Capsule Movie Review – Contraband (2012)
by HELEN GEIB
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.