'Contraband': Thriller doesn't deliver the goods
A movie review of "Contraband," a thriller distinctly lacking in thrills. It's a vehicle, nothing more, for Mark Wahlberg to collect a paycheck and revisit the kind of brainy heistmeister character he played in "The Italian Job."
Special to The Seattle Times
'Contraband,' with Mark Wahlberg, Kate Beckinsale, Giovanni Ribisi, Ben Foster. Directed by Baltasar Kormákur, from a screenplay by Aaron Guzikowski. 109 minutes. Rated R for violence, language, some drug use. Several theaters.
Now that the holidays are over, welcome to the January dead zone.
By now, most everyone has seen Tom Cruise in full Spider-Man mode; seen, too, that tattooed dragon girl and those — shudder — chipmunks. Now comes filler time.
Something's got to keep projector bulbs lit and stadium-style seats warm until summer when the blockbusters reappear. Something like "Contraband."
It's a thriller distinctly lacking in thrills. It's a vehicle, nothing more, for Mark Wahlberg to collect a paycheck and revisit the kind of character he played in "The Italian Job": a brainy heistmeister who embarks on an elaborate exercise in thievery, outwitting the law and an assortment of backstabbing lowlifes as he does so.
"Contraband" was inspired by a 2008 Icelandic picture, "Reykjavik-Rotterdam," and directed by Icelandic native Baltasar Kormákur. I haven't seen the source-material movie and I'm unfamiliar with Kormákur's previous work. But having seen "Contraband," it certainly seems that he's gone Hollywood big time. Which is to say he's larded up his movie with helicopters, machine-gun shootouts, scroungy drug dealers and unceasing R-rated chatter. I swear, every other word out of the characters' mouths is either "*&^@!!" or "+*$!%*."
Wahlberg's character has gone straight, married a good woman (Kate Beckinsale) and fathered two boys. He's been out of the lawless life but — wouldn't you just know it? — bad people want to drag him back in.
Chief among the baddies is a drug dealer played by Giovanni Ribisi. Festooned with tattoos and sporting slicked-back hair and a plug-ugly goatee (all that's missing from that ensemble is a neon sign on his forehead flashing, "Scummy Drug Dealer!"), Ribisi's character uses a threat against Beckinsale's weak-willed bungler-crook brother (Caleb Landry Jones) to force Wahlberg to pay off the kid's drug debt by staging an incredibly complicated smuggling scheme involving a literal boatload of funny money.
The action moves from New Orleans to Panama and back again, but the picture conveys no sense of either place. And the characters convey little sense of being real people. They all seem like stand-ins, holding their places on screen until the real performers show up.
Soren Andersen: email@example.com