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Review: Contraband

January 14, 2012


  • Starring: Mark Wahlberg (The Fighter), Kate Beckinsale (Underworld), Ben Foster (The Mechanic)
  • Directed by: Baltasar Kormákur
  • Synopsis: “Chris Farraday (Wahlberg) long ago abandoned his life of crime, but after his brother-in-law, Andy (Caleb Landry Jones), botches a drug deal for his ruthless boss, Tim Briggs (Giovanni Ribisi), Chris is forced back into doing what he does best –running contraband– to settle Andy’s debt.” (
  • Rated: R for language, violence, and brief drug use.
  • Trailer:

“It’s better than Max Payne.”

Mark Wahlberg returns to the big screen for the first time since 2010’s award-winning The Fighter and does so in a pretty big way. Contraband combines the style of a not-so-well-known (yet capable) director, a familiar story arc, a conglomerate impressive cast, and non-stop action so well. And while the movie plays on certain storylines that viewers will identify from other films (Gone in 60 Seconds, The Italian Job, The Mechanic, etc), it does so in a manner that piques the interest and keeps the attention!

Let's take a look at what did and didn't work:

The balanced action-to-drama ratio: makes for a fun watch literally free of what I like to call “time-check moments.” [“Time-Check Moment”: the point(s) in a movie during which the viewer, plagued with boredom from the featured presentation, looks at the watch wondering how much time is left.] The characters’ stories, passions, and concerns are believable and add the sense of realism that ends up highly necessary in “familiar” heist/revenge films such as this.

The cast: An impressive cast works so well to tell this story. Of course Wahlberg and Beckinsale shine in their parts, as do Giovanni Ribisi and Ben Foster. (Ribisi and Foster’s performances respectively are the best in the film). But some other added flavor to the cast in J.K. Simmons (Spider-man), Lukas Haas (Inception), David O’Hara (The Departed), and more, truly added the additional dimension and depth to this film that is necessary when presenting a film with an expected end.

The action: Did I already mention that? Yes? Well, I’m mentioning it again! 🙂 The film keeps you at the edge of your seat between scenes of fist-fights, gun-fights, getaways that occur in the nick of time, and more. It just keeps coming…and it works very well in this movie. (I gotta say, I kept wanting Kate Beckinsale to come out in her full Underworld getup and just completely destroy all the bad guys…then I remembered: wrong movie! But I won’t have to wait long as Underworld: Awakening releases next week!!)

The problem, however, remains that the expected outcome causes a bit of a disappoint. While Contraband is better than all of the straight-to-dvd films cut from the same mold which clutter the shelves of your local movie rental place, it still is predictable and formulaic. Many outcomes in the film can be seen coming a mile away. While a few twists and turns exist, the outcomes that tend to matter most to the film are foreshadowed early on and expected. But, hey, not every movie can be a shroud of mystery! The action and the cast make for a great and welcomed distraction (for lack of a better word) and highly entertains.

Speaking of expectations, one hoped-for and expected outcome that I liked was best summed up by a friend of mine who said: “It’s better than Max Payne. That’s for sure!” Ha! Might I add MUCH better! 😀

Overall, Contraband is worth seeing. ESPECIALLY during the month of January when, traditionally, not much worth seeing hits theaters! Check it out, come back, and share your thoughts in the comment section!

See what other fans had to say when my friend CASEY MESSER (host of Naked Trailers and First Fans for ReelzChannel) sought out the reaction of the FIRST FANS:

(Thanks, Casey!)

Thanks for reading! Happy Watching!

Score:  3 out of 5 stars for Contraband

(images courtesy

17 Comments leave one →
  1. January 14, 2012 11:35 am

    This is what i’m expecting, an average film but above average for January 😀

    Good review Mr. T, i’m glad you enjoyed this one. I hope to see it in the next few days!


    • January 15, 2012 6:50 am

      you said it perfectly Matt! Let me know your thoughts once you see it!


  2. January 14, 2012 12:49 pm

    I do have to say Mr T, I disagree with you a little on the action. Not that the scenes weren’t cool enough, it was just HOW they arrived at the situations… some of the plot points were a little weak.

    But yeah, we’re probably both at about the same place. It was a’ight. You know?


    • January 15, 2012 6:51 am

      haha. I knew that you would key in on the “MR” part! I just knew it!

      I see your point about HOW they arrived to each situation. It was a so-so film.


  3. January 14, 2012 2:55 pm

    So, it sounds like I should file this under “worth watching on a rainy afternoon when nothing else is available”?


    • January 15, 2012 7:05 am

      yep! that’s a great plan Morgan! I agree wholeheartedly! You’ll have fun that way!


  4. January 14, 2012 4:43 pm

    Seems like a step down for Wahlberg after Fighter to me. I will probably catch this on dvd, though i won’t be in a hurry to see it


    • January 15, 2012 7:05 am

      mm, after Fighter that would be a pretty accurate statement. Not a bad movie, just not something you have to rush out to see.


  5. yaykisspurr permalink
    January 14, 2012 6:19 pm

    It read to me like a reboot of Gone in 60 Seconds…

    Sounds even worse than that…at least the story worked in Gin60.

    Good review though…summed it up well! Cheers…


    • January 15, 2012 7:06 am


      yeah, I couldn’t help but be thinking about Gone in 60 Seconds, but it veered away from that as the movie progressed.

      turned out okay. but that’s all…just okay.


  6. January 15, 2012 4:40 pm

    This felt like a 3 out of 5 film from the trailer, I don’t know why but I think you make a case for it with this review . Worth seeing then but it won’t win any awards.


    • January 16, 2012 4:58 am

      it’s worth seeing. Yes. Just don’t expect any award winning performances!


  7. January 17, 2012 9:22 am

    I thought it was just ok. It didn’t keep me on the edge of my seat, but kept me interested enough not to leave the theatre. I think what killed it for me WAS the predictability as you mentioned in your review. Some of the scenes were just too cookie cutter, and drawn out for no reason, eg. the cement scene at the end…yawn. It was the super caliber cast that kept this movie afloat…excluding Beckinsale…lol. Sorry I wasn’t a fan of her performance in this role as much as you were. I agree that it is an ok view, but ONLY because there is nothing else to see…But I also advised waiting for it to hit RED BOX, so u can receive a much better deal as opposed to a full priced ticket…lol


    • January 17, 2012 11:12 am

      the predictability/paint-by-the-numbers plot was pretty ho-hum.

      I am waiting for this weekend with Beckinsale in Underworld (I’m a fan of the series)

      Will be sure to look for your review when I visit your page!


  8. Monica A. permalink
    January 17, 2012 5:34 pm

    As a fan of this entire cast, I have to say I truly enjoyed this movie. It has certain predictable plot points, but the twists that hit close to home make it a little better than the average action movie. I have to give it to Giovanni Ribisi and especially Ben Foster for their wonderful and truly believable performances. I am becoming a big Ben fan, and this movie gets credit for that. I’d give it a 4 out of 5, but I’m a bit biased, loving Marky Mark as much as I do 😉


    • January 18, 2012 5:33 am

      the cast was truly the best part of the film. Glad you agree.

      I can’t roll with you on the 4 out of 5 though! ha. But I’ll let you slide on the Marky Mark part! haha



  1. Movie News Monday for April 23, 2012 « The Focused Filmographer

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