Heist flick has nothing new to offer, but solid enough to satisfy fans

2012-03-19 00:00

CONTRABAND is a remake of the Icelandic crime thriller Reykjavik-Rotterdam (2008) that featured lead actor Baltasar Kormakur.

Kormakur has now taken on the director’s role in this version, his first Hollywood feature. Perhaps this is the reason the film feels solid, but entirely safe. No risks are taken in this fairly standard heist movie with the requisite family and loyalty themes. This is the criminal-gone-straight story where the protagonist must enter the world of crime just one more time to bail out his family. Feels like Fast Five without the spiffy cars.

Mark Wahlberg plays Chris Farraday, an experienced smuggler who is married to Kate (Kate Beckinsale) and living the sedate life in New Orleans. Unfortunately the suburban bliss is disrupted when Kate’s younger brother is involved in a cocaine smuggling operation that goes wrong, unleashing the wrath of crime lord Tim Briggs (Giovanni Ribisi). Chris, in order to save his brother-in-law, hatches a plan to smuggle counterfeit cash out of Panama City aboard a container ship to pay off the debt.

As things begin to unravel in Panama City, Briggs begins to turn up the heat on Kate, forcing her and the children to take refuge with Sebastian (Ben Foster), Chris’s loyal mate.

Chris, meanwhile, has discovered that the counterfeit is substandard and goes off to track down an old connection. The connection though is a bit of a scaly Latin-American power junkie. He forces Chris and his partner to take part in a dangerous cash-in-transit heist whilst the errant brother-in-law has disappeared with the cash to fund the counterfeit transaction. The captain of the container ship (J.K. Simmons, who played the father in Juno and a prisoner in Oz) is now getting rather edgy and suspicious while back home Kate is now in mortal danger.

As always with heist movies, it’s the ingenuity of the protagonist that needs to pay-off in the third act. Contraband does deliver, more through what is not shown and some ever-so-lucky moments, however, I never felt overtly cheated and in fact one hilarious moment involving the captain and some drug dealers is my favorite laugh-out moment of the year thus far.

This is a cast with talent to burn, but everybody plays it within themselves perhaps due to a tricksy plot and a first time director. Fans of the crime thriller are unlikely to be wowed, but nevertheless satisfied. ***

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