‘Contraband’ Review

Published 3 years ago by , Updated November 27th, 2014 at 4:04 pm,

Contraband starring Mark Wahlberg and Kate Beckinsale Review Contraband Review

If you enjoy seeing modern action stars like Wahlberg or Jason Statham in pulpy B-movie flicks, then Contraband will be a suitable distraction.

Everything about Contraband can best be summed up in the word “average.” There’s nothing too great about this B-movie action/heist flick, but nothing too terrible about it, either. While it is overly ambitious in some respects, it ultimately lands in that middle ground of mindless (and instantly forgettable) genre entertainment, despite its shortcomings.

Mark Wahlberg channels his usual soft-spoken tough guy screen persona as Chris Farraday, a former master smuggler who has settled down into a law-abiding life as a working dad and loving husband to his gorgeous wife, Kate (Kate Beckinsale). When Kate’s little brother Andy (Caleb Landry Jones) is forced to dump a shipment of cocaine during a high-stakes smuggling run, he lands himself, Chris, and Kate on the hook of local thug Tim Briggs (Giovanni Ribisi).

Chris’ attempt to negotiate with Briggs is…less than successful, leaving him just two weeks to get back into the smuggling game and come up with the money owed to Briggs. With help from his best buddy Sebastian (Ben Foster), Chris rounds up a small crew of deckhands to help him pull off a scheme involving counterfeit bills waiting to be smuggled out of Panama. Of course things don’t go as planned, and there are a few of the standard heist film twists and double-crosses that leave Chris and Co. in tight spots and facing long odds.

Kate Beckinsale in Contraband Contraband Review

Kate Beckinsale in ‘Contraband’

For a glorified B-movie, Contraband has an impressive lineup of actors. Foster and Ribisi are accomplished character acting talents, and their respective characters are definite standouts (especially Ribisi’s high-pitched drawling thug). Caleb Landry Jones and Luke Haas are both young actors gaining notice, though they’re mostly window dressing here; Kate Beckinsale, on the other hand, is almost too hot to be convincing as the blue-collar Mrs. of a seasoned criminal. At this point most people know whether they like Mark Wahlberg’s bad boy persona or not, and he’s definitely playing to type in this film. Other familiar faces like J.K. Simmons (Spider-Man), Diego Luna (Y Tu Mama Tambien) and Sons of Anarchy star William Lucking all pop up here and there for some brief (but welcome) bit roles.

Contraband is, in fact, the American remake of the Icelandic film Reykjavik-Rotterdam, and while I haven’t seen that film to know for sure, the script for this American version (adapted by Aaron Guzikowski) tries to do too much with some of the subplots and supporting characters – which would’ve been more of a pronounced distraction if director Baltasar Kormakur (who produced the Icelandic version) and his team of editors hadn’t cut them down to size.

The first act of Contraband is awkwardly clipped – almost as if Kormakur had shot longer scenes but had to truncate them to keep things moving (a choice I wholeheartedly support). The main narrative unfolds at a nice pace without dragging too much – though, as stated, the moments of subplot development later in the film are often cumbersome, disjointed, and never feel effective or necessary.

Mark Wahlberg and Giovanni Ribisi in Contraband Contraband Review

Mark Wahlberg and Giovanni Ribisi in ‘Contraband’

The other odd thing about the film is that it doesn’t really offer a whole lot of any one element: for an action film, there’s very little action (basically one shootout/chase sequence), and for a heist film, it’s not particularly inventive or clever in its twists and surprises (most of them you can see coming way in advance). The plot is pretty much a standard point A to point B to point C progression, while we watch Wahlberg and his blue-collar cohorts breeze through the complicated process of international smuggling with such ease that it’s hard to suspend your disbelief for too long. Look for plot holes with any kind of critical eye and you will find many.

However, for all its mediocrity, most of the audience interested in Contraband  will likely be satisfied with what the film delivers: Mark Wahlberg looking tough, acting tough, and delivering choice one-liners like “You think you’re the only guy with a gun?” or “I’m coming for you!”  Even though some of the subplots wedged into the second and third acts venture into darker and more serious dramatic territory, thankfully they aren’t so much of a drag as to keep the film from ending on a fun (if not entirely plausible) note.

All things considered, if you enjoy seeing modern action stars like Wahlberg or Jason Statham in pulpy B-movie flicks, then Contraband will be a suitable distraction. Those with more discerning action movie palates should probably wait to catch this one on home video or basic cable.

Contraband is now playing in theaters everywhere.

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Our Rating:

2.5 out of 5
(Fairly Good)

TAGS: Contraband
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  1. sounds like Gone in 60 seconds, Italian Job and Oceans XX etc all combined…lol…Hollywood screen writers must be running out of ideas… seems like a common trend now is re-makes and re-boots… they need to really earn there $$ and make something original….but then again Kate Beckinsale is in this movie!!.. so I’ll probably watch it!!… hahahaha… definite MILF!!!… lol ;P

    • damn you stole my thunder…I was going to say isn’t that the exact formula for gone in 60 seconds…

  2. I saw this joint last night, i liked it but i’m puzzled as to why a cargo ship would just let civilians transport stuff and have to clean? is that how it happens? other than that it was exactly what i wanted it to be..besides not explaining some of the smuggler culture stuff

  3. The Italian Job 1.5 on a ship. For me, 3 stars! At least Wahlberg still a badass. He’s still a good fit for Uncharted. He should play an Assassin role, kinda like Max Payne, but not like crappy Max Payne in the movie (bad story and acting elements was not there). Walhberg, graphic assassin killer like?

  4. It’s Marky Mark, nobody except screenrant is expecting oscar worthy material here. You get what you pay for, Marky Mark being badass and a whole lot of foul language and drug talk. 4 stars!

    • @zack,

      Yeah, clearly from the review we were expecting Oscar-worthy stuff (sarcasm).

  5. Have to agree with the above. Felt like Gone in 60 seconds to a tee. Wahlberg did best he could with it. Thought it was AVG at best. No way it was 5 stars. Just being honest.

  6. Better than I thought it would be.

  7. Just came from it. And I agree, it was very much like Gone in 60 Seconds, except with F-bombs and more violence. The movie wasn’t bad but it was pretty predictable. I’d give it 3/5 (maybe 3.5 for Kate :-D ).

  8. Mark and Kate are good looking; the plot is average. One question, does anyone else find the vacuuming ridiculous?

    • Yeah, I never heard of vacuuming on a cargo ship. Of course, I’ve never worked on a cargo ship before, so what do I know.

  9. I never felt attached to Wahlberg’s character. I really didn’t care if he succeeded or not to be quite honest. Marginal at best IMO

  10. Just plain awful. Almost walked out. Amateurish acting and terrible plots.
    Save you money!!!

  11. I seen the movie tonight.. I liked it. I thought it was good, not great. Mark is a very good actor and action star. Does great in these roles. Although I agree I was expecting more action in this movie, and was a little disappointed in how little there was. Overall I was satisfied with going to the theater to see it… Could have been better and honestly I was expecting it be better, but whata ya gonna do? I guess I just kind of felt like there was something left to be desired. I can’t really put a finger on it… Hmmm…. I dunno. Anyway, it is worth seeing, but you will see what I’m talking about..

  12. I dont know I totally did not see some of the plot lines intersecting with each other. In fact some of them seem to be completely at odds. I dont understand why Whalbergs sexuality was a necessity to the storyline. To many awkward scenes with looks exchanged with Giovanni Ribisi, although I do feel like he is very talented. And the scene where he dressed in drag!! What the heck was that about.

  13. I loved it! But I did go into it thinking it was based on a true story. I found it to be very enjoyable and much better than I expected. I always love Mark Wahlberg flicks! I didn’t really think it was the same as Gone in 60 Seconds. It held my interest the whole way through and had me on the edge of my seat. I was glad I saw it at the movies!

  14. I live in clearfield Pennsylvania and was wondering when the movie contraband comes out in stores to buy? Ive been looking for it and haven’t found it. I don’t even remember seeing on our movie theater board down town clearfield at the ritz. The website says it was released in theaters January of this year. When does it come out in stores to buy?

  15. This review is dead-on. I came on here, trying to figure out what I had just seen. I couldn’t decide whether I liked this movie or not. But yeah, Kofi Outlaw nailed it…. it was neither great NOR awful. Great review, I agree with the assessment 100%. Thanks.

  16. I’ll go with this review. This is my typical ‘I’m tired but want something to watch’ kind of movie. Doesn’t take too much concentration. Did I like it? Yes. Would I watch it again? meh.

  17. It’s as if Hollywood picked Panama because of it’s pro-gun laws to portray it as a crime ridden, drug infested battle-zone; like it tried to make you think in the movie “No way out”, that the Philippines was just a full of thieves and prostitutes. Also having beginners in charge of something that would cause a ship to crash?