Friday, January 13, 2012

CONTRABAND: An Action Thriller Failure, But It's Not Mark Wahlberg's Fault

CONTRABAND (Dir. Baltasar Kormákur, 2012)

It’s not Mark Wahlberg’s fault that this film is such a forgettable failure of a action thriller.

Wahlberg shows up, punches the time clock, and puts in a workman like performance, but director Kormákur and screenwriter Aaron Guzikowski don’t give the man much to work with.

Based on the 2009 Icelandic film “Reykjavík-Rotterdam” (which starred Kormákur), “Contraband” has Wahlberg as a New Orleans family guy trying to go legit after years of smuggling, grand theft, and espionage.

Just when Wahlberg thought he was out, he’s pulled back into that world to pull off one last job involving millions in counterfeit bills, because his brother-in-law Caleb (Landry Jones),wife (Katie Beckinsale), and kids are being threatened by a sleazy shaky drug lord Giovanni Ribisi (even sleazier and shakier than his turn in last year's THE RUM DIARY which I didn’t think was possible).

So a lot of the movie is Wahlberg on a barge, helmed by the great character actor J.K. Simmons who is one of the film’s few plusses, to and from Panama, with precious little action or thrills to speak of. Back home, Ben Foster, as Wahlberg’s best friend, squirms through his role as a guy caught up in the scheme who we never believe that anybody would ever trust.

It’s tired faux gritty heist plots like this that make me appreciate more the 2 Boston set crime flicks that Ben Affleck has made (GONE BABY GONE, THE TOWN). Affleck's films certainly weren’t masterpieces, but they had a much better sense of character and tonality when it came to the working class townie tough guy milieu.

CONTRABAND has none of that, and it's too full of quick cuts which makes it seem like a giant trailer instead of a real movie, with no room for audience connection to anything but the bare basics of the uninteresting narrative.

There weren’t even enough instances of visceral violence to keep my mind from wandering.

I was so bored during this tedious slog that I imagined what if Wahlberg had played the lead in “We Bought A Zoo” instead of Matt Damon. It would be like the Saturday Night Live sketch with Andy Sandberg doing a dead-on Wahlberg talking to animals – “Hey, chicken, how's it hanging? A lot of people want to eat you, but I just want to talk to you, okay?”

That’s how bored I was.

More later...

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