Reviewed by

Christopher Armstead

In this movie ‘Contraband’, a remake of the Netherlandic (?) film ‘Reykjavik-Rotterdam’, we are introduced to Chris Farraday (Mark Wahlberg) who is the best at what he does. What Chris does is smuggle stuff from point A to point B and if he’s the best at it, considering everything that went completely wrong side up for his latest smuggling gig, then clearly smuggling stuff is a dying art.

The smuggling game is actually behind Chris now as he spends his days installing alarm systems in expensive homes, which I think may come in handy somewhere down the line, and he spends his nights smothering his beautiful wife Kate (Kate Beckinsale) and looking after his two baby boys. But then his brother-in-law Andy (Caleb Landry Jones) gets hemmed up tossing a crapload of powder into the river to avoid the feds, and for some reason drug lords hate it when you toss their stuff in rivers, and now Andy is on the hook for 700 large in cocaine dues, which means that the Farraday’s are on the hook for 700 large.

So no matter how hard Chris tries to get out the game, they keep pulling my man back in and it’s time to get the band back together, plan a super heist, hop on a freighter, grab some counterfeit dollars, sell them to whomever and further destroy the American economy. Easy pickin’s.

Well… not really. Believe me when I tell you that if something can go wrong on a job, it goes wrong on this job. First there’s the problems at home where the drug lord who is pressuring everyone to get his money, Briggs (Giovanni Ribisi), is completely terrorizing Kate and the kids, and if it wasn’t for Chris’ best friend Sebastian (Ben Foster) they’d all be in trouble. But then there’s Sebastian… don’t want to spoil it for you, but keep an eye on that guy. And for a drug lord this Briggs character sure does live in a crappy neighborhood. He could get a job at Wal-Mart and live better, and as such his face wouldn’t be as up close and personal with Marky-Marks fists as they were in this movie. Giovanni Ribisi could probably count the hairs on Wahlberg’s knuckles he got punched in the face by this guy so much in this movie.

The problems at home are only the tip of the iceberg for Chris because the problems on the ship and the journey to get these counterfeit bills are so obstacle filled that it has to be experienced to be believed. Beached freighters, duplicitous Mexican gangsters, crazed Mexican gangsters (Diego Luna), an evil ship’s captain (J.K. Simmons), a brother in law who is so stupid that it’s a wonder his brain supports lung function, more illegal drugs and don’t forget about the art heist. An art heist you say? Yep, an art heist.

It’s looking really bad for Chris and his crew of happy criminals on the open seas, and even if they do make back to land intact, it’s only going to get a whole lot worse. Hard to believe, but true.

‘Contraband’, which we did enjoy by the way, was directed by one Baltasar Kormakur who by chance happened to be the main character in the original film. So I guess since he couldn’t be the star, since no one in America knows or can pronounce Baltasar Kormakur, they let him direct. That’s righteous. The good thing for us it that Mr. Kormakur seems to know how to craft completely ridiculous, over the top, crazy intense action movies.

Admittedly you will be asked to suspend goo gobs of belief during the course of this movie… goo gobs… but if you watch movies for the enjoyment of watching movies, as opposed to watching movies so we can see the brutality of real life played out before our eyes, you should be okay with this one. The story being told is pretty run of the mill, but what pushes it over the top in my eyes is the white-knuckle tension that Kormakur generates in almost every scene of his movie. Everything, and I mean everything is a close shave in this movie and boils down to the last possible second before death is at hand. It’s overkill in some aspects of the film where a close shave wasn’t all that necessary, and there were times where the close shave begged you to suspend that belief we mentioned earlier, say like when our heroes had ten minutes to get back to the freighter, and the things that had to happen in that ten minute span was simply outrageous. There was another situation during this ten minute span where it looked like another close shave was coming, but I guess they couldn’t figure out a way to write them out of that pickle, so they just moved on.

Another thing which may be an issue for some might be the immorality of the whole thing. Everybody in this movie is a criminal, with Farrady being the least of these. So we’re kind of stuck rooting for this guy to get these counterfeit bills stateside, and all of the trouble that brings, to save his brother-in-law we really wouldn’t mind seeing dead anyway. I didn’t have an issue with it so much, but I was keenly aware of it.

The performances were solid, Wahlberg pretty much has the profane, tough guy thing down pat, Same for Ribisi and his Scuzzball schtick, and Kate Beckinsale was a suitable damsel in constant distress who got her ass kicked more than anybody else in the movie.

We had fun with ‘Contraband’, a super tense, action filled, thrill ride overloaded with complete nonsense. But it is nonsense done right.

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