PG Cooper: Contraband Review

Posted: January 15, 2012 by Daniel Simpson (PG Cooper) in PG Cooper's Movie Reviews

Release date: January 13th, 2012

Running time: 110 minutes

Written by: Aaron Guzikowski

Based on: The film Reykjavík-Rotterdam written byArnaldur Indriðason and Óskar Jónasson

Directed by: Baltasar Kormákur

Starring: Mark Wahlberg, Kate Beckinsale, Caleb Landry Jones, Ben Foster, and Giovanni Ribisi

Contraband follows Chris Farraday (Mark Wahlberg), a former smuggler who abandoned his criminal ways to settle down with his wife (Kate Beckinsale) and kids. Unfortunately for him, his brother-in-law (Caleb Landry Jones) hasn’t abandoned the life and finds himself owing the wrong criminal (Giovanni Ribisi) money. Desperate, he turns to Chris for help, leading to Chris taking one last job to help his family.

Contraband is a film that doesn’t aim high. It’s goal is to be an average crime thriller, nothing more. While I wish I could say the film meets that modest goal, it doesn’t. For one, while the goal is simple, I don’t think the film knew how they wanted to go about achieving said goal. At times, the film feels like it’s trying to be a fun heist film like Ocean’s Eleven. At other times it feels like it’s trying to be a gritty crime thriller like The Departed. These two films don’t mesh together at all and every time the film switches it’s rather jarring.

So the film doesn’t work as a fun ride or gritty drama. Not only because it can’t decide between the two, but also because of flat characters. While I wouldn’t call any of the performances bad, none of them are very good. Everyone just seems very standard. And while I don’t think he was bad, I find Mark Wahlberg miscast in this role. Now I like Wahlberg, but I don’t buy him as this expert criminal who has no equal. I also have a problem with Ribisi as the villain. I really like Ribisi, but his character here is pretty much a joke. Every time he tries to intimidate someone he gets his ass beat. Why should I take this guy seriously as a villain?

I also have some serious problems with this script. The film tries to make a big deal out of the fact that Wahlberg’s character is a former criminal, but it has little impact on the plot. Wahlberg immediately jumps back into crime without care. The whole subplot served absolutely no purpose. The only logic I can think of is they were trying to make Wahlberg’s character more likable by saying he’s no longer a criminal. But he enjoys crime so much he’s not much better than the other criminals around him. I also don’t like how the film celebrates criminal behaviour. I love crime films, but it’s important that the consequences of crime are shown. Even Ocean’s Eleven makes the effort to show the negative sides. On top of that, the script is plagued with bad dialogue, and annoying plot holes that left me asking questions.

But the film’s biggest problem is a simple one; it’s boring. It’s not a long film, but I sat there most of the time waiting for something to happen. The characters aren’t very interesting, the story not very compelling, and the ride is not a very fun one. The best scenes were the few action sequences. They weren’t anything spectacular, but they worked fairly well.

To be fair to this film, it’s never offensively bad. It never pissed me off and it wasn’t crammed with stupidity. But that still doesn’t make it a good film. Contraband is a lazy film which isn’t even good enough to achieve mediocrity. You want to see a good crime thriller with Mark Wahlberg? Go rent The Departed. There isn’t anything I can really recommend about Contaband.

Rating: D


  1. dang, it’s not even a fun movie?

  2. “The only logic I can think of is they were trying to make Wahlberg’s character more likable by saying he’s no longer a criminal.”

    Very insightful. Probably true. Aw, he’s a good guy. He doesnt really WANT to be smuggling counterfeit money into the US illegally. He just HAS to! LOL.

    I had fun enough with it, but wouldnt defned it in the least. There were a couple of scenes I liked enough to overcome the counterbalance all the nitpicking I had to do…

    Youre sure as hell right though. This film doesnt aim high.

    • pgcooper1939 says:

      Thanks man. I almost feel bad about hating this film so much, since it’s never offensively stupid, it’s just…so….below…average. It aims for the middle ground and even misses that.

  3. CMrok93 says:

    There’s not a lot to think about while watching it and we’ve seen some of this plot before in other films, but for a movie opening in January, it’s actually pretty damn good thanks to a couple of cool heists and a relatively good cast. Nice review PG.

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