Contraband – 1.5/5 – Movie Reviews by Ry!

contraContraband – 1.5/5 – This is a review for a film that came out last year.  In retrospect, I am a Mark Wahlberg Fan.  From movies like Boogie Nights, The Departed and Ted, you see that he has a range of films he can do, and perform well at (Receiving an Oscar nomination for The Departed).  Sometimes though (Max Payne and The Other Guys) he will be part of films that are complete duds, and his acting can’t save it.  This is one of those films.  For the class that Wahlberg gives in this film, everything else is just a hodge podge of great potential mixed with a lousy script.  Contraband is a film that missed it mark.

Premise: To protect his brother-in-law from a local drug lord, former smuggler Chris Farraday (Mark Wahlberg) heads to Panama to score millions of dollars in counterfeit bills.  What this leads is to be mix of action, drama, and the consequences of being with the wrong groups.

Very quickly and straight to the point; The only notable and decent acting role in this film is from the main character, played by Mark Wahlberg.  As former smuggler Chris Farraday, you see how he has a conscience effort against going back into smuggling, but he has to do it for his brother-in-law, especially since he is close with his own family.  In this, you see how he struggles between both these worlds (home life and smuggling life) from beginning to end.  His interaction with everyone shows he commands the scene, as this helps move the film beyond the other characters.  The rest of the film’s cast is on a new level of low.  They are all just wooden, one-dimensional characters that you can pluck from any standard action/drama/thriller movie.  Among the supporting cast, you have the likes of Ben Foster, Lukas Haas, Kate Beckinsale and Giovanni Ribisi.  With this much talent on screen; it’s just a disappointing to see what they do in these supporting roles.  When they are on screen, it feels stale when they deliver their lines.  They bring across a lack of effort to the characters, as they don’t even show some sense of dignity, even if the script isn’t up to par to decent.  For the most part, you can ignore them, even when they are supposed to be important at climactic points.

With the direction and script, it is a terrible mix of every genre you can think of, messed into a short span with too many characters.  From the premise, to the main body, all the way to the climax, it just feels ho hum all the way through.  In the beginning, there is a quick setup of the brother-in-law getting in trouble, and Chris Farraday has to swoop in and save the day.  This setup is way too quick, as they have an emphasis of an ‘ensemble’ type setup (like ocean’s 11), but without the added depth to the characters that are part of the smuggling plot.  Everyone is just placed into positions like chess pieces, as the story just starts, and goes.  From here, the film just picks up and stays on a fast pace, throwing more characters into the film as the theme flips to a gangster/action type when Farraday and crew get to Panama City.  This feels unneeded and convoluted, as it has no real affect on things happening back home, with the main plot points.  Even though there is an ‘epic’ scale to the action, the director never gives the scene the raw intensity to make the audience feel the car chases, shootouts and explosions.  By this time of the film, it is already becoming a drag.  You see an attempt to catch the audience off guard with character’s one-liners and ‘pseudo’ comical interactions, but it just becomes a lost attempt to bring some flavor to the film.  Eventually, all the storylines converges to the climax that is both bittersweet and dumfounded.  It literally switches themes again, and adds a drama dynamic between Ben Foster’s, Kate Beckinsale’s and Mark Wahlberg’s characters.  This triangle ‘love’ just takes away from the purpose the setup of most of the movie.  All the twists and ‘shocking’ revelations in the last 10 minutes just amount to a web of confusing storylines.  In the end, you just want to ask the director and screenwriter, why.

The visuals in the film were the only standout points of the film.  This was the only thing that seemed attractive and real to the audience, as you will feel more character to the cities in the film (New Orleans and Panama city) then the characters themselves.  The score was irrelevant.

Overall, Contraband was a film with a lot of promise, but falls flat.  Outside of Wahlberg, the film is just a mess.  I don’t have much to say about this film in the end, other then, if you want to watch it, rent it.   My honest opinion, don’t.

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