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January 13, 2012
Review - " Contraband "  -  (in theaters) By Roland Hansen
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Director: Baltasar Kormákur
Stars: Mark Wahlberg, Kate Beckinsale, Giovanni Ribisi, Ben
Foster, JK Simmons

To save his brother-in-law from a New Orleans drug dealer
(Giovanni Ribisi), reformed smuggler Mark Wahlberg heads to
Panama to score a massive shipment of counterfeit cash. With the
authorities breathing down his neck and his wife (Kate Beckinsale)
under constant threat, the plan must go without a hitch. It doesn't.
Director Baltasar Kormakur brings bags of Nordic grit to an
industrial strength thriller that moves fast and plays rough.

They say crime doesn't pay, but here's a heavy duty remake that
isn't afraid to suggest otherwise.

Based on Icelandic potboiler Reykyavik-Rotterdam and directed by
that film's leading man, the story sends Mark Wahlberg into
one-last-job territory as Chris Farraday, a former ace smuggler
who's gone legit for the sake of his wife Kate (Beckinsale) and two
young sons.

Alas, just when he thought he was out, Chris is pulled back in when
Kate's dozy kid brother Andy (Caleb Landry Jones, X-Men: First
Class) loses a boatload of drugs destined for unforgiving scuzzball
Briggs (Ribisi).

With Andy's life at stake, Chris and his best friend Sebastian (Ben
Foster) come up with a plan to get their old crew aboard a freighter
bound for Panama, pick up umpteen million dollars in fake bills, and sneak the bulky booty back.

The outward leg is a doddle. Even grouchy skipper JK Simmons doesn't kick up much of a fuss at having one of US Customs
Most Wanted aboard.

But as soon as they reach Panama, they run into trouble. In fact, an engine room glitch means they actually run into Panama.
It's a bad omen ahead of a hairy afternoon that starts with a counterfeiting cock-up and ends with Chris dragged into a
security van heist by a trigger-happy kingpin (Diego Luna).

And with Briggs taking every opportunity to menace Kate and the kids back in New Orleans, the situation gets stickier by the

While charting familiar waters, the plot moves
swiftly and efficiently, building a good head of
steam over the first hour before exploding
during the Panamanian highway robbery.

Led by the granite-jawed Wahlberg, the cast of
reliable gruffs and scruffs also put in a solid
shift (though with no Underworldly heroics to
perform, Beckinsale is a virtual passenger).

Unfortunately, while Kormakur never loses
control, the final act is needlessly over-egged
with too many unlikely criminal allegiances,
nick-of-time escapes and smug pay-offs.

It also ends on a moral wobble. Seems as long
as no Americans are harmed, it's perfectly okay
to profit from the deaths of other law enforcers.
It's a custom that should be excised.

In the end I enjoyed Contraband a lot more
than I expected to.