Running Time: 109 minutes
Based on Icelandic thriller Reykavik-Rotterdam, Contraband is the latest heist action thriller to top the US box office, writes Natalie Stendall.
Starring Mark Wahlberg, fresh from 2011 Oscar nominated The Fighter, Contraband sees reformed criminal, Chris Farraday (Wahlberg) attempt one last smuggling job to save his brother-in-law from brutal drug dealer Briggs (Giovani Ribisi).
Although Contraband is founded on a number of cliche plot points and implausible twists, it does deliver both thrills and entertainment in droves. Even as the smugglers improvise and become embroiled in a robbery of expensive modern art, the film’s pace becomes so fast that there is little time to question its plausibility or the amount of time that has passed. Set against the backdrop of New Orleans blues, Contraband also has an interesting, but under-developed, style.
Wahlberg is assured and comfortable as ex-smuggler, Chris, whose confidence in his ability to traffic millions of dollars in counterfeit bills is reined in to the right side of arrogant. Despite his criminal background, Chris is an admirable character whose reluctance to smuggle drugs is both endearing and refreshing. The alternative bootleg plan he concocts is brimming with jeopardy and when it (inevitably) goes horribly wrong, Wahlberg’s relaxed self-assurance retains believability and leaves Contraband’s audience basking in Chris’ quick wittedness.
Wahlberg is also in talented company. Ribisi excels as the enraged and unstable drug dealer Briggs, whose unpredictable behaviour adds a stunning layer of suspense. Kate Beckinsdale also gives a strong performance, albeit in one of the more cliche roles that Contraband has to offer - the desperately afraid wife.
Fast and sharp, Contraband is an engrossing thriller that works despite its reliance upon a few cliches.