Contraband - Review
Review by Rob Carnevale
Contraband, his latest, is a remake of Óskar Jónasson’s little-seen 2008 Icelandic thriller, Reykjavik-Rotterdam and offers a sharp mix of tension and action, as well as a solid ensemble cast.
Wahlberg plays former master smuggler Chris Farraday who is forced to come out of retirement when his brother-in-law (Caleb Landry Jones) falls foul of a drug dealer (Giovanni Ribisi).
His decision requires him to do ‘one last job’ smuggling millions of dollars worth of forged banknotes from Panama but invariably brings more trouble than it’s worth and comes to place his wife (Kate Beckinsale) in jeopardy too.
Baltasar Kormákur, who produced the original film, directs proceedings at a crisp pace, while striking a nice balance between the gung-ho rhetoric and some of the more intimate, character building stuff.
As such, he enables the film to play to the strengths of his quality ensemble cast, who in turn help to maintain a nice sense of mounting peril and distrust.
Wahlberg is the focal point but while his Chris Farraday is imbued with typically decent qualities, there’s room for plenty of colour to be added in the supporting performances from Ribisi (suitably sleazy as the main villain of the piece), Ben Foster (as Farraday’s friend), Diego Luna (as an unhinged Panamanian contact) and JK Simmons (as the captain of the ship Farraday and his crew are forced to use).
All serve to heighten what could otherwise have been a fairly run-of-the-mill screenplay.
Kormákur, for his part, invests a muscular tone into proceedings that suits the mood of the piece, and which yields at least one standout set piece involving an armoured heist in the middle of Panama, while also knowing when to keep things simmering and taut.
It’s little wonder that Wahlberg enjoyed the experience so much that he is considering working with the director again on his proposed sequel to The Fighter.
Contraband isn’t without flaws, given some of the plot’s more contrived moments and an ending that’s slightly out of keeping with the generally dark tone.
But it’s a solid and hugely enjoyable effort that marks another hit on Wahlberg’s recent upward career trajectory, while announcing the arrival of yet another European director with bags of potential.
Running time: 109mins
UK Release Date: March 16, 2012