Review: Contraband

Mark Wahlberg plays Chris Farraday, a world class smuggler turned family-man that comes out of retirement to pay off a debt owed by his brother-in-law (Caleb Landry Jones).

In order to protect his wife (Kate Beckinsale) and kids from local thug Tim Briggs (Giovanni Ribisi), Chris enlists some help from his best friend and former partner in crime Sebastian (Ben Foster). They round up a crew of deckhands to help pull off a scheme to smuggle counterfeit bills out of Panama but in typical Hollywood blockbuster fashion, proceedings don’t go to plan.

Although this is already sounding like ‘Gone in Sixty Seconds’ with counterfeit money replacing cars, this film overcomes the initial clichéd opening to become a very solid and entertaining action movie.

In a speech Wahlberg made before the screening at the Jameson Dublin International Film Festival, he described ‘Contraband’ as “character driven with a great plot”. There are some memorable characters in the film and a high standard of acting, which sets ‘Contraband’ apart from other titles in the action genre.

Wahlberg is an excellent protagonist. He takes the ‘good guy getting his hands dirty for the greater good’ role in his stride and comes out with some Seagal-esque witty retorts. The character itself is a bit clichéd but is made memorable by Marky Mark’s solid performance.

Ribisi also puts in a good performance as Briggs, the smarmy Cajon smuggler who terrorises the Farraday family. At times, the short-fused villain is terrifying and there is feeling that if he’s ever rubbed the wrong way he could snap and be capable of committing brutally violent acts, which we see glimpses of in the film.

Beckinsale put in a satisfactory performance as Faraday’s wife, although her only two roles are to look pretty and be the damsel in distress.

Cinematographer Barry Ackroyd (The Hurt Locker, Green Zone) did an outstanding job in this movie. Wahlberg said in his speech that he wanted New Orleans to be its own character in the movie, a feat which is achieved through excellent cinematography. Ackroyd managed to avoid the conventional image of New Orleans which is usually only filmed to showcase the Mardi Gras festival or the French quarter. He portrays New Orleans as a seedy city with a criminal underbelly centralised in the dockland area.

Every scene feels like it has a purpose. There is no lull in the drama or any point in the movie that feels like the story dragged. Contraband is a free-flowing and fast-paced action film with a high standard of acting and a smart plot. This combination is a rarity in an over-saturated genre and I highly recommend you catch this spectacle on the big screen where the drama can truly be appreciated.

Rating: 3/5

Ben Kiely

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