Chris Farraday (Wahlberg) long ago abandoned his life of crime, but after his brother-in-law, Andy (Caleb Landry Jones), botches a drug deal for his ruthless boss, Tim Briggs (Giovanni Ribisi), Chris is forced back into doing what he does bestârunning contrabandâto settle Andyâs debt. Chris is a legendary smuggler and quickly assembles a crew with the help of his best friend, Sebastian (Ben Foster), to head to Panama and return with millions in counterfeit bills.
Things quickly fall apart and with only hours to reach the cash, Chris must use his rusty skills to successfully navigate a treacherous criminal network of brutal drug lords, cops and hit men before his wife, Kate (Kate Beckinsale), and sons become their target.
Chris Farraday (Mark Wahlberg) was a world-class smuggler; together with his partner Sebastian (Ben Foster) they were the "McCartney/Lennon" of smugglers. Times have changed for Chris, a family man with two sons and a beautiful wife, Kate (Kate Beckinsale), he is no longer in the game of breaking the law. Chris now runs his own alarm installation company. His partner Sebastian has also quit the business, and the booze, he works in construction. Contraband is not about two former law-breakers trying to make an honest living; it is about one last job, a job Chris is forced to take when Kate's brother dumps a very expensive package of cocaine to avoid customs and the man who hired him, a very white-trash Giovanni Ribisi as Tim Briggs, aims to kill him if he does not get him his money back for the drugs. With Chris' family at stake his only choice of course is to come out of retirement, and while the one-last job angle has been done before it has seldom been done with such listless results.
Watching Contraband can be compared to sitting in a dark room without any form of stimulation--no reading material, smartphone (and apps aplenty), someone to talk to, a shiny surface to stare at...nothing. That is what a movie theatre provides, a place away from the distractions of the world so you can be engrossed and distracted by the film playing on the screen. Contraband is such a stale and bland piece of filmmaking it makes one crave a distraction, just to wake you up from your dazed stupor. Sure, things happen in Contraband and a heist is set-up with the standard twists and turns along the way but everything is done without a heightened tempo. The film never sets the audience up for the minuscule amount of action the movie has and therefore you remain unenthusiastic the entire time. Giovanni Ribisi's performance as Briggs may be the only thing worthy of your attention, simply because it is so outrageous and stereotypical it provokes grand moments of laughter whenever he speaks a line. Unless you make it to the end that is and the nonsensical finale you will never make sense of; the filmmakers clearly underestimate their audiences intelligence. Contraband is a movie best avoided, the world is full of enough things that damper your spirit and cause vegetative states.
Cocaine, counterfeit money, guns, Panama...so many opportunities for great action sequences and ultimately no fulfillment. Contraband has the occasional brawl between characters, Wahlberg and Ribisi's characters get into a fun little romp leading to Ribisi falling down some stairs in absolute hilarity. But Contraband lacks any of the action one expects from a heist film built around the supplied plot points. Sure, Beckinsale's Kate gets roughed up a bit, and Ribisi's Briggs loves to wave his gun around and supply bruises to little brother Andy (Caleb Landry Jones), yet none of this induces any amount of excitement. Wahlberg's Chris gets caught in a Panamanian Mob King's Armored Car heist, leading to a decent shoot-out and chase, but again, not anything to get excited about. The staleness of Contraband can be seen in every facet of the story, and for those who crave pure adrenaline action they will be looking in the wrong place with Contraband.
January 13, 2012