Contraband hits and misses
For a character driven film, an uninspired performance from its lead actor Mark Wahlberg, is simply criminal.
Directed by Baltasar Kormákur, Contraband is an unremarkable heist movie, which features little in the way of action, and instead tries hard to build tension with narrative.
The film stars Mark Wahlberg (Chris Farraday) as a former smuggler, who has given up the crooked life to live honestly with his wife Kate (Kate Beckinsale) and children. The movie shifts into second gear when Chris’s brother-in-law Andy (Caleb Landry Jones), who also happens to be a smuggler, is forced to dump his consignment of drugs from a cargo ship in order to avoid arrest. Unfortunately for Andy, this doesn’t please his highly temperamental crime boss Tim Briggs, played in a fine performance by Giovanni Ribisi, for whom he was sneaking the contraband into the US. When Chris gets involved to protect Andy, he finds his own family threatened by Briggs, who demands $700,000 lost in drug money.
From this point on, the movie shifts into third gear, but struggles to do better. Alongside Andy, and old friend Danny Raymer (Lukas Haas), on a cargo ship helmed by a corrupt ship captain (J K Simmons), Chris makes his own smuggling run from Panama, leaving his family in the care of his untrustworthy friend Sebastian Abney (Ben Foster). What follow are a dozen plot twists, most of which are DOA (dead or alive) in terms of payoff, resulting in Contraband feeling like a whole lot of foreplay, without a satisfactory enough climax.
The strangest thing about Contraband is the shaky-cam it employs, similar to those in realistic and gritty cop TV dramas like The Shield and NYPD Blue. Here, the shaky-cam feels out of place, largely because of the ungrounded plot.
Although the majority of the cast lifts the film with some strong performances, Mark Wahlberg comes across as inappropriately muted, displaying such little emotional range that I was left wondering if he had been sampling some of that contraband himself. For a character driven film, an uninspired performance from its lead, is simply criminal.
Unfortunately for the film, not only is its narrative simply a violent rehash of similar genre films before it, it comes across as overly convoluted in its effort to build drama.