I guess I’ve loved Mark Wahlberg as an actor since he did so wonderfully as Charlie Croker in The Italian Job in 2003. What made that film so much fun was the fact that they had to steal the same gold bars twice. In the brand new (opened today – Friday the 13th) Contraband – Wahlberg and company do a great job of marketing the film, but it ends up with you and I, the consumers, being the victims as we are out the cost of our tickets. And 2 hours of our lives.

The best thing I can say about my trip to the cinema to see this film today, was that along with Contraband, I saw the trailer for the next Denzel Washington thriller called Safe House which opens on the 10th of February.

Contraband isn’t so much of a stinker, it’s more like competent and workmanlike at best but most folks won’t be willing to rate it that high. It’s the tale of someone who thought he was out of the life (of crime), and then he was (all-together-now) pulled back in.

Wahlberg ‘s character is Chris Farraday – a super smuggler now going straight with his own security installation business. He’s MWK (married with kids), he’s very happy, and his Dad, now incarcerated, calls the day when Chris left the life, the happiest day of his life.

But Farraday’s brother-in-law got himself between a rock and hard-place. He was running in a drug shipment aboard a ship that the CPB (Customs & Border Protection) cops decided to interdict. He was either going to be found in possession of more than 10 pounds of an illegal drug by the cops, or he could dump it in the harbor, and then hope for the best with the bad guy who would have neither his drugs nor his buy money.

The bad guy, called Tim Briggs, is played by Giovanni Ribisi. What goes around comes around as it was in 2000 that Ribisi played the relative caught between a similar rock and a hard place in Gone in 60 Seconds, and had to be rescued by his brother played by Nicholas Cage. So Ribisi has ‘graduated’ from the not-ready-for-prime-time-crime kid to the other side of the coin as a tough crime boss who wants his shipment.

Ribisi doesn’t quite have the look or feel of what the role requires. It wouldn’t matter how many jailhouse tats he sports, or his beard and general scruffiness – he’s not right for the role.

So Wahlberg as Chris Farraday, has to strap it on, and get himself down to Panama, on a freight carrying ship, so he can earn a sizeable chunk of change running in (smuggling) 15 Million in super-notes aka counterfeit US Currency. That’s what’s wrapped in plastic (above).

That’s your set up. The action begins and ends in New Orleans which is the USA’s largest and busiest shipping port. In between we have the middle section of the film set in Panama.

The film was Directed by Baltasar Kormakur, and he’s opted for a grungy industrial look and feel. We see very little of the Big Easy’s more famous parishes and neighborhoods – instead we get a lot of night views from helicopters, and of the busy sea port. Panama fares even worse.

What brings this film down is that things always go wrong – in fact nothing goes as planned. But everything always works out. Wahlberg was effectively tough, and he didn’t proffer any memorable one liners.

There was zero humor in the film except if you decide to laugh about the beyond counting  ‘lucky breaks’ that happen to happen, or maybe the amazing incompetence displayed by the bad guys. Like watch for the big, big big payoff at the end – when you see  and will realize that in this film crime does pay. Quite handsomely as well.

Kate Beckinsale had the thankless role of wife, and mother, who when she wasn’t being harassed or beaten up by the bad guys, she was on the phone.

Overall the film is watchable as a rental down the road or if you can see it cheaply. But if you go for the full ticket price, you’ll be spending a lot more than you should for a less than fulfilling movie.

Three point zero out of five, and that’s being quite generous.


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