Film Review: Contraband

Starring and produced by Mark Wahlberg, Contraband is a bit too contrived to be truly great. Nevertheless, it is an enjoyable crime thriller.

Former smuggler Chris Farraday is now running his own business to support his wife and two children. When his young brother-in-law gets into trouble with a local drug baron, Chris must step in to protect his family. Reluctant to return  to  his life of crime, Chris has little choice in raising funds quickly…

A remake of the 2008 Icelandic film Reykjavik-Rotterdam, and directed by the star of that film, Contraband is entertaining throughout, although not faultless. The film mixes elements of an action thriller with those of a crime caper. Every aspect of the film feeds into the grander scheme. The seemingly impossible is not actually so; clues are dropped along the way so viewers can guess how Chris will get out of his bind. No incident or mention is superfluous. This is a shame, as the film could have thrown viewers off with a few red herrings.

Contraband successfully sustains the viewer’s attention. Pacing in the film is good. Cutting to and fro from land to sea works well to heighten tension. Although some aspects of the film may be a little predictable, there is enough urgency to keep the audience hooked.

The characters that feature in Contraband are quite unoriginal. There are no great surprises, in terms of their motives. As the protagonist, Chris is simply the man trying to protect his family, albeit with some useful skills. This premise is universal, although some character innovation would have been gratefully received.

Performances in the film are fine overall. Mark Wahlberg does his usual tough guy schtick in a role similar to others he has played. Giovanni Ribisi plays Tim Briggs like a caricature, while Ben Foster delivers a good performance as Sebastian. The camera work and editing combine well. The visual style is very much what one would expect from this type of film.

Despite its overly-constructed narrative, Contraband should prove entertaining for most audiences.