Movie Reviews & Interviews from Washington

‘Contraband’ Review: Average Wahlberg Action Flick

Mark Wahlberg has been in some fast paced, fun action films. The first ones that come to mind are The Italian Job, The Departed and Shooter, yes I did enjoy Shooter. His name alone can certainly sell an action film, but can the star turn a convoluted plot into a fascinating story? Not in this case.

There’s nothing superb about Contraband, but there’s nothing terrible either. It’s simply an average action flick with Marky Mark, guns, extreme violence and occasional thrills.

Wahlberg puts on his traditional gallant tough guy look and plays lead character Chris Farraday, a former chief smuggler turned law abiding citizen, who is now a working father and husband to wife Kate (a blonde Kate Beckinsale). When Kate’s younger brother Andy (Caleb Landry Jones) has to dump a shipment of cocaine during a high stakes smuggling run, he, Chris and Kate all fall under the wrath of crazy thug Tim Briggs (Giovanni Ribisi).

Chris tries to negotiate with Briggs, but of course fails, so therefore he has two weeks to get back into the smuggling routine to get Briggs his money. Chris convinces his BFF Sebastian (Ben Foster) to help group a crew of deckhands to help smuggle counterfeit bills out of Panama and back to New Orleans.

Even though this is a low rated action flick, its impressive cast of characters makes the film worth seeing, at least once. Ben Foster and Giovanni Ribisi’s performances are both fantastic and they really standout from the film. Other actors J.K. Simmons (Spider-Man), Deigo Luna (Y Tu Mama Tambien) and William Lucking (Sons of Anarchy) briefly pop up throughout the film, but welcomely so.

Contraband is the US remake of Icelandic film, Reykjavik-Rotterdam, and though I haven’t seen that film, it appears that screenwriter Aaron Guzikowski tried to put too many subplots into this American version.

The first hour of Contraband if weirdly pieced together. We are immediately thrown into the mix, when it might’ve been beneficial to get a glimpse of Chris’s smuggling history so we can learn a bit more about him. Chris gave up smuggling a few years back, maybe because of his family or maybe he was sick and tired of getting in trouble with the law? But if he didn’t want to put his family in danger, why did he leave them alone to go on a dangerous excursion to Panama? For a serious smuggler, you should know the number one rule is never to leave your wife and children home alone.

The other strange thing about the film is that for an action flick, there’s really not that much action. Sure, there’s one shoot ’em up scene, but the plot is similar to ‘Ocean’s Eleven,’ only this time its smuggling counterfeit money and drugs rather than stealing money from a casino.

If you can get past the first hour, the unrealistic plot and amateur directing, Contraband delivers a mediocre action story that will leave you feeling slightly satisfied. Mark Wahlberg basically plays himself in the film and well, that’s just fine by me!


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