Published on January 14th, 2012 | by Tom Andrew0
“Contraband” starring producer and Oscar Nominee Mark Wahlberg (“The Fighter,” “The Departed”) is a gritty, balls-to-the-wall, intense, action thriller, that will keep you guessing, and interested, even though there are many holes in the script and too many close calls that are just not plausible.
Whalberg plays Chris Farraday, a smuggler turned family man, who returns to his old life of crime to save the scrawny butt of his brother-in-law, Andy (“Caleb Landry Jones,” “X-Men: First Class”).
Drug lord Tim Briggs, creepily played by Giovanni Ribisi (“Avatar”), threatens Farraday and his family unless he can come up with the street cost of some lost cocaine that Andy tosses overboard when US Customs raids the ship he is transporting the drugs on. In order to set things straight, Farraday agrees to smuggle counterfeit money instead of drugs.
This all sounds good on paper, but what can go wrong does, and the people Farraday feels he can trust turn out to be people he can’t trust.
Director Baltasar Kormakur and producer Wahlberg are smart enough to cast a stellar supporting cast. It’s this that saves this film from being another trite action thriller like we have all seen before.
Wahlberg, so good in “The Fighter” and “The Departed,” pulls a Tom Cruise here as he has in the past by choosing to do a film that definitely does not show off his acting abilities. Unfortunately, it shows off his own bad boy persona. If he wants to be taken seriously as an actor he should stick to scripts like “The Fighter”. His performance here only hurts the film.
Kate Beckinsale (“Underworld, The Aviator) has the undesirable job of playing Wahlberg’s wife, Kate. It’s a throw-away by most standards, but Beckinsale is almost unrecognizable in the role (in both voice and looks) and that makes her fascinating to watch.
Ben Foster (“X-Men:The Last Stand”), plays Sebastian, Farraday’s best friend. Like most of the supporting cast, Foster turns in a solid, gutsy performance. His performance is grounded and realistic and lucky for him his scenes are some of the most believable in the film.
Ribisi, Lukas Hass (“Inception”) and JK Simmons (“The Closer”) also turn in good solid performances. It’s these actors make the film worth watching. They are engaged, real, and at times, scary, which is what saves this film from being something we have all seen way too many times.
Kormakur doesn’t have many recognizable U.S. credits as a director. His work here is well paced and he keeps the tension building right up to the very end. Plausibility aside, the work is good.
“Contraband” isn’t anything we can expect to see winning that elusive golden statue but for the type of film it is and for it’s strong supporting cast, it is a decent, gut-wrenching action thriller.