WRITTEN BY: Aaron Guzikowski
DIRECTED BY: Baltasar Kormákur
STARRING: Mark Wahlberg, Kate Beckinsale, Giovanni Ribisi, Ben Foster
RATING: 3 stars
I had very low expectations for Contraband and I was pleasantly surprised that I actually enjoyed myself. Upon reflection, it's full of plot holes and there is far too much reliance on our hero being lucky, but in an action film like this, it doesn't really matter. If you can immerse yourself in the suspenseful adventure you'll have a good time.
Contraband is based on an Icelandic thriller named Reykjavik-Rotterdam, but this new version is set in New Orleans. Chris Farraday (Mark Wahlberg) has abandoned his life of crime in favour of having a regular life with his wife (Kate Beckinsale) and their two children. But, after his brother-in-law Andy (Caleb Landry Jones) botches a drug deal for Tim Briggs (Giovanni Ribisi) Chris is forced back into a life of crime to square Andy's debt. He assembles a crew with the help of his best friend Sebastian (Ben Foster) to head to Panama and return with millions in counterfeit bills.
I'm getting bored with this idea of Wahlberg always playing the same sort of character and always winning in the end. He does it well, but a lot of his films are beginning to follow a standard formula. Nonetheless, we've come to expect a certain style of film from him and Contraband is exactly what his fans want to see. He even takes off his shirt in one scene to please some audiences. Beckinsale is undervalued in this film, which is a real shame because she's a good actress. The rest of the cast are not particularly high-profile but they all give decent performances. Speaking of type-casting, Ribisi is particularly good as a slimy villain.
The film is directed by Baltasar Kormákur, who starred in the original film and has done a fair job with the action sequences, though they aren't as exciting as other films we've seen recently like Safe House or The Grey.
My major gripe with the Contraband is that it's plot is ridiculous. The team has a short time in Panama to get the cash and yet they somehow have time to find the warehouse where the bills are manufactured and stick up an armoured car. There's that luck again that sees Chris and his crew through.
Contraband is by no means a great film. But fans of action films will enjoy munching on their popcorn and joining the ride of thrills that this film offers. If you liked Wahlberg's other action films, you'll probably like this one too.