Part of being a movie reviewer is having to take the bad with the good; you don’t always get to see the films you want to see. All I knew about Contraband before buying a ticket was that it featured gangsters with duct tape wrapped faces, and included an unnecessary moment of slo-mo and CGI. Despite this goofiness from the trailers and TV spots, the movie exceeded my low expectations.
Imagine if your villains looked like this.
Chris Farraday (Mark Wahlberg) is an ex smuggler who has recently turned legitimate. But, of course, if you’re in a crime thriller and are an ex anything, you WILL be doing one last job. Chris is forced back into his old life by a local gangster (Giovanni Ribisi) who threatens not only his brother in law, but his wife (Kate Beckinsale) and kids. With the help of his best friend (Ben Foster) and a slightly rag tag crew of…
…well, you know the rest. And if you don’t, you should, because you’ve probably seen this movie a few times before, maybe under the name Gone in Sixty Seconds. It follows the typical crime thriller pattern pretty well, and makes no apologies for it. And you know what, it shouldn’t.
This is perfect Hollywood South fodder. It is executed well all around, and has not only a lighthearted touch, but enough clever twists and turns that will keep you shoving popcorn in your mouth. This would make for a good safe video store pick, if only video stores still existed.
Worth a mention is the setting of New Orleans. Living only an hour away, I relish the opportunity to see a realistic take on life in The Big Easy. And, believe it or not, Contraband does that. The actors are clothed appropriately enough for the weather, they have believable jobs and, most importantly, aren’t all southern stereotypes. I HATE it when characters in a movie/tv show set in The Big Easy have gumbo parties, wear beads constantly, and have gravy thick accents. I’m glad a tourist didn’t write this film.
Mark Wahlberg plays a good guy trying to protect his family, yes, but he’s also a bit uncaring to the people whose lives he’s helped ruin. At one point, he is forced to crash into an armored vehicle, knowing full well the occupants will die soon after as a result. In another scene, he cleverly has a bad guy arrested, while knowing full well that this man has a daughter at home, who will probably end up in foster care. Now, I realize that he had no choice in the first scenario, and that the bad guy brought it all on himself in the second, but considering how smart his character is, couldn’t he have come up with a way to make it all right? I dunno. Maybe this isn’t deserving of a beer, but it just sits uneasy with me, especially after how well things turn out for him in the end. Just clutch your wife while you look at the beach, Mark – no need to have a conscience.
As long as life is good for you, right?
Why was Kate Beckinsale needed? Besides making a few phone calls and getting roughed up a couple of times, Kate does nothing other than provide Mark’s character reason to accomplish his goal. Her character could’ve easily been acted by an unknown local actress – would cost less and give this actress some experience. Nah, let’s just get that chick from Underworld to be in our movie. We’ll have her do next to nothing while using her name/looks to sell our film.
Just stand there, Kate. Perfect.
It may cover familiar territory, but Contraband knows it’s way around the area. Works really well as a lazy Sunday flick.
Bonus Drinking Game
Take a Drink: for each moment you were able to predict correctly
Drink Twice: for each moment you predicted incorrectly
Drink a Shot: if you would still allow Ben Foster around your girlfriend after watching this film.
Drink a Shot: if you were as glad to see Lukas Haas as I was.