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January 15, 2012


Capsule Movie Review – Contraband (2012)


Mark Wahlberg heads a strong cast as a career criminal gone straight who is pulled back into the old life when his family is threatened in the new thriller Contraband. Kate Beckinsale plays his loyal wife, Ben Foster his turncoat best friend and former partner-in-crime, Giovanni Ribisi the hired muscle, Caleb Landry Jones the inept criminal brother-in-law who gets them all into hot water, Lukas Haas one of the crew, and Diego Luna a Panama City crime boss. The film is competently executed but unlike the caper at its center, never really comes together. Strong shades of The Italian Job regardless, the main culprit is a more general over-familiarity. The story leans heavily on melodramatic conventions of the genre without the compensation of unusual characterization or propulsive forward momentum. Foster’s villain is the worst script misjudgment, the revelation of his duplicity coming as a surprise only to the characters. The middle act is the movie’s best part. The cargo ship smuggling operation is genuinely interesting, the hero displays a convincing professionalism, his helpers supply welcome comic relief, and when the plan gets sidetracked, the complications prove a welcome surprise.

2 1/2 stars

One thing I liked and one thing I didn’t like: I really enjoyed the running joke at the expense of modern art. I didn’t like the casting of Foster. Precisely because I’ve seen him play twitchy meltdown before and he does it so well, the movie was even more predictable than it had to be with him in the role.

6 Comments Post a comment
  1. Jan 15 2012

    This is a film that I haven’t heard of until this week. That’s not a good sign. However, I looked into it and its director starred in the original film that this one’s based on and it’s apparently terrific. I might check that one out instead. :O)

  2. Jan 15 2012

    I’d be interested in seeing the original too. I saw “Contraband” with some film club friends and we were speculating afterward if some of what we didn’t like stemmed from the source material being Hollywoodized.

  3. Jan 16 2012

    It’s very possible.

  4. Jan 22 2012

    There’s not a lot to think about while watching it and we’ve seen some of this plot before in other films, but for a movie opening in January, it’s actually pretty damn good thanks to a couple of cool heists and a relatively good cast. Nice review Helen.

  5. Miriam
    Jan 23 2012

    Reykjavik to Rotterdam is the original, described by Netflix as a big budget Icelandic thriller. It sounds good but, sadly, has no DVD (or streaming) availability that I could find.

  6. Jun 6 2012

    Watched “Reykjavik-Rotterdam” last night and really enjoyed it (it was released on DVD in the US around when “Contraband” came out on DVD). The remake is nearly scene by scene faithful and if you compared the versions only on plot you’d think they were a lot more alike than they are. There are a lot of small differences that add up to make the original a substantially better film. There is one plot point where the remake improves on its source though.