Contraband (2012)
Dir. Baltasar Kormakur
Starring Mark Walberg, Kate Beckinsale, Ben Foster & Giovanni Ribisi

Director Baltasar Kormakur’s thriller Contraband set in New Orleans tells the story of former smuggler, now family man Chris Farraday (Walberg) who’s wife’s (Beckinsale) younger brother and wannabe smuggler (Jones) forces Chris back into crime to clear his name and save his life.

From the very start of the film the audience are thrust into the thick of the plot, instantly grabbing their attention. It’s a shame the film can’t keep it, as from here on out the film takes the one-damned-thing-after-another storytelling approach. Majority of the films 110 minutes run time is used on plot building rather than being divided equally between plot and character. Any time spent on characters is purely spent fooling the audience into believing certain characters aren’t all what they seem. Using this approach Contraband sails through a variety of narrative speed bumps and detours and minus a few exceptions the majority of the messy plot is predictable and unoriginal. It won’t take long until the audience work out who’s really good and who’s really bad. Providing you’ve seen enough of this type of film (Safe House, Salt and The Bourne Series to name a few).

Thankfully the film (although featuring a relatively mediocre line up and little effort put into character building) has some solid performances. Leading lady of the on-going Underworld series Kate Beckinsale gets to ditch the tight leather and let her sensitive side show. Portraying Chris’s (Walberg) wife Kate Farraday, Beckinsale gets a decent showing. Proving she isn’t just a one trick pony by expressing a diverse range of emotions through-out the film.  Meanwhile, X-Men: First Class’s Banshee (Caleb Landry Jones ) and X-Men: The Last Stand’s Angel (Ben Foster) both do decent jobs at playing younger brother/smuggler screw up Andy (Jones) and family friend Sebastian (Foster). It’s nice to see both actors getting a chance to show what they can do.

‘This gritty version of Ocean’s Eleven has everything is needs to be a complete success…’

Furthermore, Contraband’s greatest performance is method actor Giovanni Ribisi’s. Portraying New Orleans drug runner Tim Briggs; Ribisi is barely recognisable and remarkably convincing in his role. Stealing every scene he’s in, a truly fantastic performance. It’s a shame the same can’t be said for Contraband’s leading man; Mark Walberg. Whose blue collared Chris Farraday is the same generic annoyed/must seek revenge character Walberg always plays. While playing the role relatively well (of course he would he’s done it enough times) it’s unfortunate that he doesn’t get the chance to branch out of his obvious comfort zone. As he did in the 2010 hit The Fighter which is by far Walberg’s greatest performance to date.

While making smuggling look cool (providing you’re willing to take a few bumps and bruises) Contraband will also have your feet tapping thanks to a magnificent soundtrack by Clinton Shorter.  Meanwhile some beautiful framing and composition by cinematographer Barry Ackroyd will highlight the insufficient but well put together action scenes.

This gritty version of Oceans Eleven has everything it needs to be a complete success but unfortunately Contraband is regrettably forgettable. While a relatively exciting film to sit through, a onetime viewing is all it requires. The plot coasts by on Walberg’s character garnering the upper hand through idiotic mistakes made by his others. Meanwhile the lack of character building leaves the actors little to work with, but make the most of what they have. Regardless Contraband is worth a watch if you want an enjoyable but not great film to sit through to kill some time, it’s your type of film or you wanting to see some great performances by actors who don’t usually get an opportunity to show what they can do.

Popcorn & Soda Rating: 3/5