When it’s over, the tension and suspense set this film apart from other getaway films, but a lack of grit sells this film short. Mark Wahlberg plays Chris Farraday, an ex-smuggler who is forced to go to Panama to retrieve millions of dollars in counterfeit bills in order to save his family from a ruthless mob boss (Giovanni Ribisi). This film reminds me so much of The Italian Job (2003), even though the two films are unrelated. Perhaps it's because Wahlberg's good at playing likable criminals that are ethically good, even though they break the law - an anti-hero that's also a softy. His acting isn't oscar-worthy, but it's entertaining, and he carries most of the film. Ribisi's performance was too over the edge, too psychotic. I think his character would have been better represented if he had more tact, more smarts, a boss with some control. There has been a fair share of crazy mob bosses in past films, and the most memorable ones are the ones that are on the verge of crazy, but never stupid (characters like Tony Montana in Scarface and Francis Costello in The Departed). Icelandic actor turned director, Baltasar Kormakur, starred in the original film called Reykjavik Rotterdam (2008), which Contraband is based on and chose to divide the North American version into two settings - in Panama where Farraday encounters one bad incident after another and in New Orleans where good performances from Kate Beckinsale and Ben Foster up the stakes as the story unravels on the homefront. By doing this, Kormakur has created a double graph with two escalating peaks converging in the climax, keeping the nail-biters biting. I felt the strong build up was somewhat wasted at the end of the film, since the ending felt too soft, too muted, like the bad guys didn't get what they deserved, except for a slap on the hand. Contraband would have been a better film if it had more guts, and why shouldn't it? It already had a restricted rating. The world of smuggling and mob bosses are raw in nature and to show these aspects in a lesser form compromises the story and lowers the film's overall integrity.
My rating: 3 out of 5
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