If I was to pick one word to describe Mark Wahlberg’s career, I’d probably go with erratic. He’s a more than capable actor, and has given great performances in movies like The Departed, The Fighter and Boogie Nights, but has had more than his fair share of turkeys, such as Max Payne and The Happening. His latest is Contraband, a remake of an Icelandic thriller called Reykjavík-Rotterdam, and it is directed by Baltasar Kormákur, who wrote the Icelandic original.
Wahlberg stars as Chris Farraday, a former smuggler who has gone straight and is installing home alarm systems around New Orleans. But when his brother-in-law messes up an attempt to smuggle drugs for local mobster Tim Briggs (Giovanni Ribisi), he’s forced back into the game, or his family will also be punished for the failed operation.
You’ll probably be rolling your eyes at the ‘one last job’ plot-line in Contraband, but although there’s nothing really new or unique about it, and it has some flaws, it’s certainly a watchable movie. The role is not a stretch for Wahlberg, but he gives a decent performance. The supporting cast is more than capable too, with Kate Beckinsale as Farraday’s wife, Ben Foster as Sebastian, Chris’ best friend, Lukas Haas as his brother, and J.K. Simmons as the captain of the ship that Farraday becomes a crew member of in order to smuggle in counterfeit money to pay off Briggs.
So the problems Contraband has are not with the cast, but with the plot and the character’s story arcs. Ben Foster is an actor I like, he was excellent in the HBO series Six Feet Under, and in my opinion stole the show from Christian Bale and Russell Crowe in 3:10 To Yuma, but the transformation of his character from being Chris’ best friend and partner in crime to being one of the bad guys doesn’t really ring true. Ribisi isn’t a bad actor either, but he doesn’t really have the chops to bring real menace to his role as Briggs, despite his bad guy facial hair and tattoos.
In general, the plot is maybe a little too intricate, with Farraday’s original plan well, not going according to plan, forcing him and his crew to go to plan B and then plan C, and even a plan D. But despite some weaknesses in the writing, Contraband is not a bad movie. It moves along at a decent pace, and there are some good action sequences in it, including a Heat-esque heist in Panama City that definitely gets the adrenaline rushing.
If you can ignore its weaknesses, Contraband has some solid action and reasonable performances. It isn’t one of Mark Wahlberg’s best movies, but it’s not a bad way to spend a couple of hours.