There are good movies, there are bad movies and then there are the entirely watchable but ultimately forgettable movies. Mark Wahlberg’s latest thriller, Contraband, sadly falls into the third camp.
Contraband is, at its core, a simple heist movie. Wahlberg plays Chris Farraday, a retired smuggler who is pulled back into the game when his brother-in-law runs afoul of a local drug runner after botching a job. Farraday’s plan to set things right is to smuggle large shipment of counterfeit currency out of Panama. He assembles his crew, a motley cast of characters that are given far too little screen time, and lays out his plan. Of course things of this nature never go quite as they are planned.
All of this would work if there was an ounce of tension in any of the scenes involving Farraday and his team but Contraband plays like a paint by numbers heist film. The situations Farraday finds himself in are so overly contrived that it kills any potential tension the film may have had.
Fortunately, the film does deliver some solid tension away from the heist itself. Farraday’s wife, played by Kate Beckinsale, and kids are stalked and terrorized by drug runner Tim Briggs (Giovanni Ribisi). This forces Farraday to call in his best friend Sebastian (Ben Foster) to watch over his family resulting in quite a few plot twists and tense scenes. The performances by Foster and Ribisi are the shining spots in the film, with Ribisi in particular delivering something that is borderline absurd but perfect for his role.
The biggest problem with Contraband is that as a heist film, it cheats the audience the satisfaction of seeing everything executed. Farraday’s plan changes in the last act but the audience is never filled in on the new plan and the final piece of the heist’s execution is completely glossed over. This is a standard trope of the genre but normally the film lets the viewer see the execution after the fact, this never takes place in Contraband, leaving audience to just accept it all which ultimately may leave some viewers unsatisfied.
Contraband is entirely enjoyable as a time waster but it is also not anything more than that. Like many new releases in January, the film is just a forgettable piece of cinema.