“You think you’re the only guy with a gun?”
There are many things that make a film stand out from the rest. Sometimes it’s a performance, a plot twist we didn’t see before, a setting or even just a line of dialogue that works so well. However, the truth of the matter is that a lot of films that are released over the span of year do nothing to stand out. They actually work very hard to be indistinguishable from the rest of the pack. Contraband is one of those movies.
Mark Wahlberg is dragged back into the underworld of smuggling goods across the border because his brother-in-law, Andy (Caleb Landry Jones), has found himself in the precarious situation of owing a crazy gangster a lot of money for a job gone wrong. So Chris (Mark Wahlberg) has to jump onto a ship and do what he does best one more time to help out his family so that they don’t have weirdly accented people with guns knocking at their doors anymore.
Now if you read the above synopsis and thought to yourself that this sounds a lot like Gone in Sixty Seconds (which was a remake in itself), then you would be right. Mix in a little unnecessary references to another Wahlberg movie, The Italian Job (another remake), and you’re pretty much wrapped this criminally bound action-less action film in a nice tiny bow.
With all that said, this movie isn’t as bad as it could’ve been. It is a completely serviceable treatment of a plot as old as movies themselves. Yes it’s at times funny to see how over the top Giovanni Ribisi can take the ridiculous Mafioso character, but that didn’t keep us away from the trite nature of the film itself.
Where this film truly fails to do anything right is in the innate cleverness of the crime itself. Like The Italian Job and Ocean’s Eleven what ends up hooking us, besides interesting characters we enjoy hanging out with in a voyeuristic sort of way, is the brilliance of our criminal. It’s fun to watch someone do bad things and get away with it like having that adventure we’d never have the balls to go on, but it’s great to see some manipulation of the real world that we would’ve never seen coming before because our minds aren’t built like that. We had that moment here and there in this film, but it was so poorly accomplished that we didn’t have enough time to realize that Chris was actually being clever.
Take all the above and add the waste of Ben Foster as an acting talent and you have a film that is released just because Hollywood believes that if there isn’t a new film at the cinema each week we would all lose interest and stop going.