinsale, Giovani Ribisi, Caleb Landry Jones, Ben Foster, J.K. Simmons.

Rating:   Running Time: 109 minutes.

Chris Farraday (Mark Wahlberg), a reformed smuggler who now lives a happy life with his wife Kate (Kate Bekinsale) and their two children. When Kate’s brother Andy (Caleb Landry Jones), is smuggling drugs aboard a cargo ship and has to dump them overboard during a spot coast guard inspection, his employer Tim Briggs (Giovani Ribisi) has him and his partner beaten. After Andy’s partner later dies from his injuries, Briggs threatens to also kill Andy unless he pays the outstanding amount for the drugs.

Chris approaches Briggs, who is unwilling to wait for the money, and threatens Chris’ family, forcing him to return to his former life of crime and arrange one last job with his friend, including close friend Sebastian (Ben Foster), to raise enough money to settle the debt. Unwilling to smuggle drugs on both moral grounds and due to the heavier jail time that it would risk, Chris instead decides to do what he has done before and arranges a shipment of forged currency.

This is the type of role that Mark Wahlberg has proved he can pull off before, with his performance as Chris, a career criminal who has now reformed himself not being a stretch from the tale of his own life. Director Baltasar Kormákur, who starred in the Mark Wahlberg role in the original Icelandic movie Reykjavik-Rotterdam, has assembled a solid cast for the movie, all of which give decent, if not above average performances for a heist/thriller of this type, with Wahlberg and Bekinsale’s being the stand out amongst them as people who find themselves in a situation between a rock and a hard place not of their own making.

The movie is well directed, with the majority of it taking place aboard a cargo ship, where Baltasar Kormákur has done an incredible job of filming in the cramped conditions without making the movie feel small scale, and with an eye to visual detail for his shots, keeping such things as sequences filmed inside of a shipping container or in the corridors of the ship interesting enough to stop something so simple becoming stagnant or boring.

There is a slight pacing issue with the movie when not aboard ship though, and while the movie doesn’t stretch to the two hour mark, there is room for a little bit of trimming here and there (in particular one scene involving a shoot out which feels tacked on to provide an injection of action is unnecessary, and the events is sets in motion could have easily been inserted into the movie in some other more seamless way), but these sequences thankfully are competently handled, and are not as disruptive as they could have been in lesser experienced hands. There’s also a sense of the movie not knowing how to end things concisely, with several endings which serve to tie up the many threads set up throughout the movie, but again, where this would have been detrimental to the final movie, they manage to serve their purpose without everything ending up a tangled mess.

Be warned, there are a few moments within the movie that are tough, in particular a couple of emotionally high strung scenes involving Bekinsale’s character, where she and her kids are being terrorised to send a message to her husband, but don’t let that deter you from seeing Contraband if you enjoy a good heist/thriller movie, as there are plenty of others out there which are not as deserving of your hard earned cash.


Posted on March 19, 2012, in Reviews and tagged , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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