In the New Orleans-set crime thriller Contraband, Mark Wahlberg plays Chris Farraday, a reformed criminal forced to do the proverbial one last job when his brother-in-law Andy (Caleb Landry Jones) runs afoul of a local gangster (Giovanni Ribisi). To square the deal and pay-off Andy’s debt, Chris agrees to go back into his old line of work —smuggling. In this case he must illegally transport millions of dollars in counterfeit bills. But can he navigate around the police, ruthless drug lords and double crosses to keep Andy and his family safe?
Richard: 3.5 out of 5
Mark: 3 out of 5
Richard: Mark, Maybe January isn’t a dumping ground for awful movies anymore. Used to be that only the dregs came out after Christmas, but Contraband is actually a pretty good thriller. It’s not brilliant, but succeeds mainly because Wahlberg can play the family man, as he does in the first part of the movie, and then switch gears to have believable tough-guy swagger.
Mark: Well, the plot — One! Last! Heist! is as old as Dick Clark’s toupee. But the movie is all in the details — the gritty port milieu, the dirty hold of the cargo boat, the cheap ‘n’sleazy Panamanian dives; this flick is the antidote to Miami Vice — there’s zero glamour in this smuggling game. As far as Wahlberg goes, I found him totally believable and it’s the best thing he’s done in a while. But what’s up with Ben Foster? Does he have to be a creep in every movie he’s in?
RC: Foster is a fine but typecast actor. He really needs to break away from the deadbeat kind of characters he’s been playing lately. More work like his heartrending performance in The Messenger please, and less like paint-by-number creepy guys he plays in movies like this and The Mechanic.
MB: And I was all excited to see Kate Beckinsale out of Vampirella drag — and then they gave her nothing to do; the worst wifey part in recent memory. The other supporting roles weren’t all that great, either, although Giovanni Ribisi does make a swell bad guy, and I’ll always have a soft spot for JK Simmons after his role in Oz. I like seeing him in anything.
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RC: With the way Ribisi chews the scenery here and his work in The Rum Diary he’s proving himself to be the hungriest actor in Hollywood next to Nic Cage. He was fun. Beckinsale, not so much. Why cast her and then simply make her the damsel in distress? You’d think after kicking werewolf butt in four Underworld movies she’d be able to defend herself by now. Unfortunately the supporting characters are less interesting than the movie as a whole.
MB: It’s not really an ‘actor’s movie,’ is it? But the mechanics of the heist work, as well as the action sequences, and that’s why it’s worth watching. Oh, and a fabulous art joke, which seems out of whack with the rest of the film, but is a hoot nevertheless.