Contraband Review

24 Jan

From the trailers, Contraband is a toted as a gritty action packed heist film.  Unfortunately it never escapes being a B grade action movie.

The story follows Chris Farratay (Mark Wahlberg) a one-time smuggler who’s started a legitimate business and is father to two young boys and a devoted husband to Kate (Kate Beckinsale). When Kate’s little brother Andy (Caleb Landry Jones) botches a job and dumps a shipment of cocaine, Chris has to pay back the lost money or local thug, Briggs (Giovanni Ribisi) will kill Andy and Chris’ family.

Chris tries to negotiate with Briggs, but with little success and he only has a couple weeks to get the money back. With help from his childhood friend Sebastian (Ben Foster), Chris sets up a heist smuggling counterfeit American bills from Panama.  There are typical heist movie betrayals, twists and turns, but the plot feels formulaic and most of the “surprises” you can see coming a mile away.

Contraband is full of plot holes and ridiculous moments.  At one point Andy steals money from Chris and abandons him in Panama to buy a new shipment of cocaine from a drug dealer named Rueben. How did Andy know how to get to the drug dealer’s place without ever having been to Panama City?  Chris is obviosuly angry, but also angry that he was smuggling drugs.  Oh look, he’s a smuggler with morals.  It’s trivial I know, yet I found myself concentrating on these tiny problems instead of worrying about what would happen to the characters.  Not a good sign…

Casting is decent.  Mark Wahlberg plays the same character again. He looks tough and acts tough, but he’s such a sweetheart underneath it all. Tears.  Giovanni Ribisi as Briggs is perfectly sleazy and dirty just how I like him. There are other talented actors sprinkled in Contraband, like Diego Luna (Y Tu Mama Tambien) and J.K. Simmons (Spiderman). They’re a welcome distraction from the stilted plot and it’s too bad that you don’t see more of them.  My biggest problem with casting is Kate Beckinsale. Don’t get me wrong, she’s a babe, which is the problem. It’s distracting how pretty she is next to all the gritty drug dealing types.  An A list celebrity is not required in a B action movie as the “Put Upon Wife”.

As for action, it’s not in the same league as Jason Statham films.  There’s one or two chase scenes and a couple of scenes where Wahlberg beats on Briggs, but definitely not enough action.  One thing I was surprised about was how often Kate was roughed up in the movie.   It’s amazing her character didn’t have permanent brain damage; she’s thrown into a sink, slammed face first into a counter and a mirror.  It’s surprising to see Beckinsale getting her ass kicked when you’re used to her as Seline in the Underworld movies.

All things considered, if you like modern action movies and are looking to shut off your brain for two hours, Contraband is the movie for you.

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2 Responses to “Contraband Review”

  1. CMrok93 January 24, 2012 at 3:17 pm #

    There’s not a lot to think about while watching it and we’ve seen some of this plot before in other films, but for a movie opening in January, it’s actually pretty damn good thanks to a couple of cool heists and a relatively good cast. Nice review.

  2. calmiron January 24, 2012 at 5:50 pm #

    Thank you and good point.

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