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Film review: 'Contraband' hits the mark as a shoot-'em-up

January 13, 2012|By Andy Klein | By Andy Klein
  • Chris Farraday (Mark Wahlberg) with his wife, Kate (Katie Beckinsale), and eldest son, Michael (Connor Hill) in "Contraband." (Photo by Patti Perret)
Chris Farraday (Mark Wahlberg) with his wife, Kate (Katie…

Every three or four films, Mark Wahlberg does a straight-out action potboiler (“Max Payne,” “Shooter”); the latest is “Contraband.” This time around, Wahlberg plays Chris Farraday, a reformed New Orleans smuggler, who, after a prison term, has given up the life for the sake of his wife, Kate (an underused Kate Beckinsale), and two kids. He now runs an apparently successful home security firm, where his criminal expertise comes in handy.

Unfortunately, the extended family also includes Kate's little brother Andy (Caleb Landry Jones), a novice smuggler who is as inept and cowardly at the profession as Chris is brilliant and brave. When Andy takes part in a dope run that goes bad, local dealer Briggs (Giovanni Ribisi) holds him responsible. Despite having sworn to Kate absolutely never to smuggle again, Chris is forced to go on one last run to save her brother's skin.

Because Chris doesn't want to smuggle drugs, he instead arranges to bring in a couple pallets stacked with counterfeit currency — obviously a tad harder to be inconspicuous about. More insanely, he signs on as a crew member on a trip to Panama and back, under a captain (the ubiquitous J.K. Simmons) who already hates and distrusts him.

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Back in New Orleans, his family is under the protective wing of Chris' best friend (Ben Foster), who used to date Kate and is transparently still in love with her. What possible conflicts of interest could he have?

Things go awry over and over again, forcing Chris to improvise brilliant new strategies ... each of which goes further awry, thanks to the treachery and stupidity of others.

“Contraband” was directed by Icelandic actor/director Baltasar Kormakur, a few of whose earlier efforts — “101 Reykjavik,” “The Sea” and the English-language “Inhale” — have been distributed in the U.S. It's a remake of the 2008 “Reykjavik-Rotterdam,” an Icelandic production that, curiously enough, Kormakur produced and starred in, but didn't direct. (Go figure.)

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