Films in which the protagonist is a criminal are always an interesting thing to watch. When we really think about it, we know that what they’re doing is wrong, yet we still find ourselves rooting for them until the end credits. These types of movies tend to range from high-profile, Bond-esque heists, to gritty cautionary tales about the seedy underbelly of society.
“Contraband” is an interesting case. To start off, this is a remake of an Icelandic film called “Reykjavík-Rotterdam,” which came out in 2009 and is actually directed by the main star of the original film, “Baltasar Kormákur.” We haven’t seen movie translation like this since “The Grudge,” an American remake of a Japanese film.
The story of “Contraband” follows Chris Farraday, played by Mark Wahlberg, a notorious smuggler who has left the life of crime behind and is the owner of a security company. When his brother-in-law, played by Caleb Landry Jones, screws up on a cocaine delivery, Farraday and his family become targeted by Tim Briggs, a recently released drug dealer, played by Giovanni Ribisi. In order to get the money to pay off Briggs, Farraday has to go on one last smuggling run.
This film has a very fast pace to it, not necessarily in the same way that most action films are paced, but more in the sense that it feels more like a cut-and-paste kind of story. However, this film does a good job setting up the story and keeps things moving, so there isn’t any point where the film drags.
One thing that surprised me about the film was that it had a good degree of realism. It doesn’t glamorize the criminal lifestyle, nor does it entirely demonize the antagonists. It presents a fairly realistic scenario of what it’s like to be a smuggler. However, the realism disappears when we get to the film’s denouement, as it reverts to the industry imposed “happy ending,” which I found a tad disappointing.
The other aspects of the film are fairly solid. There is good acting, good writing and pretty standard cinematography. Simply put, there’s not much else to say about this film.
Overall, this film is pretty entertaining, but it isn’t completely mind-blowing. It shows that the people behind it knew what they were doing, but it felt like a film that’s essentially been churned out to make a profit during the industry’s off-season. I do recommend it, but you’d be better off waiting for it to become available at a dollar theater or on Netflix. I give this film a 3 out of 5. An entertaining but mediocre action film.