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contraband-poster (1)


Released: 2012

Directed By: Baltasar Kormakur

Starring: Mark Wahlberg, Giovanni Ribisi

Certificate: 15

Reviewed By: Darryl Griffiths

Hollywood has become accustomed to taking little known foreign films and reshaping them into mainstream veichles to garner a wider audience, with encouraging results. Not so long ago being involved with such a process himself thanks to Martin Scorsese’s The Departed, Marky Mark and his new found pulling power in the world of cinema and TV (his involvement with HBO’S highly successful Entourage for one) land in familiar territory. Originally an Icelandic thriller made in 2008 by Oskar Johansson called Reijavik-Rotterdam, director Kormakur shifts the action to New Orleans and brings us ‘Contraband’.

Already a hit in the US, the premise revolves around the classic ‘one last job’ plot device. Wahlberg’s character on first sight, Chris Farraday seems to be settled in his ways of putting family first (Kate Beckinsale playing his namesake wife). Such principles however take on a whole new meaning, when the questionable antics of his naive brother-in-law Andy (Caleb Landry Jones) with vindictive crime lord Tim (Giovanni Ribisi) force him back into a morally corrupt world he has severely tried to steer clear from. The world.. of drug smuggling.

With debts now hanging over their heads, Farraday with all his prowess from past occasions, along with trusty sidekick Sebastian (Ben Foster) assemble a capable team setting their sights on a cargo ship to Panama and hunting down counterfeit bills. If the history of ships on screen has taught us anything.. expect disaster to strike!

‘Contraband’ is undeniably generic and predictable fare. But what it lacks in originality, it more than makes up for in its solid execution. Wahlberg in ‘action man’ mode always proves to be an engaging presence and the inspired choice of locations to provide the backdrop of such gritty action certainly helps proceedings. Kormakur’s direction is tight and his sweeping aerial shots, especially in the early stages give off the impression he’s been spending hours in the company of Michael Mann’s back catalogue.

Where the film is not so sure footed first and foremost, is its far fetched handling of the plot. Once we reach the finale, there’s been too many peculiar double crossings to truly take it seriously which kills the film of ever really building up momentum. The supporting cast are terribly unwritten also, bar a competent performance from the underrated Foster. Beckinsale’s estranged wife routine is ultimately reduced to her being the film’s punching bag and Ribisi’s villain with his over played accent comes across as grating and almost cartoony.

Despite it’s many flaws, ‘Contraband’ manages to hit above average heights in the entertainment stakes. Just don’t expect it to last long in the memory..

d By: Darryl Griffiths


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