Review: CONTRABAND (2012) | Casey's Movie Mania | Movie Reviews, Features & Others

Wednesday, 18 January 2012

Review: CONTRABAND (2012)


When I first seen the trailer late last year, my first thought for CONTRABAND is nothing but a generic thriller. And as it turns out, I wasn't wrong -- it is generic after all. Oh wait, it's awfully generic. Despite sporting a game cast of Mark Wahlberg, Kate Beckinsale, Giovanni Ribisi, Ben Foster and many others, everything about CONTRABAND is strictly by-the-numbers. To make matters worse than it already is, the movie is suffered miserably from labored pace and heavy-handed direction by Baltasar Kormakur.

Chris Farraday (Mark Wahlberg) has been living a respectable and clean life in New Orleans with his beautiful wife Kate (Kate Beckinsale), his two kids, and his own security systems company after ditching his past as an expert career smuggler. However he is forced to face his demon again when Kate's younger brother Andy (Caleb Landry Jones) gets himself involved with a notorious drug lord Tim Briggs (Giovanni Ribisi). Apparently Andy has dumped a load of drugs into the sea following his smuggling operation goes terribly wrong. Now Tim wants his money back no matter what, or else he'll start threatening Chris and his family. So Chris ends up entrusting his family to his best buddy, Sebastian (Ben Foster) to take good care of them while he finds way to settle the situation. He begins reuniting his old crew, and board a Panama City-bound container ship to pick up a load of $20s worth of counterfeit moneys. Despite a meticulous plan, it is still not without a few hiccups -- Chris and his crews are constantly under the watchful eyes of a rightly suspicious captain Camp (J.K. Simmons). If that's not troublesome enough, Chris also finds himself caught in the middle with his old nemesis, Gonzalo (Diego Luna).

Based on the 2008's popular Icelandic thriller REYKJAVIK-ROTTERDAM, in which director Baltasar Kormakur has previously starred in a lead acting performance, this American remake is as pedestrian as it goes. Scripted by newcomer Aaron Guzikowski, the story is way overplotted and so contrived it's difficult to sustain interest throughout the movie, especially when everything is painfully redundant. Apparently Kormakur is trying very hard to execute a meaty character-driven crime drama here but he fails that particular approach so bad you wish he could have been gone straightforward instead. Another huge problem here is that the story is also awfully cliched and feels wearisome as the movie goes by. And for a supposedly intense thriller with the kind of premise ignited in CONTRABAND, you would have expect the movie is blessed with plenty of action scenes. Make no mistake, Kormakur does a commendable job handling some well-staged action sequences here. One notable part involves a violent heist between Gonzalo and his heavily-armed men battling against the authorities. Unfortunately the overall action here goes as little as possible. You got that right -- at 109 minutes (which actually feels like two-hour long!), CONTRABAND is all about long-winded set-ups but so little payoffs.

The cast are mixed bag at best, with Mark Wahlberg playing the same old cocky persona we often sees him in the past. No doubt he has that certain screen presence when comes to such role, but seriously, there's nothing worth shouting for. Kate Beckinsale fares even worse here, who doesn't do much with her criminally underwritten role. However, the supporting cast are at least entertaining if not stereotypical to watch for -- Ben Foster, Giovanni Ribisi, J.K. Simmons and Diego Luna have their fair share of worthwhile moments here.

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