Stop me if you’ve heard this one before. Actually, since you’re just a passive reader and I’m technically a voice in your head, you can’t, but still, indulge me: a skilled retired criminal is called back into action. He assembles a skilled team of ex-colleagues and friends for one last big job. Blah Danny Ocean blah every heist movie ever blah. Contraband isn’t going to win any points for originality, even leaving aside the fact it’s a remake of 2008 Icelandic thriller Reykjavík-Rotterdam.
Basic story goes thusly: ex-smuggler Chris Farraday (Mark Wahlberg) has gone legit. He has his own home security business, a wife (Kate Beckinsale) and two sons. When Chris’ brother-in-law (Caleb Landry Jones) gets involved with drug lord Tim Briggs (Giovanni Ribisi), Farraday steps up to do one last job in Panama, smuggling millions in counterfeit dollars to protect the little idiot, leaving his friend Sebastian (Ben Foster) to look after his family in his absence. Also J.K. Simmons is in it, disappointingly not going on about combustible lemons or demanding pictures of Spider-Man. I haven’t seen Reykjavik-Rotterdam, so the big question is whether the original was bland and derivative in the first place or whether this just something the Generican remake brought to the party. Acting-wise, Wahlberg is fine, although he’s still a far cry from the scene-stealing he did as Dignan in The Departed. Kate Beckinsale is good in the bits where the film isn’t ignoring her, although most of that consists of her being unconscious. Giovanni Ribisi gives an interesting turn as scumbag Briggs, but has the strangest accent I’ve heard for a long while, which became distracting as the film went on. The consistently overlooked and under-appreciated Ben Foster gives a great performance as Sebastian too.
Tonally, the film is really uneven. It starts all serious and gritty, but by the end it feels like they’re wrapping up an Ocean’s sequel, complete with a montage set to some upbeat guitar number. It’s like they stapled two scripts together by mistake. There’s bloody violence, but also light-hearted crime capering. It’s really odd. The film also has a strange preoccupation with swearing, with carpet f-bombing prevalent throughout. Once I started noticing it, I couldn’t stop. It seems every fuckin’ line of dialogue has some sort of fuckin’ swearing in it and it gets old real fuckin’ quickly. Perhaps this was the film’s idea of seeming “grown-up”.Whilst I’m ragging on the film, I can’t forget to mention a truly baffling moment in an otherwise well-executed armoured truck robbery, where the gang Marky Mark’s working for (led by the brilliant Diego Luna) shoot the shit out of the truck’s occupants whilst wearing duct tape masks. They have just wrapped silver tape around their heads. I was so confused by this, I had to rewind because I eventually realised I’d spent five minutes imagining how much it’d sodding hurt to rip them off post-heist. Got to give them points for originality though.
I’m not even sure what the heist plan was. As is usually the case with this sort of film, the plan is so needlessly convoluted that you just have to take the film’s word for it that our heroes have succeeded. This gets all the more difficult to keep up with when you factor in the time pressure and the yawnsome, predictable betrayal elements. Having said that, there is a neat little teaser about the final stage of the heist glimpsed in the back of their van about halfway through.
The film isn’t bad, just average. It’s well directed by Baltasar Kormákur (funnily enough, the lead actor in the 2008 original) for sure. There are a couple of nice character moments and a few decent bits of tension and suspense too. Technically, the film’s fine, it’s just there are too many things stopping the film from being particularly memorable. Picking a tone and sticking with it would have helped the film immensely, as would have giving Kate Beckinsale something to do. I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t entertained by it, but in such an oversubscribed genre, it needed to do more to separate itself from the pack.
UK DVD/BD Release Date: 16th July 2012
Directed by: Baltasar Kormákur
Cast: Mark Wahlberg, Caleb Landry Jones, Ben Foster, Kate Beckinsale, Giovanni Ribisi
Buy:Contraband (Blu-ray + Digital Copy + UV Copy) / On DVD
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