Sunday, January 08, 2012

“Contraband” – Movie Review



Although the Winter Term of my movie class doesn’t begin until the end of the month, the bonus screenings have already started; this weekend, we saw the action – thriller “Contraband”, starring Mark Wahlberg, Kate Beckinsale and Giovanni Ribisi. 



A former smuggler finds he must return to the game when a family member is in trouble with gangsters – but can he save his wife and children before time runs out on them all?



Chris Farraday (Wahlberg) has finally settled down to raise a family with his wife Kate (Beckinsale) by making a living as a home security system installer in New Orleans – but when her younger brother Andy bungles a drug deal, Chris finds that he must revert to his former life as a smuggler to repay the debt owed to Briggs (Ribisi), the dealer who hired Andy in the first place in order to protect his wife and sons. 

Reaching out to a few of his old associates, Chris decides that the best and quickest way to settle up with Briggs will be to run millions of counterfeit U.S. dollars into the country from Panama.  Towards this end, he rounds up a team and manages to finagle his way onto a cargo ship run by a suspicious captain (J.K. Simmons).  After Andy once again jeopardizes the operation, Chris realizes that in order to make the deal, he must first assist the Panamanian counterfeiter in an art heist. 

Once the counterfeiter’s theft is foiled, Chris manages to secure both the fake bills and the painting onto the cargo ship before it goes back to New Orleans.  Making his way onto the ship in the nick of time, Chris learns that Briggs forced Andy to make a drug purchase – so now, they find that they are also smuggling drugs into the country, adding considerable risk and danger to their exploit.  But when Briggs’ impatience causes him to terrorize Kate and her children, will Chris be able to somehow pay him back in time to save everyone from Briggs’ crazed vengeance?



“Contraband” is based on an Icelandic film called “Reykjavik To Rotterdam”; the same filmmakers were given an opportunity to remake the motion picture in an Americanized version, so they changed the two cities that involved the smuggling and cast it with actors familiar to U.S. audiences.  That said, the movie suffers from occasional moments of unintentional humor, confusion among some of the characters and challenges to the viewer’s ability to suspend disbelief. 

Among the other difficulties I had with the movie were with its use of a handheld camera at times.  After the screening, our instructor made note of the use of the handheld, but said that it was justified in certain scenes and used well.  While some filmmakers make the mistake of overuse of the handheld, such was not the case with “Contraband” – however, in the scenes where it was used, I found it to be distracting, disturbing and not entirely necessary. 

Another problem I had with this movie – something to which I alluded earlier – was that it was somewhat hard to follow, especially with respect to the characters who are supposed to be the bad guys; following our screening, the instructor raised this same issue and some other members of the class tended to agree with him as well. 

If you like your action movies formulaic, unsurprising and something you could watch while reading a newspaper or paying your bills, then “Contraband” might be worth a rental or view on cable, satellite or Internet.  Otherwise, I would suggest you not spend the time, effort or money to see it in the theaters. 


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