Wednesday, January 18, 2012
Contraband - Movie Review
Contraband is yet another one of these heist movies where a former 'contraband' runner, Chris (Mark Wahlberg), is forced to come out of 'retirement' and do another run when his brother-in-law gets in trouble with the wrong guy. His brother-in-law (Caleb Landry Jones), is one of these fuck ups that you wonder how he hasn't already gotten himself killed by now. When he's included in the heist, you have to wonder why, as you just know he's going to be the cause of some other screw up down the line.
As you'd expect, nothing goes right almost from the very beginning. Yet, you never really feel any real tension as something always happens just when you think they are going to get caught.
Then, the way it ends, you can see some of it coming from a mile away. At the same time, some of it is pulled off without any explanation or left you wondering how anyone had time to do any of this. It tries to be Ocean's 11 with how it wraps up, but dumber.
There's some really bad dialog in this film and I felt most of the attempts at humor just felt flat. It turns out Contraband is an American remake of an Icelandic film called Reykjavík-Rotterdam. Director Baltasar Kormákur, both produced and starred in the original, but you'd think being so involved in the original he could have done more with this. Maybe there was something lost in translation of the adapted screenplay by Aaron Guzikowski.
There were just weird things that you notice that don't make a lot of sense. The movie takes place in New Orleans, except everyone speaks with a New England or non-native accent. It's not a huge deal, but details like that take me out of a movie.
At one point in the film, Chris gets roped into yet another robbery (because of someone else's screw up), on top of the heist he's going that's already screwed up. This is the scene where you see them wearing duct tape around their faces as disguises. I thought this was just silly. When you see it in the trailer, the duct tape would seem to imply that this robbery was improvised, yet it's clear during the movie that this was planned. You couldn't just get masks for a heist you've been planning for a while? Don't you realize what a pain it's going to be to take off? How much hair it's going to rip out or how much it'll hurt? Then, as they're escaping, one of the guys just pulls the mask off all in one piece like it wasn't even stuck to him. Plus, it didn't even disguise his chin or jaw line and this was the leader of the heist. The guy that planned it all. Chris and his buddy don't even bother with the duct tape or disguises.
One of the guys places a charge on a door to blow it off, yet doesn't give himself enough time to get to safety, so he gets killed by his own bomb. What kind of idiots are you doing robberies with?
Also, in keeping with the nothing goes right theme, during the robbery, the Panamanian swat team shows up in less than a minute and proceeds to kill the entire team within seconds, except for Chis and his buddy, even though they are completely unarmed. All the bullets magically miss them. This is what I'm talking about when I say there's no tension. You know they're getting away.
Contraband actually has a good cast, but they are mostly wasted. Kate Beckinsale, in particular. There's nothing about her character other than being the wife that gets threatened by the thugs. She could have been played by anyone and it wouldn't have made any difference to the story. I like Ben Foster and I thought he was about the only character I liked as far as his performance. Giovanni Ribisi felt a little over the top as far as his performance goes. He gets his ass kicked just about every time he's in the movie, so even though he's the primary villain, you never really feel threatened by him.
Mark Walhberg plays Mark Wahlberg again. I've never been a big Whalberg fan. I just don't think he's that good of an actor and plays the same character in every movie. He doesn't have any range and only seems to have a perpetual scowl on his face. That's not acting if that's your default expression. I don't hate him, I just think he's overrated.
If you rented Contraband one night when you were bored or caught it cable one afternoon, you'd probably think it was an okay movie and wonder why this isn't getting great reviews. It's just that this has all been done before in better movies. Contraband just goes through the motions and is very forgettable.
2.5 (out of 5) Death Stars.