Movie review: Contraband
January 20, 2012
BY MIRANDA FORESMAN
Take some thrills, some suspense, and a great deal of illegal activity, blend them thoroughly and place aboard a container ship, and you’ve got yourself a crime-thriller. Contraband, while not hugely original, entertains enough with fairly good performances from a reputable cast.
Mark Wahlberg leads the film as Chris Farraday, a retired smuggler in New Orleans who is forced back into the business to protect his dopey brother-in-law Andy (played by relative new-comer Caleb Landry Jones). Andy makes the dire mistake of botching a drug run for the degenerate Briggs (Giovanni Ribisi). Farraday has his long-time friend Sebastian (Ben Foster) keep his wife Kate (Kate Beckinsale) and their two boys safe while he makes his peace-making run to Panama.
Wahlberg could have phoned this performance in, quite frankly, because it wasn’t a good enough story for him to flex the drama, like he brought to The Fighter. However, always the gentleman, he gives the role a real authenticity that folks like, well, Kate Beckinsale just can’t deliver. She’s pretty, but Beckinsale really doesn’t fit 100 percent as the humble wife of a smuggler turned security company owner, even with a bad dye job, her dark roots showing, and minimal makeup. Also, her attempt at a southern inflection is disappointing. She is British, and we like her better that way.
Ribisi pulls out a fascinating Brooklyn-meets-Louisiana accent that makes the Briggs character all that much more irritating. Spoiler: Briggs gets punched in the face, and that’s probably my favorite scene. Nobody likes paying back someone else’s debt, much less to a guy that likes to intimidate women and children. Seeing him take one to the nose makes you happy.
While the plot itself is a little flimsy, equal parts Farraday proving that he is still a good smuggler and proving that he’ll go to whatever end needed to protect his family, the direction is interesting with some timely camera close-ups and a little dramatic trembling at the pinnacle of the story. This is the director’s first Hollywood release, but he starred in the Icelandic version of Contraband, giving him a distinct advantage in its retelling.
For those of you looking for some violence and action, but don’t want the acting clout of Mark Wahlberg, go see Kate Beckinsale when she appears in the new Underworld movie this weekend, doing what she does best: prance around in skin-tight patent leather body suits with Vampires and Lycans.