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Released 16 March 2012
Director Baltasar Kormákur

Robert Wahlberg, Caleb Landry Jones, Jason Mitchell, Paul LeBlanc, Mark Wahlberg, Ben Foster, Lukas Haas, Kate Beckinsale, Giovanni Ribisi
Writer(s) Aaron Guzikowski

Tim Bevan, Eric Fellner, Baltasar Kormákur, Stephen Levinson, Mark Wahlberg
Origin United States, United Kingdom, France
Running Time 110 minutes
Genre Action, crime, drama
Rating 15A

Damaged goods.

At the beginning of Contraband, ex smugglers Chris Farraday and Sebastian Abney (Mark Wahlberg and Ben Foster) spend a little time reminiscing about when they were the best in the business. They wax lyrical about the time they smuggled a really expensive car into the U.S. with the help of a good working knowledge of ships and the conspiratorial aid of some of the crew. Is it just me or does that seem a little underwhelming - more an elaborate game of nautical hide and seek than heist of the century? This turns out to be the Achilles heel of the film as a whole. As crimes go, running contraband on cargo ships isn’t all that interesting...unless we’re talking about season 2 of The Wire. Unfortunately Contraband doesn’t even approach that high watermark, relying as it does on a host of cliches.

Cliche number one can be seen lumbering over the horizon from that first scene. Farraday may be on the straight and narrow now but do you reckon that something might happen to force him back to do “one last job”? Is the Pope a Catholic? That something is a botched drug run undertaken by his wife’s (Kate Beckinsale) younger brother Andy (Caleb Landry Jones). In order to pay back the money Andy now owes to local gangster Briggs (Giovanni Ribisi), Farraday takes to the seas once more, smuggling a huge load of counterfeit currency from Panama.

Yes, the plot is far from mind-blowing and the tension it tries to create never really translates, so it’s a good job that there are some likable actors on hand to distract us. Wahlberg does that “blue collar hero” thing he has down to a T and Ben Foster gives a pleasingly fidgety performance. The always watchable Ribisi is surprisingly convincing as a ruthless drug dealer. Beckinsale though has little to work with, she is mostly just required to scream and get beaten up. The direction from Baltasar Kormakur is competent but unremarkable and only kicks up a gear during a bizarrely hyperactive section involving Diego Luna as a crazed mob boss. It wakes up proceedings a little but feels wildly out of place.

On the whole, Contraband never quite raises itself above thriller-by-numbers territory. It’s fine as some mindless popcorn entertainment but no more than that.

- Linda O’Brien