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Illicit Enjoyment – A review of Contraband

Updated on December 19, 2012
Mark Wahlberg and Ben Taylor star in the thriller Contraband about a former smuggler who is lured back to the business after his brother-in-law screws up a drug delivery.
Mark Wahlberg and Ben Taylor star in the thriller Contraband about a former smuggler who is lured back to the business after his brother-in-law screws up a drug delivery.

Summary: The plot is as convoluted as they could make it, but the end justifies the means. Contraband delivers.

Mark Wahlberg is certainly not my favorite actor of this generation, but he does deliver a solid performance in the action films in which he stars. Contraband is no exception.

Here, he plays Chris Farraday, a former smuggler gone legit now raising a family. He’s dragged back into the fray for one more adventure when his wife’s brother, Andy, screws up and dumps a shipment of drugs he’s smuggling for a maniacal wannabe, Tim Briggs, played by a scene chomping Giovanni Ribisi with chilling sociopathy.

What works well here is the taut and compelling action scenes when Farraday and his band of misfits travel to Panama to smuggle in counterfeit currency. The caper is nicely developed with predictable results when things go awry.

What I failed to find compelling was the lengths that the heroes would have to go to pull their fat out of the fire. Especially when Andy double crosses Chris and uses the buy money to purchase more drugs to smuggle back to the U.S.

In the end, though, this is still a Hollywood heist picture, and it has the predictable Hollywood ending, albeit with a twist or two. Not everyone comes out of the story completely unscathed. Nor should they.

Ben Taylor is marvelous as Farraday’s best friend and confidant, Sebastian. Less compelling and practically sleepwalking through her role is Kate Beckinsale as Farraday’s wife, Kate. Even Wahlberg seems a little bored with his role at times. By comparison, his Italian Job portrayal is more compelling and substantially more entertaining.

But Ribisi is the real gem here. He routinely plays characters of questionable sanity and this role suits him to a tee. One almost wishes that his comeuppance would have been more solidly pronounced, but we’ll take it as it happens.

J.K. Simmons also gets a laugh or two with his portrayal of the barge captain who may also have an agenda of his own. All the pieces though, fall into place, including his.

Overall, Contraband won’t win any awards and it probably doesn’t bear for repeat viewing, but it’s an entertaining foray into the smuggling underworld nevertheless. I give the movie 3-1/2 out of 5 stars.

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