Contraband: A Review

I’m a big fan of Mark Wahlberg and much like Jason Statham, I believe that his name alone is a surefire guarantee that moviegoers will get their money’s worth after coming out from an action packed movie. Deciding to take on Contraband as my first movie review of the year was spurred by this belief.

Contraband is a movie about reformed smuggler Chris Farraday (Wahlberg) who finds himself in a bind after his brother in law Andy makes a bad run and finds himself owing the drug syndicate $700 grand for coke that he had to throw overboard when Customs cracked down on their vessel. When gangster Tim Briggs (Giovanni Ribisi) threatens the life of Andy, as well as Chris’s family, he and his best friend Sebastian (Ben Foster) devise a plan to smuggle a vanload of fake currency from Panama to repay Andy’s debt and put them in the clear with the mob. But the supposedly simple operation runs asour when one mishap after another threatens the success of their plan — not to mention the invisible strings that pull Chris and Andy in different ways to achieve different missions.

Contraband, in my opinion was a pretty decent movie. Aside from Wahlberg, there was a strong supporting cast with Kate Beckinsale as Chris’s wife; Ribisi and Foster, two of the greatest actors to play psychos and druggies in film. There was also an excellent twist in the end as to how the operation was pulled off but other than that, the movie was more about plotting and counterplotting rather than action. The movie is more about family and friendships which is the basic core of the film.

However, I must say that I’m not a big fan of the shaky camera shots and angles of this film. True, it managed to depict the grittiness of a hostile environment but the extreme close ups and the tight shots limited the viewers’ perspective of the magnitude of the scenes. An example would be the heist in Panama when the angle should have been wider to illustrate the impact of the operation rather than focus on just one side or the other of the ambush. The general lack of proper lighting in most of entire movie also lessened the impact of some otherwise good moments. Sad to say, the scoring also did not contribute to the general feel of the movie.

While there were great acting moments for the cast, I think that Ribisi was underutilized and depicted only as a gangster boss (who mostly got beaten up by Chris), when he could have been unleashed as a much much more terrifying SOB.

All on all, if one is expecting a movie at the level of The Italian Job, Shooter or Four Brothers, sad to say that this movie will fall short. It’s not a bad movie per se, but I was generally underwhelmed considering its potential.