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A movie directed by Baltasar Kormákur

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A Card Board Cut-Out Thrill-Ride

  • Jan 14, 2012
I cannot believe sometimes how often movie remakes get made; I admit that some remakes have gotten better, and some have even surpassed the quality of the original. I wasn’t exactly expecting much with director Baltasar Kormakur’s remake of the 2009 Icelandic crime drama “Reykjavik-Rotterdam” called “Contraband”; and I didn’t get much out of it either. The film is pretty entertaining in its own way and is better than most standard action crime dramas; but these days, that really isn’t saying all that much.

                               Mark Wahlberg as Chris Farraday, Kate Beckinsale as Kate Farraday and Connor Hill as Michael in ``Contraband.''

Mark Wahlberg has been on roll, with movies such as “The Departed”, “Shooter” and the acclaimed “The Fighter” under his belt. This time Wahlberg plays Chris Farraday who had abandoned his life of crime long ago and now runs a home security business. But when his brother-in-law, Andy (Caleb Landry Jones) botches a drug smuggling operation for his ruthless contractor, Tim Briggs (Giovanni Ribisi), Chris is forced to get back into the business that he knows best; running contraband. Chris needs to settle things with Andy’s debt with only a few days to come up with the cash. Chris must use his rusty know-how to maneuver around drug lords, cops, smugglers and thugs before his wife Kate (Beauteous Kate Beckinsale) and their two sons become targets. With the help of some old friends (Ben Foster included), Chris must risk everything to protect his family.

The screenplay by Aaron Guzikowski is a pretty standard bad guys vs. bad guys where the good guys are also bad guys but only those who are truly despicable get their due. The direction does manage to keep up the energy amid the predictable plot devices, and it does have some scenes that did exude thrills. The film had no issues getting to where it needs to be, it moves at a pace that is pretty quick, as Chris is indeed in a race against time. The plot is very predictable and really does lack some in-depth intricacies; if you’ve seen one movie with this premise, then you’re more than likely will be in very familiar ground with “Contraband”.

                      Kate Beckinsale as Kate Farraday and Mark Wahlberg as Chris Farraday in ``Contraband.''

                      Diego Luna as Gonzalo and Mark Wahlberg as Chris Farraday in ``Contraband.''

The film relies on its quick pacing and some action to generate a sense of urgency. It is more or less a cat and mouse game, with some qualities of a chase film but this time it’s more like a race to get a job done. The script is convoluted on many parts to attempt to generate a sort of surprise. The film did offer several plausible twists and turns, and the action was there to deliver tension. I was even kind of happy with the way the plot was rounded up. My issue with the film is that it all feels so familiar that even when the film is indeed better than your standard action fare, the depths of its premise is just so predictable that it almost drains most of its positive qualities.

The characters in this type of film would be pretty much your usual ones in action films. We’ve all seen the guy who escaped his past and drawn back into crime bit before, and Chris Farraday is a cardboard cut out of such a character. There really is nothing imaginative with Farraday, save his relationship with Sebastian Abney, played by Ben Foster who comes out with a convincing performance. I liked the chemistry between the two and I was able to buy into their friendship which made the final act stand out a little more than I expected. Wahlberg did do a great job in the lead role though, as he was able to project whatever layers the characters had when it came to emotions. Beckinsale is your eye candy as with any other action film and she performed well despite the limitations of its plot.

                     Giovanni Ribisi and Mark Wahlberg in "Contraband."

                    Mark Wahlberg and Ben Foster in "Contraband."

“Contraband” isn’t a bad film, but it is just so familiar that even when the action was decent, the plot was just so simple that it failed to engross me with what was going on in the screen. To its credit, the film did have some good moments of tension, and the direction was solid in rendering a sense of urgency amid the convoluted plot. I realize that its convoluted scripting was part of the film’s intentions, but it felt highly unnecessary. The film is a standard ride, and was pretty entertaining but it was just so easy to figure out where it was going. I am not sure what didn’t click with me, but I hoped for more of a thrill ride. “Contraband” is your standard action-crime thriller, and it would be good as a rental one lazy evening.

RENTAL [3- Out of 5 Stars]

Poster art for "Contraband." Poster art for "Contraband."

A Thrill-Ride On Some Levels On A Tired Genre.... A Thrill-Ride On Some Levels On A Tired Genre.... A Thrill-Ride On Some Levels On A Tired Genre....

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January 19, 2012
I tend to agree with you on this one. Its not bad, but its not really good either. Nothing unexpected happens and its all predictable. But it was fun and fast escape from a mid winter morning.
January 29, 2012
Agreed! I would have just seen this on cable or something. I did hear that this has an extended cut coming...
January 14, 2012
I was wondering about this, think I will wait for the rental. Great write up Good Sir.
January 14, 2012
this was entertaining, but it was just your cardboard cut out of a crime drama.
More Contraband reviews
review by . January 19, 2012
I just saw Contraband on Friday. When a movie poster shows Mark Wahlberg with a gun, lifting his shirt, exposing his stomach with dollar bills stuffed in the top of his pants you have to know what to expect. This isn't going to be any classic. So I went in knowing it was not going to be a great film. It also wasn't a really bad film either. It was just what I expected and very predictable. There are several plot twists as expected. The only bad thing is you saw them coming from a mile away …
review by . January 12, 2012
posted in Movie Hype
A former thief must commit one last job in order to look after and protect his family, coming out this week Mark Wahlberg stars in The Italian Job. Wait no, that knock off came out in 2003 and was based off a 1969 movie, this knock off is based off a 2008 Icelandic movie. Contraband is actually directed by the star of the original movie, so at least with a larger budget and the experience of working on the same story before the crew should be able to make a well done movie. At its …
review by . January 14, 2012
posted in Movie Hype
Star Rating:         Reykjavik-Rotterdam was a 2009 Icelandic crime thriller that never received a wide release in the U.S., apart from a few screenings at film festivals. The star of the film, Baltasar Kormákur, now serves as the director and producer of its American remake, Contraband. On the basis of the end results, perhaps it isn’t always a good idea to let someone intimately familiar with a concept have a hand at bringing it to the big screen. The …
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