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Written by: Sam Fragoso on January 15, 2012

January 15, 2012 | 8 comments | Featured, Old Format


Macho testosterone is aplenty in Contraband – the newest action/thriller starring Mark Wahlberg as another charismatic tough guy who beats the living day lights out of anyone who gets in his way.

Sound familiar? Yeah, I know it does. Wahlberg has played a character of this nature in numerous films throughout his prosperous career. I believe Contraband, though, can serve as a living testament to the actors’ bravado and that he’s perhaps incapable of making a film that isn’t – at the very least – exciting.

Playing a minor spinoff of his typical “badass, do good” persona, Wahlberg plays Chris Farraday, a once upon a time master class international smuggler, who has settled down with a family (a wife played by Kate Beckinsale and two children) and open up a security system company.

To be candid, who wants to watch Marky Mark set up security cameras for two hours? I didn’t think so.

Thus the existence of Andy comes into play. Andy is the younger brother to Kate (played by Kate Beckinsale, pretty creative character name) whose got himself mixed up with the wrong people after he botches a job in which he was supposed to import cocaine for Tim Briggs (Giovanni Ribisi).

Naturally Biggs, being the typical local scumbag gangster you’d expect, has threatened Chris and his whole family. Biggs give Farraday two weeks to pay the money, or murders will occur.

Now placed in a moral dilemma, Chris must decide whether he rejoins the smuggling business for just one more job to save his family or fight back with force. With his father in jail he is weary of law enforcement and being away from his lovely wife and kids. But he has no choice. Family comes first and he knows that.

So Chris, along with his former partner in crime Sebastian Abney (Ben Foster), puts together a team to head to Panama and score millions of dollars of counterfeit bills.

The absurdity of violence, bloodshed, and illegal activity ensues.

Mark Wahlberg smuggling currency in "Contraband"

Films like Contraband ultimately boil down to two areas of cinema. First, it’s the story. We’ve seen plenty of pictures where a hired hand attempts to escape his or her criminal past, but then is lured in by one final job. And then we have the action sequences. Not crazily inventive, but still exhilarating.

There are a few satisfying, suspense ridden scenes where Farraday and company are close to getting reprimanded, but then just barely escape. Those set pieces, despite being nothing new, have you on the edge of your seat.

Which could be said about the entirety of Contraband. Wahlberg supplies his typical jolt of energy into the hopelessly rundown script.

That screenplay, written by Aaron Guzikowski, gets the film into some trouble (literally and figuratively) quite often, though. A majority of the films second and third act is sluggish and contains a vast amount of inconsequential material, with a purpose to lead us to the predictable conclusion. For every aspect of the movie that’s enjoyable, there’s a twist and turn that’s aggravating and contrived.

Still, for the target demographic, Contraband is an affable affair. The film embodies everything we’ve come to embrace from a Mark Wahlberg movie: it’s ludicrous, over the top, and unintelligent – yet it satisfies us because it is well-constructed escapism.

Regardless, it’s unfortunate the only legitimate nuance in Contraband is that Giovanni Ribisi can create a character with a more annoying and screeching voice than he did in last years The Rum Diary.

Rating: ★★½☆


Contraband (2012)

Cast: Kate Beckinsale, Mark Wahlberg, Ben Foster

Director: Baltasar Kormákur

Writer: Óskar Jónasson, Arnaldur Indriðason

Runtime: 110 minutes

Genre: thriller, drama, crime

Trailer Contraband


There are 8 comments for this post.

  1. Candice Frederick on January 15, 2012 9:17 am

    interesting, yeah, it looks good enough for what it’s trying to be i guess. but the writing, as you point out, seems worrisome

  2. Duke on January 15, 2012 2:12 pm

    It is certainly worrisome Candice.

    Thanks for stopping by.

  3. NIck on January 16, 2012 7:49 am

    Good review, Sam. And I agree with your points about Wahlberg. Even in schlock his effortless nature somehow makes it at least sort of compelling. You wish he’d employ his gift solely in good movies, but I suppose he needs to put money away for his kids’ college funds like any father.

  4. Duke on January 16, 2012 7:54 pm

    The Departed was a good showcasing of his skills.

  5. Matt S. on January 17, 2012 11:37 am

    I agree, I gave it the same rating. It really wasn’t that bad, especially for a January movie, but it still was certainly not good.

    Nice work Sam!

  6. Duke on January 17, 2012 4:03 pm

    “For a January movie” haha

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