Contraband - Review
Review of the new feature film Contraband directed by Baltasar Kormakur and starring Mark Wahlberg , Ben Foster and Giovani Ribisi.
Do you remember that one film where it features a renegade cop or a rotten low life who has worked for years and years and finally, he manages to leave so he can spend time with his family, only then something from his old life threatens his family’s safety so he HAS to go back into that crime filled life to save them? You do? Good…because you’re about to see the exact same film AGAIN in “Contraband” directed by Icelandic director Baltasar Kormakur .
The film stars Mark Wahlberg who appears to be getting typecast in a cop/criminal role with amazing regularity. I don’t necessarily see him fitting well in this role yet he has been playing one almost every other film. We have seen him feature in “The Other Guys”, “Shooter”, “Max Payne”, “We Own the Night” and “The Departed”, and now it looks like he’s playing the exact same thing over again, which is exactly what this film is: the exact same thing over again.
Mark plays a man with a criminal/difficult past named Chris Farraday, who used to be knee deep in the world of smuggling, drug dealings, political corruption, and big payoffs. However, Chris left the world of crime behind to devote more time to his wife and family. Things turn ugly when Chris’s brother in law botches a drug deal, which enrages his boss, a particularly nasty drug dealer named Tim Briggs (Giovanni Ribisi) who wants blood as back pay for the screwed up drug deal.
Chris feels he has no choice but to return to the world of crime and contraband in order to settle his brother in law’s debt, before Briggs decides to vent his murderous frustrations out on Chris’s family. As mentioned before, this is a role Wahlberg has played before and he’s playing it in a story we have all seen before as well, so right off the bat, you can tell you there is nothing really new here. The film tries to spice Wahlberg’s job and criminal activities by including aspects like corrupt political figures, which really doesn’t make what he does seem or feel any more epic than your typical, run of the mill criminal who is trying to leave his old life behind for a new one with his family. Unlike most crime films, much of the so called “action” relies on Wahlberg doing his dirty deeds: making deals and stealing drugs. It’s like watching two people debate over an issue and then presenting illusionary images of crime or action scenes to make the film appear more intense than it actually was. Now there are action scenes in this film and when they do come up, they are entertaining and make up for a lot of the heavy dragging of the previous scenes.
It is difficult to find anything new to say about this film that doesn’t feel old, dated, and overused. Maybe it’s just seeing Wahlberg in the same role for 20 pictures that it makes it hard to want to stay interested with this character in his story, and if you don’t care about who you’re watching then what’s the point?
There were some good points in the film however, mainly with the actors Giovanni Ribisi and Ben Foster. Giovanni may be annoying with the accent he forces throughout this movie, but his character actually does deliver some genuinely disturbing moments when he threatens Chris’s family. If a character fails to be interesting than the least you can do is have him do interesting things, and this drug lord character did some disturbing things that may make some viewers of a nervous disposition cringe.
Ben Foster also puts in a good performance, he’s a very talented actor that rarely gets the appreciation or recognition he deserves. I actually think this film could have been salvageable and more believable if Foster was the lead instead of Wahlberg. Foster’s character Sebastian is the best friend of Chris’s and he helps assemble his crew to undertake all the contraband deals in order to clear the debt completely. Though a small and lesser acknowledged role, Foster does his best even with what little of a role he has to work with. I think trying to make Wahlberg’s character more like a smart alec and wise mouthed was a good choice, it made the movie’s tension not feel as thick all the time and tried to lighten the mood every now and then.
After a while it becomes difficult to see how “Contraband” is any different from “Shooter” or “We Own The Night” or any other Wahlberg role. They all seem like the same film to me and no matter what the premise, title or cast of actors surround him, Wahlberg seems locked in the same mode he’s been in since…forever. So in summary this isn’t new, this isn’t anything different or better than what has been seen and done a thousand times over, an adequate effort with some good points but overall a disappointment. Let’s hope the Summer Blockbusters for 2012 are good because frankly it hasn’t been a great year film wise so far !