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Overall Rating
2.45

Awesome: 0%
Worth A Look: 9.09%
Average59.09%
Pretty Bad: 0%
Total Crap: 31.82%

3 reviews, 4 user ratings


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Contraband
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by Brett Gallman

"Marky Mark and the Wild Bunch"
3 stars

“Contraband” is about smuggling, which is appropriate enough since it sort of sneaks up on you. It never does anything particularly amazing and is actually working from a pretty well-worn story type (the ex-rogue gone legit who is forced into one more job), but, by the end of it, you find yourself sufficiently invested in its characters, even after they’ve been put in a somewhat ridiculous, pulpy spiral.

Leading the charge is Chris Farrady (Mark Wahlberg), who once ruled the smuggling racket in New Orleans; though he’s gone legit since taking a wife (Kate Beckinsale), his brother-in-law (Caleb Landry Jones) is still caught up in the business. His latest job goes sour when his ship is boarded, so he tosses a stash of drugs, which costs his boss (Giovanni Ribisi) tons of money. To help pay back the deck, Chris takes a job that involves sneaking some counterfeit money in from Panama.

When “Contraband” is caught up in “the life,” it’s rather entertaining in its economical sense of movement--we’re dropped right into things, as the brother-in-law’s ill-fated job goes down immediately, sending Chris off on the boat after a modicum of setup. This is where the movie really takes off and takes us through the elaborate scheme that Chris and his band will have to pull off. At its heart, “Contraband” is mostly a heist flick, complete with a group of likable rouges. For the first hour, it’s even kept pretty grounded, at least as far as these things usually go, with most of the tension deriving from the guys skulking around the ship and avoiding the suspicion of the cantankerous captain (J.K. Simmons).

I thought the film might come crashing to a halt whenever we switched back over to the mainland, where Chris’s family is terrorized by Ribisi’s character. Ribisi has always been one of those great character actors, and he seems a bit ridiculous here at first blush. Affecting this thick Bayou accent that almost recalls the dialect of old gangster flicks, he seems more like weasel than a wolf; however, there’s something strangely terrifying about him, and he brings the real, edgy menace that “Contraband” needs. The threat against Chris’s family is real, even though they’re protected by his right-hand man (Ben Foster); the script snugly packs in just enough drama on this front while Wahlberg is off playing cops and robbers down in Panama.

Down there, we see him roll from one situation to the next when things (of course) don’t go according to plan--he soon finds himself caught up in ancillary schemes to compensate for the various screw-ups along the way. This gives director Baltasar Kormákur an opportunity to show off some action chops in a moderately tense sequence that qualifies as “good enough,” a sentiment that just about sums up “Contraband” as a whole. Kormákur has a keen eye for his locals, consistently dropping us into grit-soaked urban landscapes, and there’s an immediacy to nearly each shot due to his constant employment of hand-held shots.

For the most part, though, he lets his actors and script do the legwork. He’s got some nice bit performances scattered around Wahlberg, whose line-readings sometimes render him a little too soft. His swagger eventually earns him enough currency to buy as a tough guy, plus we’re told pretty often that he was once the king of this business, so he commands enough of a presence. Besides Ribisi, Foster turns in the most noteworthy performance, as he’s the only person here with any internal conflict. His character’s holding onto more than a few secrets that eventually propel the film into its wild final act, and he’s injected with just enough sympathy and gravitas early on to make it all matter.

That’s a term I keep coming back to with this movie: “just enough.” It’s certainly sufficient and efficient enough, as if Kormákur arranged the moving parts about as orderly as you can imagine. “Contraband” mostly trades in rapscallion thrills that lend themselves to a handful of neat moments; even though it takes a white-knuckle detour into genuinely perilous territory, it eventually stays the course by reveling in the cleverness of its rouges. If this is your sort of thing, you’ll probably leave the theater chuckling at some of the absurdities (such as the employment of duct-tape for masks), but you’ll also delight in some of the twists and turns.

Sometimes, a movie can skate by with a few cool moments and some affable characters, and “Contraband” is one of those movies. It’s menacing without being overly severe, rugged without being too rough; in other words, it’s easily digestible popcorn fare, which sometimes feels like a major coup during the second week of the movie-going year.

link directly to this review at http://www.efilmcritic.com/review.php?movie=22656&reviewer=429
originally posted: 01/14/12 20:25:00
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User Comments

7/27/12 mr.mike Good for home viewing. 4 stars
4/22/12 action movie fan exciting film of smuggling revenge and double croos wahlberg and all else are fine 4 stars
3/12/12 The Big D Lowlife smugglers bicker and say the "F" word a lot--Stink, Stank, Stunk, and PEE-EEE-YEW!! 1 stars
1/13/12 PAUL SHORTT CHAOTIC BUT ENTERTAINING AND OCCASIONALLY SUSPENSEFUL 3 stars
IF YOU'VE SEEN THIS FILM, RATE IT!
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USA
  13-Jan-2012 (R)
  DVD: 24-Apr-2012

UK
  N/A

Australia
  13-Jan-2012
  DVD: 24-Apr-2012




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