Starring: Mark Wahlberg, Giovanni Ribisi, Kate Beckensale, Ben Foster, Caleb Landry Jones
Directed by: Baltasar Kormakur
Written by: Aaron Guzikowski, Arnaldur Indriaason, Oskar Jonasson
Studio: Universal Studios
Runtime: 109 min
Blu-Ray Release Date: April 24, 2012
HTS Overall Score: 65.5
Having left a successful smuggling career behind to become a legit alarm salesman for the sake of his family, Chris Farraday (Wahlberg) is forced out of retirement when his brother-in-law Andy (Landry Jones) doesn’t deliver on a package he was trying to smuggle. With a manic and unreasonable crime boss, Tim Briggs (Ribisi) insisting that Andy now owes for the value of the goods, Farraday takes it upon himself to square the situation and absorbs the debt. To appease Briggs, hence wiping out the debt Farraday plans to travel to Panama to pick up fifteen million dollars of printed super notes (counterfeit American currency) and smuggle them into America on a freight ship.
Considering the size and weight of the cargo needed to be transported this isn’t going to be a lone
[img]http://www.hometheatershack.com/gallery/file.php?n=8570][/img]operation. Sebastian (Foster), Farraday’s cohort while they were still running contraband and now best friend calls in a favour and arranges for some familiar crew members to work aboard the ship the funny money will be traveling on. With help on board the logistics of this international smuggling job can now be closely controlled, but despite the friendly faces and Farraday’s smuggling acumen, nothing is for certain, especially when dealing with customs agents, uncooperative rogue captains and loyalties that for the right price may be broken.
As the storyline chugs forward, expectedly the initial plan Farraday has conceived starts to unravel. What was supposed to be a relatively easy pickup turns into Farraday and his accomplice running around Panama like stabbed rats desperately trying to make things work. One of the accomplices has put a major kink in their whole scheme, resulting in Farraday being forced to commit to someone else’s frenzied high-stakes plan before he can continue with his own. That’s fine and dandy, it adds more depth to the storyline and certainly more action, but the problem is the manner in which Farraday is put into that particular situation; it gets him out of a pickle too conveniently, not to mention completely discrediting the criminal he’s working with/for. This luck factor eventually becomes pretty noticeable as the guys get closer to their overall goal. It helps when you have a crew working the engine room on the ship willing to do a little tinkering with the propulsion system, and a captain who’s too complacent toward Farraday.
[img]http://www.hometheatershack.com/gallery/file.php?n=8572][/img]Wahlberg does an admirable and standard job portraying a dedicated family man who puts his own life on the line to take his family out of danger. Wahlberg is always good as a nice tough guy and he does very well with the dialogue. Foster, Beckinsale, and the mostly unfamiliar crew Farraday runs with all do justice to their roles. Unfortunately, Ribisi, whom I admire as an actor got the short end of the stick in terms of character believability. He’s tattooed, toting a gun and comes off as threatening, but Wahlberg handily pummels him more than once, totally putting him to shame and smearing the killer don’t-mess-with-me persona. The thug-like exterior should be reflected in thug-like actions to the fullest extent; beating up women and getting yourself repeatedly pounded, in my opinion doesn’t qualify as being a thug. Plus he lives in a hole of an apartment, further reducing his believability as a powerful influential crime boss. Don’t get me wrong, Ribisi’s character isn’t a wimp who is scared of conflict, but the way in which Wahlberg’s character so easily beats him up when he’s trying to act dominant, sort of defeats the role he’s playing.
Although Contraband delivers in the action department, the characters all have good chemistry, and I liked the dialogue, it severely lacks a real world vibe. Yes, the body count was substantial and injuries were high, but on what side of the law. I’m not being morbid or creepy; I just wished things would have been more equal and consistent. If you advertise a movie to be 18A, keep it that way, don’t let it morph from 18A to PG14 to PG. Yes fairy tale endings lift your spirit, but sometimes they simply don’t belong in a movie of this nature.
There’s a good smattering of course language and enough gun violence to necessitate a PG14 rating, but not enough hard-core brutality and vulgar dialogue for an 18A rating.
[img]http://www.hometheatershack.com/gallery/file.php?n=8571][/img]From the beginning Contraband has a noticeable dark and grainy overlay. The contrast levels vary extensively, but ultimately the blacks overpower the actors when they shouldn’t. Actors and objects easily and frequently blend into the background and into each other when the amount of light in the scene warrants detail. The constant melding truly gets frustrating, to the point of lessening the movie experience. Faces go from looking natural to saturated, with above average detail in some spots. Daytime overhead sweeping shots of Panama look just fine, not great. The colors of the makeshift rickety homes don’t pop as much as I expected. Contraband is disappointing in the video department primarily because it’s just too dark; overwhelming shadows and the repeated loss of detail for no reason can be a real spoiler for both enthusiasts and casual viewers.
[img]http://www.hometheatershack.com/gallery/file.php?n=8568][/img]The audio soundtrack is a great mix of sound effects, ambient noises, music and a thumbing rhythmic score. Deep bass is consistently incorporated in during intense scenes and works well with action sounds. Dialogue is crisp and audible, but sometimes has to compete with loud insignificant sound effects that overpower the actors. Complicated gunfight scenes utilize directional effects to the maximum, with each blast having a noticeable presence. Contraband shines in the audio department by employing a relentless soundtrack; rarely is the dialogue the lone sound. For those wanting to test out new speakers this is a perfect choice.
• U-Control Picture-in-Picture track
• Deleted scenes
• Under the Radar: The Making of Contraband
• Reality Factor: The Stunts and Action of Contraband
• Audio Commentary from Baltasar Kornmakur and Evan Hayes
• BD-Live Portal
• D-Box Motion Code
• My Scenes Bookmarking Feature
[img]http://www.hometheatershack.com/gallery/file.php?n=8569][/img]Contraband eventually reaches its climactic point(s) with familiarity and unfortunately with little suspense. Despite the setbacks and obstacles and corresponding action, a feeling of real suspense is never conveyed. It’s hindered by too many close calls resulting in everything eventually smoothening out (not a spoiler, just an eventuality inherent in these types of films); in essence setting a tone of unwanted expectations.
Recommendation: Rent it
Watch the Official Trailer
Watch the Official Trailer