Release Date: January 13th, 2012 MPAA Rating: R
Director: Baltasar Kormákur Actors: Mark Wahlberg, Ben Foster, Kate Beckinsale, Giovanni Ribisi, Jaqueline Fleming, Lukas Haas, Amber Gaiennie
es, “Contraband” is just another “check-your-brain-at-the-door” action film, but why can’t it still be believable? Much of the suspense and adventure feels created just for the sake of escalation and adds nothing to the plot, the characters, or the intensity. Plan A doesn’t work so our protagonists must move on to a more difficult Plan B. Plan B gets compromised so they must rely on a quickly improvised and even more risky Plan C. An almost impossible Plan D arrives when predictable plot twists occur and the cycle continues. Yet somehow Plans A, B, C, and D all manage to work out in the end and everything is wrapped up neatly in a nice little anticlimactic bow. The excitement may be there at times, but skimped character development and a camera that just won’t settle down only result in indifference towards those we’re badgered into rooting for.
When his brother-in-law gets caught up with a dangerous drug dealer (Giovanni Ribisi), former professional smuggler Chris Farraday (Mark Wahlberg) is left with few options. To protect his family he must carry out one last score and heads to Panama to smuggle a fortune in counterfeit bills. As time rapidly runs out, Chris must contend with crooked officials, vicious gangsters, and disastrous betrayals all while staying one step ahead of those attempting to thwart his desperate mission.
The premise is deceptively generic, launching at maximum speed into the overly familiar notion of a dark past that won’t let the protagonist go. The setup is so quick (approximately five minutes) that character development is left to a handful of words and hasty visuals. All anyone needs to know about Farraday is that he has a wife and two kids – he’s a good guy simply for having this arrangement. His gone-straight day job is so seemingly trivial that it’s introduced after Chris already knows he must return to his life of crime to right the wrongs of his inherited family. And all anyone needs to know about Kate Beckinsale is that she’s greatly unconvincing when not surrounded by vampires and werewolves.
“It’s not going away, Chris.” “Do what you gotta do.” “Trust me.” “I know what I’m doing.” “Nothing’s gonna happen.” These glaringly nonexclusive lines of dialogue frequent “Contraband” mercilessly, causing this January release (the first sign of its mediocre entertainment value) to be of the most forgettable variety. Putting this lack of creative lingo aside, the hierarchy of villains presents at least a marginal element of spontaneity, wasting not a single appearance by passing acquaintances. The introduction, or rather clarification, of villainy aids the increasingly southerly course of blunders, but the action is based more on accidents than heroics. “Contraband” rarely delivers on adventure so much as mild thrills from law-breaking exploits. The most unforgiveable misstep, however, is the flagrant curtailment of revenge – there’s just no payback. For an R-rated movie with multiple antagonists each so vile they demand embellished demises (think James Bond theatrics), “Contraband” brings nothing but police sirens and handcuffs. How disappointingly spineless.
– The Massie Twins