A remake of the Icelandic film Reykjavik-Rotterdam and Directed by the star of the original, Baltasar Kormakur, Contraband is a middle of the road action-thriller starring Mark Wahlberg as a former smuggler who is forced to take on one final job to save the life of his wife’s brother. Featuring a more than talented cast and a couple of nice reveals, Contraband occasionally rises above the milieu of generic thrillers but overall lands back in amongst its fellows with a script that contains little real action and few thrills.
Whenever I see the names Giovanni Ribisi or Ben Foster appear in opening credits I always sit up and take notice as for my money they are two of the best actors working in Hollywood today. To have them both in the same film is some coup. Wahlberg is an actor who occasionally impresses me but pretty much phones in his performance here and his wife, played by Kate Beckinsale is merely a plot device and has no meaningful role or lines. The same can be said for the talented Lukas Haas who is given little chance to shine.
What the film does offer is a good opening conceit and a couple of nice character reveals. They help to create decent twists and changes of direction but there are far too many obvious pointers to other, non character based twists and developments. The bloody carpet cleaner is on screen as much as Kate Beckinsale for dead baby Jesus sake! The whole painting thing was far too obvious too. The style and camera work felt very televisual to me and reminded me of 24. The way the camera was rocking and zooming in and out on faces I half expected to see Jack Bauer appear, looking confused and angry before ripping someone’s toe nails off with his teeth. I was also reminded of The Wire, probably in part due to the dock setting but also because of the grainy style.
In the end Contraband is the sort of forgettable thriller which will be in a bargain bin in a year or two. It contains little originality and we’ve seen the ‘one last job’ thing a hundred times already. I did think there were a couple of decent performances from Ribisi and Foster and a decent twist but overall this isn’t a film I’d recommend to people. There a too many better thrillers out there.