The first generic action film out of the gate for 2012 was Baltasar Kormákur‘s Contraband. Starring the go-to man Mark Wahlberg, the film has major troubles trying to keep everything afloat. There’s not nearly enough action for Contraband to be considered an adrenaline fueled joyride and the characters are so naturally unlikable that you’ll have a hard time siding with anyone, which leaves you with a disappointing film that wastes its cast of well-rounded supporting actors, with a few heavy hitters sprinkled in.
Chris Farraday (Mark Wahlberg) is a former smuggler. He’s a changed man now, with a lovely wife (Kate Beckinsale) and a trusting best friend (Ben Foster). Things get a little hairy when his brother-in-law Andy gets into a messy situation with Tim Briggs (Giovanni Ribisi). Briggs and Farraday have old history together and Briggs now wants Farraday to smuggle some counterfeit bills in exchange for the clearing of Andy’s debt.
Without much choice Chris accepts, despite his wife’s numerous pleas. He does it for his family and he promises to exact revenge on anyone who gets in the way.
Obviously someone gets in the way or else Contraband wouldn’t exist. For a guy that used to be an expert, he sure runs into a lot of trouble and bad luck.
Baltasar Kormákur‘s Contraband is a bore to sit through. It’s more dialogue than action and the dialogue isn’t all that punchy. The film consists of a dozen and a half F-bomb exchanges between Chris, Tim and whoever else happens to be on screen. Every single character is played out like you’ve seen before on some corny USA Network show, yet Universal thought it would be a good idea to give someone a budget and a whole cast of talented actors and actresses.
Kate Beckinsale and Mark Wahlberg read their lines from the script and occasionally stare away from the camera. Both performers have done so much better, yet their casting didn’t really surprise me. Wahlberg sticks out a little more, because of his natural talent at changing serious dialogue into unintentional laughs.
Ben Foster gets the meatiest role and it still doesn’t pay off for him. You can tell he’s trying so hard in the film, but the role is rather typical for this kind of film, which makes the “surprises” lack any real surprise.
There’s a lot of bad in Contraband and not nearly enough good to make it worthwhile. Aside from Foster, most of the cast is horrible in their shallowly written roles. The action is present for all of ten minutes and the camera spends most of its time focused on nearby helicopters circling around at the beginning, middle and end of the film.
I went in expecting a low-level action film, with either a lot of action and violence or maybe a story worth following and I still left disappointed. Contraband is a time-waster and a perfect example of how not to make a movie.
The 1080p video transfer saves the disc from being a dust collector. It’s a dark and ugly looking transfer, but that grit is 100% intentional. The image is mostly shadowing and hidden, but it’s crisp and sharp.
The 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio track is a bit of a surprise. It manages to be fairly loud and productive, even during the off-scenes that mainly feature dialogue and surrounding noise. The brief action scenes are intense, but everything else does a good job of keeping your ears on alert.
Contraband comes with the following bonus content:
- U-Control Picture-in-Picture (HD)
- Audio Commentary
- Deleted Scenes (HD)
- Under the Radar: The Making of Contraband (HD)
- Reality Factor: The Stunts and Action of Contraband (HD)
- DVD Copy
- Digital Copy
- UltraViolet Digital Copy
If it’s action you’re seeking than you’ll want to bypass Contraband and wait for the next Jason Statham action flick to hit Blu-Ray. Contraband is a gritty, curse-filled heist film that wastes more time on cliches than trying to keep you focused on the task at hand. Mark Wahlberg phones in his role from outer space, while Ben Foster tries too hard with an unwritten role that should have been given to someone far less talented.
The Blu-Ray disc represents the gritty look director Baltasar Kormákur was going for, both in terms of video and audio design. The special features are mostly short and as uninteresting as the main film, but they do offer up a few added things for the fans. The package includes two different digital copies and a DVD copy for those looking to future-proof the collection.
Overall, give this one a rental, I can’t see too many reasons for a purchase.
Contraband is one of the most generic R-rated studio action/heist films I've ever seen. There's not enough action to consider it a mindless popcorn flick and there's not enough character work to consider it a performance based film.