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DIRECTOR: Baltasar Kormakur
CAST: Mark Wahlberg, Giovanni Ribisi, Kate Beckinsale, Ben Foster, Lukas Haas, Caleb Landry Jones
RUNNING TIME: 109 minutes
Mark Wahlberg is a better smuggler than his brother-in-law… plus a better actor too, but even Giovanni Ribisi can’t help him save this clanger.
Wahlberg plays Chris Farraday, an ex-smuggler gone legit and living the American Dream. His brother-in-law Andy (Landry Jones) gets into major trouble with gangster boss Tim Briggs (Ribisi) and now it’s up to Chris to be the hero.
Andy turns out to be irritating and stupid to boot, because when Chris goes off to Panama to score some counterfeit bills, the younger man makes even more off a mess.
They return to New Orleans where Beckinsale (Chris’s wife) has been having to contend with Briggs and Faraday’s best friend Sebastian (Foster) who has his own agenda.
Giovanni Ribisi is becoming typecast as the crazy, skinny dude hopped up on something, about to get medieval on your ass for disrespecting him.
He pops up in Contraband as a tattooed drug pusher with anger management control issues. Like you couldn’t see that coming. Sebastian’s agenda is also apparent from the start and there are no surprises, though there are plot- holes aplenty.
There are some sly references to previous Wahlberg roles (“it’s like the size of a Mini Cooper” anyone?) and Mexican actor Diego Luna pops up as an OTT gangsta with a Messianic complex.
Wahlberg is believable as the ex-smuggler who is striving for a legitimate lifestyle, and even when he gets violent, you believe that he would get all angsty about someone attacking his family. The problem is, we seen all of this before in Gone in Sixty Seconds, Ghost Rider, Faster, do I need to go on?
What we see of Panama is fascinating though. They shot their driving scenes guerrilla-style and the juxtaposition of the skyscraper skyline contrasts smartly with the shanty existence of so many of its actual citizens.
The place is one big dockyard, with multinational business co-existing with tiny family business but all of it seemingly permeated by corruption and some form of illegal behaviour.
We also get a glimpse of New Orleans’ working class side, but again, it is Hollywood gangsta side we see.
It turns out this film is actually the English remake of a previous film called Reykjavik Amerstam which was about the international shipping community and smuggling starring director Baltasar Kormakur in an acting role.
Knowing this, one cannot help but wonder how good that film must have been to actually get a Hollywood remake. Unfortunately, the cute little Hollywood moment in this film’s last scene cannot make up for the overly-convoluted plot which lurches from dead end to false ending with nary a thrill inbetween.
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