Contraband

Posted on January 12, 2012 at 6:00 pm

Oh, not another one last job movie!  This remake of an Icelandic thriller, directed by the actor who played the lead role in the original, is a by-the-numbers heist, chase, and shoot-em-up.  It’s too gritty to be escapist fun and too predictable to work as a thriller.

Mark Wahlberg plays Chris, a one-time smuggler turned legitimate family man with a loving wife Kate (Kate Beckinsale) and two sons.  He is committed to staying on the right side of the law.  But Kate’s young brother gets into trouble with the local drug dealer (Giovanni Ribisi as an oily predator named Briggs) the same way Han Solo got into trouble with Jabba the Hutt, dumping the payload to avoid capture, and Briggs says he will come after the whole family if he doesn’t get paid.  So, Chris has to get the band back together for one more run.  He gets approved by the Department of Homeland Security to work on a ship going to Panama and arranges for trusted associates to be assigned to the crew.  He leaves his closest friend Sebastian (Ben Foster), a recovering alcoholic, to watch over Kate and the boys and takes off for many locations where bad cell reception will add to the tension and frustration.

We’re supposed to be on his side because he keeps saying he won’t smuggle drugs and he loves his highly photogenic family and because the bad guys are so thoroughly loathsome.   And because he such a good smuggler.  But that can’t make up for the increasingly sour taste of the story as Chris and his gang get caught up in some ugly situations, including a detour to meet up with yet another strung-out drug dealer who wants everyone to call him El Jefe, keeps deadly animals in cages, and yes, needs Chris to ride along for just one more last job.  There is one good exchange when the drug dealer says he fed a colleague who disappointed him to the wolves and Wahlberg responds, “Literally?”  And there are scenes that are either commentary on the conundrum of abstract expressionism in a realist world or an ironic statement on valuation models, or perhaps a pearls/swine reference, but most likely just a cheap joke about real guys who know how to fight being smarter than people who pay millions of dollars for paintings no one can understand.  Chris may love and defend his family and even try to protect Briggs’ little girl but his callousness to the carnage and other damage around him and inflicted by him makes it hard to stay on his side.

 

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Action/Adventure Crime Remake
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