Saturday, January 14, 2012

Contraband (2012)

January releases are typical every year as they derive from repetitive cliches, generic characters and lifeless direction. When I first saw the trailer for "Contraband," those three aforementioned phrases immediately popped into my mind. Mark Wahlberg is one of the most talented actors of this generation, but I strongly question some of his career decisions, hence the infamous movies he starred in during the year 2008, and now this film.

Chris Farraday (Mark Wahlberg) is a New Orleans family man married to Kate (Kate Beckinsale), and has two sons. Chris was formerly a top-of-the-game ship smuggler for drugs, money, cars, etc. Unofortunately, Kate's younger brother (Caleb Landry Jones) botches a drug run for his ruthless boss Tim Briggs (Giovanni Ribisi), and Chris is brought back into what he does best; running contraband. However, the job becomes more complicated than he and his ragtag team thought it would be. Sounds very familiar for a movie where you have lead character who's the king of a certain profession, but the final job he takes on goes wrong in just about every way. Oh originality, how you continue to be nonexistent in Hollywood.
Mark Wahlberg is one of the most talented actors of this generation, and even in films like these, he's very self-aware of the role he has to play. He displays decent charisma with the rest of the cast, in addition to limiting his performance to a subtle level without ever going over-the-top in his line delivery. Kate Beckinsale on the other hand, plays a role that should basically be retitled to "The Girl," because she's only there for eye candy effect. Any other actress around her age could have played this character, and I would've had the same reaction to the performance overall. Giovanni Ribisi plays the film's villain Tim Briggs, and I wish that after this film finishes its theatrical run, that he'll stop playing villains for awhile because he's awful at playing them. First off, he overacts every line of dialogue he delivers, in addition to him having a Southern accent that made me laugh more at him than feel afraid. Additionally, the filmmakers seemed like they tried so hard to make Ribisi look threatening with gang tattoos and slicked back hair. With all of those accessories, he looked more like a biker that does porn on the weekends than an evil drug dealer.

This movie is a remake of an Icelandic thriller, and it's ironically directed by Baltasar Kormákur, the star of the original version. As a director who's successful back in his home country of Iceland, he's not so successful with what he gets to work with for this remake. He tries to make almost every scene feel real-time with the handheld camera style, but that type of shooting translates to bad editing where the camera just moves around too much during each cut. However, I will give credit to Kormákur for staging an armored truck heist in the middle of the film that was actually pretty entertaining for the five minutes it took up of the movie's running time. Unfortunately, there aren't anymore scenes in the rest of the movie that match up to the exhilaration of that heist, even in the big heist that the majority of the film is centered upon.
The writing of this movie is without a doubt the biggest flaw. The dialogue is very poorly written, and the awkward attempts at humor are unintentionally cringeworthy at times. Usually a January film has a plot that is relatively simple to follow, but as the second half stretches its course, the plot's twists and turns got surprisingly complicated. I gave up on trying to figure out exactly how the ending came together, but I had that "who cares" thought pop into my head, because everything that I had witnessed before was already extremely forgettable.

"Contraband" is a definitive January movie that's certainly not going to help break the streak of generic movies releasing during this month. The cast gives it their best shot, but they can't save this dull and cliche heist thriller from being anything more than a rainy Sunday rental at the very best. Mark Wahlberg is capable of choosing good projects to star, but this film falls into his "2008" territory where you'd end up asking him: "Seriously, what drew you to star in this?"

Final Grade: C-

Review of "Contraband" on Youtube 


  1. I am seeing this in half a hour i know whats coming my way haha great review :)

  2. Good review. I saw the trailer for this when I went to see "The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo", and I thought it looked to be a pretty cliched film.