Review: 'Contraband'

Mark Wahlberg and Ben Foster in 'Contraband' (Universal Pictures)
Mark Wahlberg and Ben Foster in 'Contraband' (Universal Pictures)

In Baltasar Kormákur’s terse thriller Contraband, Mark Wahlberg plays Chris Farraday, a career criminal who’s gone straight. He’s happily married to Kate (Kate Beckinsale), loves his two growing boys, and is content to be a small business owner in the Algiers neighborhood of New Orleans. But then his young brother-in-law Andy (Caleb Landry Jones) screws up a drug deal, and it’s up to Chris to fix it.

Andy’s mistake is compounded because his “employer,” Tim Briggs (Giovanni Ribisi), is a merciless sleazeball. Briggs took advantage of the void created when Chris quit the business and is now running things. When Chris tries to negotiate a settlement, Briggs refuses to accept anything less than full price in exchange for the drugs that Andy was supposed to smuggle into the country.

To save Andy’s life, Chris comes up with a new plan that doesn’t involve drugs, but does require a smuggling trip to Panama via a container ship. Chris takes his good friend and trusted ally Danny (Lukas Haas) along with Andy, leaving behind his best friend Sebastian (Ben Foster) to guard his wife and children from Briggs.

Kormákur produced and starred in 2008’s Reykjavik-Rotterdam, directed by Óskar Jónasson, which serves as the basis for Contraband. I haven’t seen the original, but [fellow Twitch writer] Swarez gave it a positive review, while acknowledging, for example, that the script “might not be the most original.” The remake, with a screenplay credited to Aaron Guzikowski, changes the locales and some of the other relationships between characters, but otherwise appears to follow the same pattern.

True enough, Contraband is not the most original thriller. But as far as delivering a movie that moves quickly through its paces while rarely insulting your intelligence, Kormákur and his team of collaborators come through with flying colors.

— From my review at Twitch.

‘Contraband’ opens wide across the Metroplex today.

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