Contraband – Review

Contraband Review

Review by FilmFellaHenry 5/10

Mark Wahlberg heads the line up in Contraband, a smuggling movie inspired by the Icelandic film Reykjavik-Rotterdam. Chris Farraday (Wahlberg) is an ex-smuggler gone straight, happily married with his own security business. But when his brother in-law Andy (Caleb Landry Jones) botches a job and ends up losing a shipment of cocaine, it’s up to Chris to find the money to pay off what Andy owes. Stepping back into the underworld, Chris decides to do one last job: smuggling millions in counterfeit money from Panama.

It’s clear that director Baltasar Kormákur was passionate about this film idea, considering he was also the lead actor in Reykjavik-Rotterdam. Admittedly, I haven’t seen the Icelandic original, but unless Contraband deviates massively from it, I can only assume it’s as doomed as Kormákur’s efforts.

Let’s start with the premise. Ex-con who’s really a good guy does one last job to save his family. Really? That’s the best they can do? Unless you’re willing to either go dark and bleak, or perform some cunning character manipulation, that narrative is as predictable as Billy Crystal being asked to host the Oscars. It’s the same premise as Gone In 60 Seconds for Christ’s sake, only this time its fake bills, not cars being boosted.

Okay, so you could fit the storyline on a postage stamp, but arguably the same could be said about Drive and that was pretty good. So let’s move onto stylistics. Well, this movie has none. It’s all steadicam mid shots following characters around predominantly within the drab confines of a commercial freight ship. Sure, there’s the odd cutaway to Chris’ family inevitably being terrorised by the men he owes money to and a brief action sequence on Panama, but it’s very uninspired stuff. The complete lack of directorial flair merely draws attention to the narrative’s glaring predictability, not to mention the half-arsed minor twists that seem to be a perfunctory addition to modern day thrillers.

And then there are the characters, if you can really call them that. Wahlberg’s paycheck acting constrains him to the bare minimum of what constitutes a performance, while Ben Foster just smacked of a wannabe Ryan Gosling. Giovanni Ribisi was relatively convincing as some scumbag thug, but that’s hardly a challenge: Vinnie Jones also shares that accolade and look at him. All the others are just glorified extras, 2d exposition tools spieling lack lustre lines in an effort to move a sinking plot forward.

As you can see, I didn’t like Contraband. Too predictable, too flat and way too unoriginal. There is literally nothing here that you haven’t seen elsewhere and done a whole lot better. A waste of time.


About filmfellahenry
Film reviewer, script writer and occasional painter. Fan of Lumet, Aronofsky and Kubrick, with a good measure of early John Carpenter thrown in. Particularly like post-apocalyptic sci-fi, horror and fantasy film genres.

3 Responses to Contraband – Review

  1. Pingback: Great Indie Flick: “The Dog Problem” « Roni Reports…

  2. tripodfilm says:

    Totally agree with your criticisms man and like the detail you put in without going on and on about it. Thought it would be scored lower though considering your verdict was harsh. But then again it’s what I’d give it out of 10 for it being so damn average. Anyway keep up the good work!

    • filmfellahenry says:

      Thanks for the comment Tripodfilm, reading stuff like this really brightens my day :-). As the for the rating, I tend to reserve anything below 5 for the terrible stuff – basically Twilight territory. Though it does tend to get interesting with really bad movies, like The Room, which I would argue is so bad it becomes good. In Contraband’s case, like you I figured it was the epitome of average, hence the 5 rating.

      Thanks for reading!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: