Film Review: Contraband

You’ve all seen Contraband before. Granted, it probably wasn’t called Contraband, but you’ve seen it just the same. In fact you’ve probably seen it several times over your movie-going years, so much so that you’re probably getting a little tired of it.

Contraband tells the story of Chris Farraday (Mark Wahlberg), a former smuggler who decides to come out of retirement for one last job when his brother-in-law gets into trouble with a dangerous drug dealer (Giovanni Ribisi). Sound familiar? It should do. The criminal coming out of retirement for one final job storyline has been around for a very long time, and has probably been used so many times it must be out of copyright like an incredibly old song.

The predictable and overly used plot still isn’t this film’s biggest failing. Giovanni Ribisi, an actor we know is capable of great things, is boxed into the homicidal drug dealer category, something we’ve seen him do before and doesn’t do him any justice. Spare a thought for poor old Kate Beckinsale too. Here we have an actress who is capable of carrying an entire movie franchise on her shoulders, no matter how bad it may be, reduced to playing the perfect wife in danger role. Her character is so underwritten it is borderline lazy.

Let’s not overlook what this film gets right though. The action sequences are top notch and riveting, and let’s face, the action scenes are the reason this film exists. The heist at the centre of the story is incredibly planned out, right down to every little detail. It’s all rather ingenious, to the extent that it would make Danny Ocean scratch his head. It is hard to believe that these nitty gritty street-wise thieves are intelligent enough to plan something like this.

Icelandic director Baltasar Kormákur does a good job considering this is his first Hollywood movie, and if this project is a test to see if he’s ready then he almost certainly is. Mark Wahlberg does a good job in the lead role, now being more selective about the film roles he takes on. After starring in absolute howlers such as The Happening, it would be understandable if he is slightly weary. It is thanks to Kormákur and Wahlberg that this film is able to lift itself out of the doldrums and make it credible, but when there is so much potential and very little delivered, other people may not be so forgiving.

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