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Contraband (review)

Contraband yellow light Mark Wahlberg

It’s a good thing Mark Wahlberg is so effortlessly charming, because that’s part of what keeps this rather generic heist thriller rolling along as smoothly as it does. (Obviously, deduct points from my already halfhearted recommendation if you don’t find the actor charming.) Wahlberg’s (The Other Guys) Chris Farraday used to be a “world-class smuggler”; now he runs his own company installing home burglar alarms and CCTV cameras, and life with his wife, Kate (Kate Beckinsale: Underworld: Awakening), and their small boys is good. Until Kate’s little brother, Andy (Caleb Landry Jones: X-Men: First Class), runs afoul of some of Chris’s former criminal associates, and now nice bad guy Chris must make it up to not-nice bad guy Giovanni Ribisi (The Rum Diary), in full-on skeezy mode that appears to be his new thing, and at which he is damned convincing. Chris’s plan: smuggle pallets of counterfeit currency from Panama back into New Orleans, earn enough to clear Andy’s debts and keep the not-nice bad guys from killing the Farraday family, and go back to the alarm biz. Naturally, not everything works the way it’s supposed to: Chris experiences pretty much the worst sort of day a thief could have in the commission of his crime, getting sidetracked down ridiculous tangents that never quite play out as amusingly as they probably should have — comedy is a lot more forgiving of absurdity than suspense is. Yet when things go according to plan, this is problematic, too, since the plan — no spoilers! — demands not one, not two, but three instances of the enormous good luck that not one single pair of unauthorized eyes will glimpse events that should be really quite impossible to happen unobserved. Director Baltasar Kormákur — who produced and starred in the 2008 Icelandic flick Reykjavik-Rotterdam [Amazon U.S.] [Amazon Canada] [Amazon U.K.] of which this is a remake — just about keeps it together in spite of the unacknowledged outlandishness… though I’m not sure if I can forgive him for wasting the awesomeness that is J.K. Simmons (True Grit), in a too-minor role here. It’s the biggest crime on display here.

US/Canada release date: Jan 13 2012 | UK release date: Mar 16 2012

Flick Filosopher Real Rating: rated G: generic action thriller is generic
MPAA: rated R for violence, pervasive language and brief drug use
BBFC: rated 15 (contains strong language, once very strong, strong violence & hard drug use)

viewed at a semipublic screening with an audience of critics and ordinary moviegoers

official site | IMDb | trailer
more reviews: Movie Review Query Engine | Rotten Tomatoes