Film Review: Contraband
● By Justin Buettner
Mark Wahlberg’s newest movie Contraband follows Chris Farraday, a retired smuggler who is forced out of retirement to do one last job to protect his family. Farraday, of course, runs into complications along the way as he seems to get double crossed at every turn -- not to mention that the corrupt ship captain, who is aware of Farraday's reputation, stays on his case. While on the job Farraday's family faces danger from the criminals behind the his extortion.
Contraband’s story and pace feels much like a Steven Segal movie that wants to be Ocean’s Eleven. There are several turns in the script that want the audience to be surprised, but, unfortunately, these turns don’t cause the least bit of shock. The movie seems to cram in extra subplots just to be sure they have enough action, but they come across as unnecessary. As can be expected from a movie like this, most of the characters do things that no rational person would do, and all of the crazy subplots are tied up just a bit too neatly. The story devices feel very familiar, but as a lightweight smuggle caper it mildly entertains.
Wahlberg slides into the role effortlessly. He fits best in parts that don't ask for too much emotional investment. Wahlberg loves to flex his muscles and go through the motions of being a tough guy -- he’s not bad at it. The rest of the cast occupies parts that we’ve seen before and do a capable job standing in for characters with as much depth as cardboard cut-outs.
The director, Baltasar Kormákur, tries his best to insert a gritty and raw feel to Contraband. He does this by intentionally having a noticeable grain to the picture and using a lot of handheld shots that fall out of focus from time to time. While it was not a distracting technique, it did not deliver the tone that the director was aiming for. The pace of the film was good as it bounced from scene to scene not pausing long enough to be boring, but also not allowing the movie to gain any dramatic importance either.
I have a feeling the intention was to aim for a grittier Italian Job, a very good movie that Wahlberg starred in. Contraband is nowhere near as fun, clever or action packed as the Italian Job. The characters are nowhere near as three dimensional as that movie too. However Contraband is just effective enough to be entertaining. It’s the sort of movie that my dad will watch on the USA network on a rainy day and when asked how he liked it he’d respond, “it was okay, it’s no Van-Damme movie though.” I don’t know if that is a positive review, but I guess it’s not negative either.
Films like Contraband: Italian Job, The Bank Job and Takers
Justin Buettner is Style's resident movie dude! How did he get this role? Well, he graduated from Loyola Marymount University with a Bachelor of Arts in film Production and a duel minor in Animation and Business with an emphasis in the entertainment field. He later went on to work on several independent films in various key roles including writer and later worked in the special effects field as a motion capture artist. He has since relocated to the Sacramento area with his family and continues writing for small independent films in addition to his movie reviews for Style Magazine.