‘Contraband’ Movie Review
Fresh off the heels of the late year push by Hollywood comes the mostly dreaded January and February releases. Although I find this unfair to some quality films, it is unfortunately the route most studios take. On one hand, I wanted to give Contraband a legitimate shot, but on the other hand, I was afraid it’d play out like every other New Year action film.
Contraband tells the story of retired smuggler Chris Farraday (Mark Wahlberg) as he returns for one last job in order to save his brother-in-law Andy (Caleb Landry Jones). After botching a job, Andy owes his drug boss, Tim Briggs (Giovanni Ribisi), a whole lot of money. Having a personal connection to Chris’ past, he is out to settle up with Briggs in more ways than one.
Farraday has to engineer a shipyard heist ranging from Panama to New Orleans, all while trying to protect his wife Kate (Kate Beckinsale) and kids from the drug ring. Luckily he has his right hand man Sebastian (Ben Foster), although his involvement in the robbery isn’t as black and white as it appears. On top of this, he must maneuver around on a ship full of people suspecting him of something illegal.
As the plot thickens, all of the characters and side plots begin to take their toll on the overall story. With complexity comes the daunted task of trying to tie up every loose end, which Contraband struggles with, despite a very flimsy premise. Where it may seem complex, it really is just full of blatantly unnecessary plot that doesn’t need to be there. Likewise, the shallow plots end up stacking up throughout the film to make it seem pretty inconceivable.
Mark Wahlberg would seem like the perfect actor for the role if this was made five years ago, but he’s seen his share of tough-guy, action roles that put him on the map. He plays the characters well, but this latest one seems like a role he could do while sleeping.
Kate Beckinsale is completely wasted, too. She’s proven herself as a powerful action star, as well as a beautiful actress. Acting as a wildcard for the film, she had the opportunity to make it more than just an overdone action pic. Even though it isn’t her fault, the film squanders the opportunity, much like it squanders any type of ending that doesn’t seem overly trite.
While some things failed more than others, it is still worth mentioning that it was filmed well. In other words, the plot may seem familiar, but at least it wasn’t awfully boring or FX-heavy. I will give the film credit for still being watchable and will even say its entertaining. Although I’ll continue to point out some parts of the story seemed like fluff, one of the best action sequences took place during one of these parts, so perhaps I shouldn’t be too quick to criticize it.
Action thrillers don’t tend to have the greatest writing, and fortunately Contraband doesn’t rely too much on humor, or over-the-top cheesy lines. While there are definitely better written movies, there are far more that are worse.
I don’t regret giving Contraband a fair shot at being anything more than decent. I also don’t regret seeing the film. It was entertaining, well shot, and easy to follow. I am disappointed in the studios for creating such a familiar hit, but I can’t blame them too much. Since certain audiences flock to action thrillers, this one will get people in the seats. I just wish it’d made better use of the stars, without relying so heavily on a familiar idea.