Ten years from now, nobody is going to give a shit about Contraband. I’d actually be surprised if anyone gave a shit about Contraband ten weeks from now. And that’s because it’s not a great film. It’s full of implausibility, questionable dialogue, and one-sided archetypal characters. The action is conventional, the plot clichéd, and the cinematography banal. That being said, I still enjoyed it.
Why did I like Contraband? It’s tough to say. Maybe because I tend to enjoy Mark Wahlberg movies. Maybe because, sometimes, I just don’t want to think too much when I’m at the theatre. Maybe it’s because I had struck the perfect balance between Sprite and Maker’s Mark. Whatever the reason, I found the film both droll and entertaining.
Most of the entertainment to be had in Contraband results from the omnipresent improbabilities. The story turns constantly—a good thing—but it gets to a point where you just have to give it the People’s Eyebrow and say, “really?” For example: Wahlberg goes down to Panama to buy some counterfeit cash. Easy enough, right? Not quite. Two minutes after the boat docks, he’s helping a Panamanian crime lord (not even the guy he went to see in the first place), rob an armored car and steal a famous work of art, briefly turning the film into The Thomas Crown Affair: Panama Edition before the screenwriters remembered what film they were writing. The whole sequence takes about 10 minutes, and there’s another 100 minutes of movie that chugs along at an equal pace.
Luckily, thanks to films like Iron Eagle, Red Dawn, and every M. Night Shamalam movie, my tolerance for ridiculous plot twists is higher than Snoop Dog at the Cannabis Cup. And for that, I’m much obliged. Without having witnessed such unfettered cinematic absurdity at a young age, I would have no patience for it today.
One thing that’s not absurd about Contraband is the authentic feel of life aboard an ocean freightliner. Much of the film takes place aboard such a ship, and the atmosphere, machinery, and especially the technical parlance of the place all seem spot-on. Granted, I’ve never been aboard an ocean freightliner before, but the movie conveys exactly what I’d expect it to be like. The writers did their research here, and it shows.
This reviewer would be remiss without handing out some quick props to Giovanni Ribisi, a talented and underutilized actor who’s good in just about everything. His character in Contraband, a ruthless drug dealer named Briggs, is by far the most compelling presence in the film, and I was disappointed he didn’t get more screen time. His swagger is multi-dimensional, both intimidating and vulnerable, and it thoughtfully foils Wahlberg’s quintessential protagonist.
Despite its shortcomings, Contraband is an occasionally clever, taut, and nicely paced film. The tepid plot is tolerable because of its relentless kinesis, and it climaxes succinctly into an ultimately satisfying ending. There’s no doubt it’s a fun way to kill a couple of hours, but don’t expect much scintillating conversation afterwards—it’s just not that deep, man. Even so, the next time Marky Mark comes out with another mindless romp about guns and counterfeit cash, I’ll gladly fork over my federally printed $9.50 and ask for another.[iframe: width=”630″ height=”350″ src=”http://www.youtube.com/embed/SjcCbSmF_OA” frameborder=”0″ allowfullscreen>]