Skip to content

Movie Review: Contraband

Mark Wahlberg stars in this cookie-cutter action flick

Mark Walhberg stars in Contraband

Photo Courtesy Universal Pictures

Mark Wahlberg (center) stars in <i>Contraband</i> as Chris Farraday, a reformed, New Orleans-based smuggler who has left his life of crime behind to start a home-security business.

Director: Baltasar Kormákur
Rated: R, Runtime: 110 mins.
Stars: Mark Wahlberg and Kate Beckinsale

En español  |  What? I can’t hear you. Whaaaat? Sorry, but I’m having a little trouble hearing after two hours of following Mark Wahlberg around in Contraband. The guy keeps screaming into cell phones, slamming big heavy container ship doors, and just beating the beet juice out of people so hard his fists sound like a rifle butt crushing cantaloupe. Then there are the ear-piercing explosions and steel-twisting crashes. And that cargo ship crashing into a pier. And did I mention the yelling? So much yelling.

Wahlberg plays Chris Farraday, a former ace smuggler who’s trying to go straight, see, but the bad guys rope him back in for one last big score, or else bad things will happen to his beautiful wife and two adorable kids, get it? We’d hate to see that happen, right? So off Chris goes to sea, setting sail for Panama. He gets a job on a freighter on which everyone, from the captain to the cook, knows the only reason he’s on board is to smuggle something back into the United States. But Chris, see, he’s such a Hoodeenee he can sneak a hooker past a mother superior, so there’s no problemo. Except for the fact that everybody who wears pants in this movie is a two-timing traitor who would just as soon plug ya as put up with ya, ya know what I mean?

So instead of a quick in-and-out caper in Panama City (a town that, when none of us were looking, has apparently grown into a skyscraper-bristling cross between Hong Kong and Bahrain) Chris is forced to participate in an armored car heist that’s busted up by cops who wield these Buick-sized machine guns that fire exploding bullets. I mean, wham, wham, WHAM! And then everybody’s dead, and I mean everybody except Chris and a pal, who somehow get out of there riding in the open back of a pickup truck. So I guess even when you’re shooting weapons that blow holes the size of grapefruits in the side of an armored personnel carrier, it’s somehow easy to miss the two guys in front wearing T-shirts and jeans.

All the guys get to flex their muscles, and Kate Beckinsale, as Chris’s damsel-in-distress wife, is the resident babe. They’re all pretty to look at, except for J.K. Simmons as the ship’s captain. He’s just about the only grownup in the movie, and every time he pops up you wish the movie were about him instead.

Contraband is based on a 2008 movie from Iceland called Reykjavik-Rotterdam, which I found surprising. I always thought Iceland was kind of a quiet place, with glaciers and puffins, but I guess I was wrong.

Wait, is this blood? Are my ears bleeding?