Contraband Directed by: Baltasar Kormákur Cast: Mark Wahlberg, Giovanni Ribisi, Kate Beckinsale Running Time: 1 hr 50 min Rating: R Release Date: January 13, 2010
PLOT: Chris Farraday (Mark Wahlberg) is an ex-smuggler extraordinaire with a family and a legitimate business. When his idiot brother-in-law (Ribisi) botches a very pricey job, Farraday agrees to smuggle counterfeit money into the US in exchange for his family's safety.
WHO'S IT FOR? People who enjoy silly, improbable action movies with scruffy heroes who have to escape numerous impossibly dangerous situations.
EXPECTATIONS: Fun Mark Wahlberg action movie! Woo-woo! As long as it was more than mildly entertaining, I was going to be happy.
Mark Wahlberg as Chris Farraday: I like Mark Wahlberg. Sure, he plays the same role over and over andoverandover--retired bad guy turned sensitive husband/father gets finagled into pulling off one last spectacular heist--but it's still entertaining if you dig that sort of thing. Score: 7
Giovanni Ribisi as Tim Briggs: It's Ribisi, but he is well concealed in a thinner-than-normal frame and lowlife thuggishness. Honestly, I wanted him to win. I mean, they're all smugglers anyway, right? And he's the most straightforward of the bunch, and certainly the most unique and interesting. I would have rather spent more time with Ribisi than Wahlberg or Beckinsale. Score: 8
Kate Beckinsale as Kate Farraday: It's Kate, and she's always fun to look out on a purely aesthetic level. If you want to dig past that, you get to the fact that she's an irritating character without much personality. Her primary job is to be in danger so Chris keeps feeling like he has to do this one last job, so she does a lot of screaming and crying. Score: 6
TALKING: Lots of gruff swearing followed by intense stares. The bulk of the dialogue is essentially, "What the f*ck were you doing/thinking/playing at" and an ongoing conversation about whether or not the kid who got them all into this mess is too stupid to quantify. Go for the action, and then whatever they're yapping about between explosions won't matter. Score: 4
SIGHTS: There are some fairly tense moments in Contraband, especially when Chris gets to Panama. Quick edits and dire circumstances combined, made me nervous as hell, even though I didn't actually care about any of the characters. Score: 8
SOUNDS: The film starts us out in New Orleans so you have the standard blues and jazz. For the most part, it's the boom-boom style score to heighten the anxiety and a goodly number of gunfights. Score: 7
BEST SCENE: The scene where the tanker almost plowed into the Panama Canal was awesome. I can tell it's awesome when I find myself shifting around in my seat every few seconds and chewing on my fingers.
ENDING: Questionable. Are we thrilled that the ex-criminal who broke all sorts of laws is now a multimillionaire living the good life? Not sure. Since you don't ever quite whole-heartedly root for the guy, it falls flat.
QUESTIONS: It's too bad that "just kill the dumb bastard" isn't one of the options. It's not a question, per se, but it's what I would've asked the bad guys: "Can't you just take his stupid life and leave the rest of us alone? We won't miss him, even at Christmas."
REWATCHABILITY: Let it breathe for six months to a year--just enough time to forget most of it--and then watch it for fun when there's nothing else on.
It's another fun Mark Wahlberg action movie in the same vein as most of his other action movies. If that's something you enjoy, you will enjoy this. It's that simple. Similarly, if it's something that you hate with the intensity of a thousand burning suns, you won't enjoy it as much. It's not going to win any awards, change your perspective, challenge any world views, or make any sort of dent in our consciousness for longer than four or so days. It's entertainment painkillers.
It's interesting to see how crafty smugglers are, especially since they're probably twice as sneaky as Hollywood can ever portray. It's a dark, sticky underworld and I'd rather not stay longer than slightly under two hours.
Along those same lines, it's difficult to root for the smuggler. Chris won't smuggle dope, which is supposed to be his saving grace, but it's not like he's sneaking puppies and unicorns into the country. It's still doing serious damage to the economy to introduce $140,000,000 in counterfeit bills into circulation. Knowing this makes it tricky to find any sympathy for his predicament, but it also lets you watch the movie without caring if he lives or dies. I find that extremely liberating, because the second I start to squirm around ("Oh no! How will he think his way out of this one?") I remember that I don't care and I'm not even a little invested in the outcome. Then you can just sit back and passively enjoy these adventures through the filthy slime of our underbelly.
FINAL SCORE: 6/10