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Movie Review: Contraband

Prinz Lee image

Prinz Lee wrote this review 6 years and 1 month ago

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Whether or not Wahlberg dug deep into his “Marky Mark” street-props past for this role, one can rest assured with his family’s survival on his mind…‘Contraband’ forced him to take a walk on the wild-side!

Chris Farraday (Wahlberg) long ago abandoned his life of crime, but after his brother-in-law, Andy, screws up a drug deal for his ruthless boss, Tim Briggs (Ribisi), Chris is forced back into doing what he does best -- running contraband -- to settle Andy's debt. Chris is a legendary smuggler and quickly assembles a crew with the help of his best friend, Sebastian (Foster), to head to Panama and return with millions in counterfeit bills.

Things quickly go haywire 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 (Beckinsale), and sons become their target.

It’s no secret ‘Contraband’ is a remake directed by Baltasar Kormákur who also stars in the Icelandic original ‘Reykjavik-Rotterdam.’ It’s pretty much plastered everywhere. And although I’ve never seen Iceland’s version, therefore, nothing to compare it to…’Contraband’ is the type of film which suffers from a massive case of predictability. However, even though one pretty much knows what follows next – mistakes, unplanned surprises, and individual character objectives – there’s an element of exhilarating entertainment and satisfactory-based anxiety which arises as it plays along. No ifs, ands, or buts about it one can rest assured that when there’s illegal action going on, there’s some severe high-stake complexities which will always lead to a nice showdown of gun-toting, fist fighting, chest pounding that’ll go on from both ends of human nature’s spectrum.

I enjoy, admire and respect Wahlberg’s work, but what bothered me about this particular role is that it didn’t seem challenging for some reason. Compared to his emotional distress in films like ‘The Lovely Bones’ or ‘The Fighter,’ ‘Contraband’ seemed like it was based more on move-star-action-hero-takes, rather than piecing words, emotion and real acting work. I’m not saying it was a total waste, because there are scenes in the film which raise levels of emotions, but somewhere along the lines between script, director and talent…something was lost, and did not allow specifics to resonate within me to really buy into the film’s complexities between dirty deeds and loved ones.

Giovanni Ribisi has been an actor I’ve been watching since damn…the 90s. I recall many flicks – mainly ‘Boiler Room’ – and a then girlfriend of mine agreeing how this guy was destined to be one of those actors that’ll always stand out no matter who he’ll costar with, and so it was! Whether cutting it up with Vin Diesel or Ben Affleck in ‘Boiler Room,’ or serving as the asshole brain-behind-the-corrupt-brawn against Sam Worthington or Sigourney Weaver in ‘Avatar,’ Ribisi manages to do the same in ‘Contraband.’ Although not sure how or why such a high-pitched voice was selected for this particular nutty, small-time, druggy kingpin based out of The Big Easy…there’s always an “it-factor” of sorts when coming off as a cold-blooded bad guy a/k/a “heel” in wrestling terms. There’s a stare he has…an aura he carries…and subtle arrogance to his ways, there’s no doubt this guy can play villain roles from now until his dying day. I enjoy watching this scrawny guy do his thing, and although underplayed as a main antagonist, this guy pretty much serves as backbone to this flick opposite Mark Wahlberg. I think!

The same would apply to Diego Luna. Seeing as we’ve never really seen him playing this kind of grungy type, and considering it felt more like somewhat of a “cameo,” there’s a spooky drive behind his character as “Gonzalo,” a Panamanian drug-lord crook when placing Wahlberg’s character in place after thinking he’s being set up.

On peripheral are Kate Beckinsale, Ben Foster and Lukas Haas…whose characters were just there for clear purposes of keeping interest within the film. I didn’t have a problem with it, but I didn’t think their characters would have been dented if others of a lesser known “list” would have been cast. Seriously, it’s not like they elevated anything other than their own resume…I like them all, and it’s never a downer to catch glances at a cute Beckensale, but I wasn’t here nor there with them. My drive was always between Wahlberg and Ribisi.

Overall, ‘Contraband’ is a film which needs to be digested by oneself and pretty much follow though with personal feelings. I didn’t think I left the theater feeling robbed as it was pretty much another heist-based film, however, from another angle, but I liked it. I can’t say it was any of the cast members best work/film EVER, but I know based on cast, genre and the fact that there really isn’t any HUGE opening this weekend (1/13 – 15), I can see it bringing in a pretty decent amount of money. Think about it: guys wanting to see Beckinsale and all the firearm action, and the girls, because well…it’s Marky Mark and those abs will forever be engraved in their heads…aside from that grin he always carries - talk about a marketing fool, ey? Well, black, white, red, brown…I’m sure ‘Contraband’ will feel a good vibration



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