Movie Review: Contraband
Contraband, starring Mark Wahlberg and Kate Beckinsale, is an American remake of the Icelandic film Reykjavik-Rotterdam. The script for the American version was adapted by Aaron Guzikowski and the film was directed by Baltasar Kormakur who also produced the Icelandic version.
The film is a combination of the 'will they won’t they get away with it' of Ocean’s Eleven combined with the edge of your seat action of Speed. It has been some time since there has been a film that can do this for its audience but this plot twists and turns keeping the viewer engaged and interested at all times.
The hero of the film is Chris played by Mark Wahlberg. Chris is a retired smuggler who has gone straight and now runs his own security firm and lives happily with his wife (Beckinsale) and his two children. Things go awry for Chris when his wife’s brother Andy played by Caleb Landry Jones botches a drug deal for boss Tim Briggs played by Giovanni Ribisi.
One last heist
As Chris unsuccessfully tries to reason with Briggs on behalf of his brother in law he ends up having no choice but to plan one last heist to bring back a van full of counterfeit cash into the US on a ship from Panama.
His best friend Sebastian, played by Ben Foster, encourages Chris to keep the job simple and instead bring back drugs which they obviously couldn't Fedex. However, Chris morally disagrees and is adamant to stick with his original plan to get the cash. Inevitably, Chris' absence puts his wife and family in danger and they receive several threatening visits from Briggs, prompting Chris to rely on Sebastian to care for his family in his absence.
The cast really bring this film together and make it watchable as each plays their role perfectly and entirely believably.
Not so simple
The film’s plot demonstrates the detail and sheer balls required to carry off a smuggling heist. Chris runs with his old crew in order to save his brother in law’s neck and return to his previous calm family man existence.
The film has elements of humour too, despite the gritty nature of much of the plot. Again this is largely due to the way the cast gel so well together. Particularly humorous is the contribution of Spiderman’s J K Simmons who plays the captain of the ship, and with whom Wahlberg’s character has previous history, as he was involved in his father getting sent down.
The film is somewhat hampered by the fact that hero and villain are largely separated by water for big chunks of the film. This is disappointing as the scenes between Ribsi and Wahlberg are great to watch. Of course the viewer is willing Wahlberg to succeed just as they do in Ocean’s Eleven however where the film does lack is the complete disregard for the authorities involved and any consequences. Despite several prison scenes involving Wahlberg’s father it is no deterrent and as usual makes prison life seem cool.
Why give up?
One confusing element is quite why Chris gave up smuggling in the first place. Presumably it is because his father got caught and his wife disapproves. However his wife is quite accepting of the mission when it is her own flesh and blood at risk. The viewer is also expected to believe that Wahlberg’s father had his proudest moment when his son went back on the straight and narrow and started the family firm. Not so believable when we see that he in fact runs the prison in which he resides.
Beckinsale is a believable wife and carries off her duty as a woman in peril well. She is also a great example of a woman who will protect her family at all costs as she goes up against Briggs in several settings.
Date night movie
All in all this is a very watchable movie with a plot that whilst turbulent doesn’t require a great deal of thinking about making it a great weekend movie. For once the action involved doesn’t make it biased toward the male viewer and there is plenty to keep the female audience interested. This means that couples can easily select this movie for their date night and at just under two hours long the film is not too gruelling on time.
Guest review by Imogen Reed.
Buy Contraband (the movie, not actually contraband as that would of course be illegal!! :-D):
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