Mark Wahlberg’s a tricky one to predict. While he’s capable of putting in great work in films like The Fighter and The Departed, he’s also prone to taking lead roles in dull action thrillers like Shooter and Max Payne, so with this remake, of the Icelandic film Reykjavik-Rotterdam, we went in not knowing which Wahlberg we would get.
Contraband finds Wahlberg as renowned ex-smuggler Chris Farraday, who gets roped into one last job when his young brother-in-law Andy (Caleb Landry Jones) ends up owing dangerous criminal Tim Briggs (Giovanni Ribisi) a whole lot of money. Can Chris get the job done and not only save Andy’s life but his wife Kate’s (Kate Beckinsale) as well?
While Contraband doesn’t offer anything particularly new, it’s certainly a competent thriller. Wahlberg (also on producing duty) knows what he’s doing in films like this and seems very comfortable in the lead: Good dad, loving husband, has turned his back on his criminal past but slots right back in for one last job. The plot does take a little while to get going as the filmmakers try and establish a bit of dramatic credibility but it only really comes to life about halfway through with a decent action set-piece in Panama.
The cast is surprisingly solid, including Ribisi (The Rum Diary) playing yet another in a series of oddly-voiced sleazebags, Ben Foster (Rampart, Alpha Dog) as Wahlberg’s partner in crime, J.K. Simmons (Juno) as the foul-mouthed fly-in-the-ointment ship’s captain, and Diego Luna (Milk), who pops up as a volatile and hairy Panamanian crime lord. Beckinsale, meanwhile, doesn’t get a huge amount to do apart from receive increasingly nasty threats from Ribisi.
It’s a fairly decent thriller that's not as thrilling as it should be and it doesn’t quite make the emotional connection that it’s obviously keen to, but it’s well-made and there’s enough good actors on hand to keep it interesting enough.
Average stuff. If you’re looking for a decent thriller, you could do worse, you could do better.