Posted July 3, 2012 by Alex Moss Editor in C
 
 

Contraband DVD


Grippingly gritty.

Grippingly gritty.

Scandinavian
thrillers are all the rage right now.
From The Girl With The Dragon
Tattoo
to Jo Nesbo’s Headhunters,
it’s only a matter of time before Hollywood is sending scouts over to our
European neighbours like a football club looking to poach untapped talent. Contraband
is the latest nordic film, from Iceland specifically, to get the Hollywood
treatment and it manages to be a thoroughly enjoyable little thriller that takes
you places most films of this ilk shy well away from.

Chris Farraday (Mark Wahlberg) is a former smuggler, a
veritable Houdini of a man when it comes to getting illegal contraband into the
United States. These days he’s
gone straight, happily living in New Orleans with his wife Kate (Kate Beckinsale) and hanging with best
friend Seb (Ben Foster). But when Kate’s brother Andy (Caleb Landry Jones) has to drop his
latest smuggle, when customs board his ship, he owes big to local hood Tim
Briggs (Giovanni Ribisi). Determined to help his brother-in-law
Chris is pulled back into the game, but what starts as a relatively
straightforward job soon spirals out of control. With Chris running into trouble in Panama, Briggs decides to
pay Kate a visit and it isn’t long before all hell is breaking loose. Chris must then figure out how to
protect his family and get the cash in time to the itchy trigger-fingered
Briggs.

Like David Fincher’s Hollywood incarnation
of The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo, Contraband chooses to stick closely to the
grittier side of things as opposed to putting a mainstream spin on it. It is for this reason that Contraband
is a brilliant little thriller. A
film which, after the opening act, takes twists and turns to delightfully unexpected
levels. Occasionally there are
plot devices you question but by the end they all add up with only a slight whiff
of jumping the shark.

At times it
simply refuses to conform to what you expect. So straight off the bat Chris tries to do the right thing
and offers Briggs the money, but it’s never that simple and Briggs isn’t the
big-badie you expect him to be, despite Ribisi trying his damndest to present a
boo-hiss villain. As such we get
Wahlberg going all macho on the sniveling little bearded one to quite brutal
levels.

This isn’t about
the slick-cool of Ocean’s Eleven or
even the strong-silent routine of Miami
Vice
. Chris is a man who gets
things done and if the plan has to be altered he’s quick on his feet. Director Baltasar Kormakur, who played Chris in the Icelandic original Reykjavik-Rotterdam, handles the action
well but more than anything allows moments of genuine tension as it looks like
Chris and his gang are looking more and more likely to get caught.

Wahlberg rarely
strays from his comfort zone in fair like this, you feel it’s more about the
paycheck, but he’s got that cool-guy swagger down to an art. Chris is somewhere between the cocky
ways of Wahlberg’s Italian Job and the get-sh*t-done Macgyver of Shooter. The truth is while you never feel
Wahlberg is flexing his obvious acting muscles you can’t help but enjoy it when
he’s in his action-mode. Ribisi is
perhaps aiming too high for sniveling-weasel-like villain, but he is at least a
character you enjoy seeing getting hit, repeatedly. Foster, normally on evil duties of films like 3:10 To Yuma
and 30 Days Of Nights, gives a nice turn as Chris’ conflicted best friend and,
arguably, has the most interesting character on display. Kate Beckinsale meanwhile is doing her best
to come across as hard-as-nails-working-class-mom but only really achieves
eye-candy-in-distress mode.

Contraband is a
fun, often exhilarating little thriller.
It’s nothing you haven’t seen before but it does what it sets out to do
with aplomb.


Alex Moss Editor

 
Alex Moss’ obsession with film began the moment he witnessed the Alien burst forth from John Hurt’s stomach. It was perhaps ill-advised to witness this aged 6 but much like the beast within Hurt, he became infected by a parasite called ‘Movies’. Rarely away from his computer or a big screen, as he muses on Cinematic Deities, Alex is “more machine now than man. His mind is twisted and evil”. Email: alex.moss@filmjuice.com