Review: Contraband

daniel cohen reviews the new Mark Wahlberg thriller …

Plot: A one time brilliant smuggler, Chris Farraday (Mark Wahlberg) is now a family man, but is pulled back into the game when he has to pay off a debt for his young brother-in-law (Caleb Landry Jones). He travels to Panama in an attempt to smuggle back counterfeit bills.

Maybe a tad cliché, but Contraband succeeds with plenty of tension, a good array of twists and turns, and solid acting. And while Wahlberg is okay in this, he isn’t up to par with his supporting cast, which unfortunately is becoming a trend for him.

Maybe more than any other actor, Wahlberg always feels the same. Everything from his delivery to facial expressions is identical to every other movie he’s in. It’s really cemented in this film by all the times he says ‘fuck.’ I don’t know why, but it just felt very Wahlberg. And the word ‘fuck’ in general is used way too many times in this movie. Whether it was written in the script, or as improv, it doesn’t add anything. Can we please calm down with this word…geez.

Getting back on track though, when Wahlberg has to punch somebody, or grab their throat, he’s pretty convincing, and is still able to carry the film. I didn’t like some of the inconsistencies with his character though. The first act is all about him resisting as much as possible returning to a life of crime. But then when he’s on the boat, and the mission is about to start, he’s all smiles, and really pumped up. The transition was way too sudden.

But it’s the supporting cast that really elevates this movie. Giovanni Ribisi is outstanding as Tim Briggs, the crime lord who Farraday becomes indebted to. He’s so slimy and hilarious, but when he has to be threatening, he pulls it off just as well. Ribisi should really be in more movies.

Then we got Sebastian, Farraday’s most trusted friend. He’s the most intriguing character, and Ben Foster really nails his complexities. e’s sympathetic, but you also loathe him at times as well. He’s come a long way since playing Angel in X-Men: The Last Stand. Remember that?

The one person I can safely say Wahlberg out acts is Kate Beckinsale, Farraday’s wife. She’s just not very good: I really don’t have anything else to say. J.K. Simmons also shows up here though, and how can you not love J.K. Simmons?
Aside from the supporting players, the tension is top notch. There are plenty of good twists and turns that consistently arise during the job, which is what you want out of a heist film, including a really good scene where a door doesn’t get locked in time. While the twists are good, they are really drawn out in the second half. There is one especially involving Farraday’s wife that is stretched out to the point where it almost negates its initial ‘Ooooooooooooooooooooo’ factor.

Despite some douchey music, and a slow second half, if you like heist films, you’ll have a blast with this. It also doesn’t get too ridiculous, which was kind of nice. think a better leading man could have elevated this further, but Wahlberg still has some charisma left.

Rating: 7 out of 10 (Good)

Daniel Cohen is the hard-boiled Film Editor for the Pop Break. Besides reviews, Daniel writes box office predictions, Gotham reviews and Oscar coverage. He can also be found on the Breakcast. If Daniel was sprayed by Scarecrow's fear toxin, it would be watching Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen on a non-stop loop.