Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
Genre: Action, Crime, Drama
Opens locally Friday, January 13th, 2012
Run Time: 1 hour, 50 minutes, Rated R
Starring: Mark Wahlberg, Kate Beckinsale, Giovanni Ribisi, Ben Foster, J.K. Simmons
Directed by Baltasar Kormakur (The Sea, A Little Trip to Heaven, Jar City)
Who knew smuggling could be so much fun! Contraband starts fast and hits hard, delivering a smart and funny action caper that is surely the best film so far in the infantile year of 2012.
Mark Wahlberg stars and is in his New York-Entourage-tough-guy-mode as the former smuggler Chris Farraday, who would make "runs" back and forth across the border sneaking in contraband for profit on the black market. He's retired now, but you guessed it, he won't be for long. When his wife's little brother screws up a run and becomes indebted to a local thug, Farraday assembles a team and goes on one last run to acquire a load of counterfeit money that he intends to use to pay off the debt. They plan on smuggling in the money via barge, and it's safe to say that things don't go as smoothly as planned.
The first 10 minutes blows through the premise and sets up all of the important characters, almost as if the director knows that we don't really care all that much...let's just get to the action! Wahlberg's Farraday is your run-of-the-mill action hero, who is smarter, tougher, and wittier than his counterparts. When he is threatened at gun point, he flips the gunman over on his back and sticks his own weapon in the man's face, telling him in true bad-ass fashion, "You think you're the only one with a gun?"
Some of the twists we see coming, and some we don't. Director Baltasar Kormakur infuses the film with a hip-gangster style, and the setting somehow seems fresh and new. There is a lot of hilarious back-and-forth between characters that manages to lighten the overall mood, balancing out the intense action. Dare I say the tone reminded me of classic films like Midnight Run or Lethal Weapon, with equal parts thrill and fun.
Films like Contraband benefit greatly from a strong supporting cast, and there are several memorable characters in the film. Ben Foster and Giovanni Ribisi are both good, even if I am growing a touch tired of the typecast roles that they again embody here. J.K. Simmons has great comedic timing as the grumbling ship captain, and sports this year's best mustache. Kate Beckinsale is beautiful and necessary in a guy-flick such as this. Tie it all together with Mark Wahlberg in the middle, who gives a much better performance than a film like this probably deserves.
Mix all of these elements together and you have a surprisingly enjoyable film sure to be a crowd-pleaser. Movies this good aren't supposed to come out in January. A perfect film? No. But it's a promising start to the 2012 season.
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