New Delhi: Over the years, Hollwood has had its share of thrilling smuggling heists. ‘Contraband’ is not one of the better ones. At best, it is mildly exciting, but not the least bit thrilling.
The film is a remake of the 2008 Icelandic film ‘Reykjavik-Rotterdam’, directed by Baltasar Kormakur. ‘Contraband’ stars Mark Wahlberg, Kate Beckinsale, Caleb Landry Jones as Andy, Ben Foster and Giovanni Ribisi.
Mark Wahlberg plays the role of Chris Farraday, a smuggler who has washed his hands clean off the illegal transactions and is much too happy in his surveillance and security business and his wife Kate (Kate Beckinsale) and two kids. All is rosy in their lives till Kate’s brother Andy (Caleb Landry Jones) manages to screw up a drug deal when he throws the bag off the cargo ship to avoid arrest by the US Customs.
Andy was working the deal for mobster Tim Briggs (Giovanni Ribisi) and he is in no mood to settle things amicably. Chris takes the matters in his own hands and speaks to Briggs for a pay-off. Briggs threatens to kill Chris’ family and Andy if he is not paid $700,000 in two weeks.
The only way Chris can mange that money is to run ‘contraband’, i.e., a smuggle run. Chris takes the help of his father who is serving time in jail to get on to a cargo ship where his father had worked to make that one trip to Panama City for $10,000,000 in fake bills.
All plans are perfectly charted, but the only hitch is that Chris has only a couple of hours to get the currency, make the payment and return to the ship in time to safely hide the notes. Once he reaches Panama City with Andy and a few of his friends in tow – trouble seems to be waiting for him. In Panama, the Chief Engineer gives Chris extra time by sabotaging the ship's pitch propeller but Chris discovers that the bills are not printed on starch-free paper and thus are useless. The only one who can provide them good notes is crime lord Gonzalo (Diego Luna). Chris approaches Gonzalo and gets the bills but Andy runs away with the buy-money to get a stash of cocaine on Briggs’ orders. Chris is now trapped with Gonzalo and his men, in the middle of an art piece robbery and his time is running out.
On the other end Kate is forced to move in with Chris’s best friend Sebastian (Ben Foster) when Briggs breaks in to their house and threatens them. Sebastian has his own deals in mind. As the tension builds up, it is revealed that Sebastian is running the whole plan with Briggs. Chris realizes this and confronts Sebastian, but things have gone out of hand already. In a struggle that followed Sebastian trying to force himself on Kate, she hurts herself on the head. Sebastian thinks her dead and tries to dispose the body off.
The action on the ship and the incidents involving Kate and his family – run parallel, but the tension never reaches the nail biting stage. The end of the movie is exceedingly mundane and the pieces fall in with the clichés.
None of the plans made - to acquire the cash and to hide it and ship it safely – is exciting. They are all oft seen ploys in Hollywood. The action sequences too are very tame – no car chases, no thrilling escapes – in short – nothing spectacular. Hollywood has seen better. The story is very predictable and each twist is unraveled is expected. The slight turn that excites is the involvement of Sebastian in the whole matter. ‘Reykjavik-Rotterdam’ did not need a Hollywood version – subtitles would have worked.
Mark Wahlberg seems to be in his elements playing the role of the ex-smuggler. He likes to settle matters with punches and not the bullet, the family man who would go to all ends to save his wife and kids. But the lack-luster revenge he gets on both Sebastian and Briggs leaves the audience with a rather ‘expected’ sense of irritation. One saw a classier Mark Wahlberg in ‘The Italian Job’.
Kate Beckisale almost sleepwalks through her role as Kate, the movie gives her no scope to either be feisty or memorable – one will sorely miss vampire-princess Selene. Giovanni Ribisi is unimpressive as Briggs – some more of his signature eccentricity could have salvaged things.
The only person who perhaps succeeds is Caleb Landry Jones. One will pretty much want to punch the living day-lights out of Andy for his stupidity and his goof-ups. But that is the essence of the character he plays – the immature, in experienced wannabe smuggler who wants to play the big boys’ games.
‘Contraband’ can work if and only if the viewer has had no exposure to the sexy heists Hollywood has successfully created. If one is – then the movie can only be tolerated by those who like completing the movie since they started watching it in the first place. Clichéd and predictable – give ‘Contraband’ a watch if you have a mindless afternoon to spend.