Mark Wahlberg can be cool in a movie. In fact, he’s cool in most of his movies, and the right director can make the man look like a pro.
But, oh boy, when Mark Wahlberg stinks, he stinks real bad. Like, The Happening bad.
Wahlberg looks clueless and tired in Contraband, and who can blame him? Director Baltasar Kormakur packs this silly actioner full of so many garbage subplots and locales that most actors would probably grow weary. I know I did.
Chris Farraday (Wahlberg) has gone legit after a career as a smuggler. Life is good due to beautiful wife Kate (Kate Beckinsale) and his alarm system business. He attends weddings, hangs out with his best friend Sebastian (Ben Foster) and grins that infectious Wahlberg grin.
Of course, that would be a boring-assed movie—Wahlberg smiling and laughing like a goober for 90 minutes—so Chris’ brother-in-law Andy (Caleb Landry Jones) gets himself into trouble on a smuggling run. He drops a bunch of drugs into the ocean to avoid getting arrested by customs agents. This upsets big time drug dealer and whiny guy Tim Briggs (a painfully over-the-top Giovanni Ribisi).
After Chris intervenes and tries to get Andy off the hook, Briggs threatens the lives of Chris’ wife and children. Chris kicks Tim’s ass, the sort of confrontation that might cause a man to be a little more vigilant about protecting his family afterwards. The crazed drug dealer with no moral code did, after all, voice his intentions to kill everybody. You might want to at least buy a really big dog.
Nope. Instead, Chris decides to go back into crime, heading to Panama for some counterfeit money, which he will exchange for real money, which he will use to pay off the drug dealer. He just leaves, and the drug dealer eventually makes his way over to Kate’s house and roughs her up. Terrifically predictable plot twists—and there are many—ensue.
They sure did assemble a good cast for Contraband. In addition to those mentioned above, you will also find Lukas Haas as a guy who doesn’t do anything worth noting, J.K. Simmons as the captain of the boat Chris does his smuggling run on, and Diego Luna as a crazy Panamanian criminal. All of these performers turn in some of the worst work of their otherwise reputable careers.
The film goes from gritty street drama to high seas thriller to foreign land heist actioner back to gritty street drama. Lots of twists can be fun, but the script gets far too outrageous to be enjoyed, and the direction is flat. Contraband is actually a remake of Reykjavik-Rotterdam, an Icelandic film in which Kormakur served as star and producer, but did not direct. He shouldn’t have directed Contraband, either.
By the time of the film’s big final twist, in which anybody with any knowledge of modern art would be able to peg well before it’s revealed, any hope for Contraband being a scintillating thriller is long gone. The film becomes tiresome somewhere within the first fifteen minutes. It’s a total train-wreck by the time credits roll.
After his hilarious work in The Other Guys and Date Night, I would think Wahlberg would want to line up a few more comedies, which he definitely has a knack for. He probably thinks he has muscle as an action star, but he really doesn’t. He stinks as an action star. The Fighter, while it had boxing action, doesn’t really count as an action film—it was a drama.
A look at Wahlberg’s future slate reveals more of the same. (There is a Seth MacFarlane comedy in the works about a teddy bear that comes to life that looks a little promising.) Wahlberg is tentatively scheduled to make another film with Kormakur. Let’s hope that project doesn’t happen.