Wednesday, May 16, 2018

In short: Contraband (2012)

Once, Chris Farraday (Mark Wahlberg), was the best smuggler there was. By now, he has retired to the more bourgeois wife (Kate Beckinsale) and kids stuff, working as the owner of a security tech firm. Unfortunately, his wife’s little brother Andy (Caleb Landry Jones) is attempting to step into his old comfy smuggling shoes, which works well enough until he has to drop a load of drugs into the sea to avoid it and him falling into the hands of the coast guard. Not surprisingly, Tim Briggs (Giovanni Ribisi), the guy whose drugs these were, isn’t at all happy. Why, he’s giving Andy only a couple of days to come up with quite a bit of money. Otherwise, Andy’s dead, and going by Briggs’s logic, his debts will fall on his wife and her family.

Because he can’t find any other way to come up with the money, and because he’s certainly not going to let his brother in law get killed by a raving lunatic, Chris decides to make one last big smuggling run. It’s the sort of smuggling run where whatever could go wrong does indeed go wrong, so he has to fight the vagaries of a really rude ship’s captain (J.K. Simmons doing his thing), work with unreliable contacts, take part in an impromptu armoured car assault, and so on and so forth. That’s all before we come to various betrayals on the home front, mind you.

Baltasar Kormákur’s Contraband is the sort of everything and the kitchen sink thriller that you’ll either loathe with a passion for its various crimes against plausibility and coherent writing or sort of enjoy because it is decently entertaining for what it is. It is certainly a film absolutely disinterested in emphasizing the more interesting parts of its narrative - which could turn this into a gut-wrenching film about betrayals, people falling back to their worst selves in case of danger, and the inability to ever escape the past – in favour of spending most of its time adding one bizarre complication after the other, with a side-line in a particularly yawn-inducing version of ye olde family under threat subplot.

As a member of the order of forgettable popcorn cinema, thriller division, the film isn’t without merit, though, for while only very few of the complications in the path of Marky Mark (who makes all the facial expressions a serious actors makes when tasked with a silly thriller, don’t you worry, and only half phones his performance in) make much sense, there’s something to be said to the film’s repeated shrugging of its shoulders, mumbling “whatever”, and throwing a quick security van heist or whatever other nonsense just came to mind in. It is certainly never boring, though not quite coherent enough in tone, style and pacing to be as fun as it could be. The regular popping in with the indignities Beckinsale’s character has to go through doesn’t help with the latter much, particularly since the film never gives her anything more to actually do than be the helpless wife. And I’ve seen more interesting examples of those too.

Ribisi and Ben Foster as Wahlberg’s traitorous best friend put some enthusiastic efforts in, at least, and the action is competent and fun enough to watch. Just don’t expect to remember anything about Contraband a couple of weeks after you have seen it.

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