Trailers for the Icelandic film remake Contraband show an action-packed heist thriller where Mark Wahlberg runs around with a gun and big bills around his torso, killing bad guys with bad tattoos. The 110-minute feature isn’t much different. This January flick is loaded with famous Hollywood faces like Wahlberg including Kate Beckinsale, Ben Foster, J.K. Simmons, and Diego Luna. On the surface, Contraband appears to be an honest tale about a man who is forced to go back to his old ways to protect his family, but as we all know, heist thrillers aren’t that committed to story. Let’s see if this American adaptation proves to be any different.

The Players:

The Plot:

Former Smuggler Chris Farraday (Wahlberg) has gone straight and now lives with his loving wife Kate (Beckinsale) and two children. But when Chris’s brother-in-law Andy (Jones) gets into trouble with big time drug dealer Tim Briggs (Ribisi), he is forced to go back to his old ways. With the help of his best bud Sebastian (Foster), Chris gets his old crew back together and attempts to do one last job.

The Good:

  • Giovanni Ribisi: Despite looking like a gawky teenager, Ribisi plays the role of Tim Briggs, a hotheaded drug dealer, very convincingly. He gets to be the villain here, imposing fear on Chris by terrorizing Kate and his children when he’s overseas. You better believe that Briggs will go to any lengths to get what he wants even if it requires blood. Ribisi’s Briggs is easily the most entertaining character in the entire movie though Diego Luna’s performance as Gonzalo, the insane Panama king pin, is almost as enjoyable.
  • It’s Got Jokes: A lot of Contraband doesn’t make sense, but the script offers a handful of neat jokes that will make you laugh out loud.

The So-So:

  • Action! Action! Action!: Like most heist thrillers, this one too suffers from too much action and not enough story. At its core there seems to be a good story about former criminals who go back to do one last job, but that gets lost in the senseless and unrealistic action. However, in movie like Contraband, nonsense is what makes it fun. How else would you explain the Jackson Pollock painting in the movie? Exactly. This is actually a story about drug dealers, blue collar criminals, smugglers and revenge. There’s nonstop action and you can count on never getting bored. However, those who prefer a story-driven movie will find themselves rolling their eyes quite a bit.

The Bad:

  • Mark Wahlberg Is Underused: Wahlberg is a leading man, there’s no denying it, but his talents are wasted here. The role of Chris Farraday could have been played by another less known actor and served its purpose. Wahlberg is just here to run around and nothing else. Beckinsale is also underused. She’s a bad ass lady and could have done some serious ass-kicking (like she has in previous movies), but here she’s just a lame damsel in distress waiting to be rescued.
  • Unrealistic Ending: There is no real connection in the film or feeling of resolution, yet somehow everything works out for our former criminal. He gets away with the crime and everyone who wronged him is put behind bars. How exactly did we get here? No idea. All we know is that Chris’s kids are going to need some serious therapy.


All in all, Contraband serves its purpose as a January thriller. Hey, our hopes weren’t set too high. Yes, it’s got nonstop action that will keep you entertained, but it’s the misuse or rather, underuse of talented actors that make this cargo ship movie sink.

Rating: 4.5/10

Watch Contraband in theaters on January 13, 2011.

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Will you watch Contraband?