Hollywood loves heist flicks. Nothing says entertainment like a bunch of antiheroes with guns outrunning American policemen. In fact, the only thing Hollywood loves more than heist films is remakes. So when debutant screenwriter Aaron Guzikowski began to pen the remake of the Icelandic thriller Reykjavík-Rotterdam, execs exalted ‘A remake and a heist movie! Can we get Mark Wahlberg for this?’
Reykjavík-Rotterdam wasn’t a classic to begin with, and simply put, Contraband is a complete bastardization of everything that was at least interesting and fun in the original. Inanely directed by Balthasar Kormakur (who starred in the original), Contraband contains a series of flabby, repetitive scenes featuring a bored Mark Wahlberg, a hammy Giovanni Ribisi and an inarticulate Ben Foster. If you were fortunate enough to have watched Reykjavík-Rotterdam, you’ll likely snooze through the remake.
The story is quite similar to the original - Chris Farraday (Mark Wahlberg) is a former drug smuggler who has come clean and now leads a respectable life at a security systems company along with his wife Kate (Kate Beckinsale) and kids. One day Kate's idiot brother Andy (Caleb Landry) gets mixed up with some nasty business and owes a huge debt to the sleazy drug lord Tim (Giovanni Ribisi). With his wife and brother-in-law’s lives under serious threat, Chris now has no chance but to revert to his old ways and steal money to even things out. He devises a plan to get a job aboard a cargo ship sailing between Louisiana and Panama and make off with millions in counterfeited bills. Naturally, things don’t go according to plan, and all kinds of mayhem happens.
Sadly, there is precious little that is memorable or even exciting in Contraband. The film only works in fits and starts as none of the cast members manage to replicate the grimy B-movie vibes of Reykjavík-Rotterdam. Mark Wahlberg is again the exact same character he played in Planet of the Apes, Four Brothers and Shooter, and even here he seems uninterested with the proceedings. Contraband comes off as extremely formulaic, totally messy with its insipid directorial style, and boasts characters so stock that we're left to just sit and wait for these guys to shake us out of our naps. There is a twist in the second half but you can see it coming just 10 minutes into the film. There are decent amounts of bullets, explosions and expletives and Contraband does have a reasonably big budget, yet the film just fails to demand any attention whatsoever and continually proves itself to be a run-of-the-mill potboiler.
Contraband is not migraine-inducingly stupid like some recent films in the genre, but nor is it the least bit fun or innovative. It is exactly what you'd expect - whether that's good or bad depends on your mood.
(First Published in Mid Day)