Feb 212012


Is Contraband just another “one last job” action film, or is the Mark Wahlberg-helmed film a tight, fast-paced thriller? Read our Contraband review after the jump.

Mark Wahlberg stars as Chris Farraday, a one-time big smuggler who has retired and is settled into suburban life with his wife (played by Kate Beckinsale) and his two children.
Chris is forced out of retirement to do “one last job” when his wife’s kid brother Andy (Caleb Landry Jones) runs into trouble while smuggling some drugs, and is forced to ditch them into the ocean. The bad guys aren’t taking any excuses, and Andy has to front with the cash to replace the ditched drugs, or he and those he loves won’t be around much longer.

Chris manges to get himself on a cargo ship heading to Panama and hastily recruits some of his former crew who work on the ship to help him out. From here the story plays out in two threads. The first thread sees Chris and Andy in Panama trying to acquire counterfeit cash and somehow get it on the ship to take back to the US; while the second shows the drama playing out back at home, where the heavies (lead by Giovanni Ribisi) are making sure Chris and Andy know what the consequences are if they fail.

If this plot synopsis sounds familiar, it’s because everything about this film is. How many “one last film” jobs can there be? How many wives can scream down the phone-line, while their husbands get all action-man heavy at the other end? While the film does have a few sequences of quite impressive action, it’s not enough to make up for the mostly predictable storyline and rather uninspired dialogue. Using one really bad word in a film, does not an edgy film make. Thankfully the film moves along at such a rapid pace, that you’ll mostly be able to forget the storyline and overlook the plot contrivances.

Much like Denzel Washington, Mark Wahlberg has become quite comfortable in these action films. However unlike Washington, Wahlberg doesn’t have the added charisma and ability to convey emotions through his facial expressions that Washington has. Although he certainly has the physique for these roles, it really does feel like he is just going through the motions. Wahlberg does a serviceable job in this film, but nothing more.


Giovanni Ribisi certainly looks the part as the leader of the heavies, and his performance while quite good, is tempered slightly by his rather odd accent. Beakinsale doesn’t even deserve a mention – the one-dimensional wife character could have been played by any female with a pulse. Thankfully Ben Foster delivers a great performance as Sebastian, the quiet and complicated longtime friend of Chris, who has been assigned to watch out for of Chris’s family while he is away doing the job.

Overall Contraband is a forgettable film that doesn’t add anything to the action genre. Perhaps Wahlberg might want to make this his “one last job” as a leading action man?

 The Facts

Director: Baltasar Kormákur
Writer(s): Aaron Guzikowski (screenplay), Arnaldur Indriðason & Óskar Jónasson (film – “Reykjavik-Rotterdam”)
Starring: Mark Wahlberg, Giovanni Ribisi, Kate Beckinsale
Runtime: 109 minutes
Release date(s): Australia & New Zealand: February 23rd 2012