Movie review by: Roman Morales, an amazing new addition to the Austin Connection and 17-year Austin local
Have you ever had a first day on the job where you go in and it seems that everything is being done absolutely wrong? To make matters worse, since it’s your first day on the job you have no idea where you should even begin to make things right. On this day you expected direction. You expected a purpose. Hell, maybe even just a vision of how things should work.
I’m guessing this is exactly how every member of the cast and crew felt during each day of production on Contraband. Not that I have any of those notorious “trouble on set” reports to refer to. You can just feel that no one involved in the movie knows exactly what kind of movie they are trying to make. It’s a thriller without thrills. An action movie without action. And, maybe the worst sin of all, a star vehicle without a star’s performance.
Spoilers from this point on.
The premise of the film centers around Chris Farraday, an ex-smuggler that has managed to give up his Han Solo ways for the sake of his family. That is, until his dunce of a brother-in-law tries his hand at smuggling a duffel bag full of blow via cargo ship. Instead of delivering the package meant for his boss, Briggs (played by an extremely annoying Giovanni Ribisi) tosses the 10 kilos into the bay. Obviously the boss is pissed and wants to take it out on the entire Farraday clan. Despite the fact that Chris can effortlessly disarm and manhandle Briggs like a child, he decides to leave his family unprotected and return to the smuggling game.
Throw in some backstabbing, a “where in the hell did that come from” action scene and J.K. Simmons with a mustache, and you have Contraband.
There was a brief moment, a one-sentence moment, that makes you think that this might turn into a film that is about a guy returning to a career he misses and enjoys. He is the envy of every smuggler, right?! We will finally see him enjoy his one last hoorah as a criminal mastermind! Unfortunately, no. After this one brief flirtation with enjoyment, he hates every minute of it, so we have to hate it too.
It’s almost unfair to pick on Mark Wahlberg so much, since there is so much blame to go around. The cinematography is uninspired as is the editing. And the screenplay. Oh, dear God, the screenplay! You can set your watch to the first act, second act, midpoint scene, third act and climax! Not that I would normally notice such things in a well-written film that follows the same beats. It’s only made noticeable by the fact that the actors and editor are all rushing to meet these points. Which wouldn’t surprise me. After all, I’m guessing, they just want to get it over with themselves.
Upon returning home from the film and being so confused as to how a movie could go so wrong on so many levels, I decided to do a little research. It turns out that the film is a remake of a film from Iceland called Reykjavik-Rotterdam. The star of said film is none other than Contraband’s director, Baltasar Kormákur. You heard that correctly; he played the same character Mark Wahlberg plays in this film.
Maybe ol’ Baltasar couldn’t handle being upstaged by Marky Mark in front of a worldwide audience so he sabotaged his entire film? Maybe he left all of the criminally enthusiastic Wahlberg pieces on the cutting room floor? That’s right, Mr. Wahlberg. You’ve been Baltasared!
Sounds crazy, right? It should. But it still makes more sense than this movie.
Counter-programming note: If you want to see a good movie about smugglers, rent Blow. The smugglers in this movie have a great time in their chosen profession. As a bonus, you get to see Pee Wee Herman snort lines of coke with Johnny Depp and Shakes the Clown!
On a Nerdskull scale I would have to give this a very kind 1 out of 5 Nerdskulls.