Contraband: A paycheck film for Wahlberg, not much more.

Contraband – 2012

Directed by Baltasar Kormákur
Starring Mark Wahlberg, Ben Foster, Kate Beckinsdale, Giovinni Ribisi, Caleb Landry Jones, Lukas Haas, JK Simmons, David O’Hara, Diego Luna, Robert Wahlberg, William Lucking
Screenplay Aaron Guzikowski, based on Reykjavík-Rotterdam by Arnaldur Indriðason and Óskar Jónasson

It plays so much like a Bruckheimer film, I am surprised to find the origins are Icelandic.  All that male bonding.  All the women and families in trouble.  Double crossings.  Honor.  The old crook being forced into one last heist.  At least, with Wahlberg in control, we have that moment where the protagonist admits that he is enjoying the ride.

The movie starts off with a kid (Jones) getting in too deep.  The kid is the brother-in-law of Chris Farraday (Wahlberg), who is thrust into the job of saving the day by alternately being threatened, threatening and paying back a sleazeball named Briggs (Ribisi, of course).  This leads to using a bunch of money that they seemingly did not have, going on a ship and heading to Panama to round-up some illegal stuff.  Many more people die, things get stowed, muscles flexed, insults tossed and obvious things missed.  All in the name of good fun.

There is never a point in the story where there is any doubt who will succeed and who will fail.  If you’ve seen Foster and Ribisi in any other film, you have seen them here.  The movie has the feeling of a mini-epic, only without the grandiosity of The Godfather or the depths of The Departed.  This is your working class crook’s film.

It’s nice to see Beckinsdale in something other than a vampire/werewolf flick.  She gives the aggrieved woman role a good run, until she get’s wrapped in improbability.  Wahlberg’s on board staff is eclectic enough to be entertaining, even if JK Simmon’s Captain Camp is played about 40 points below his real IQ.  The film needed more of the element provided by O’Hara’s Church to give it some heft, but overall, it is a passable evening’s entertainment.

As for Wahlberg, what is to say, other than this is one of those movies he makes to pay for the other ones.  Famed screenwriter / director John Sayles used to moonlight under a pseudonym in moneymaking movie ventures to pay for the films that he really wanted to make.  Wahlberg puts his name on everything he does.  For every film like Travelers and The Fighter, we see films like this, The Other Guys or sadly, Max Payne.  He knows how to make entertaining films,  and he rarely misses.

(***1/2 out of *****)

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