Contraband is a movie that… misses the mark. Like a good joke told with bad timing, or a nice picture that’s just out of focus, this is a movie that wants to be a clever heist movie and/or a mob passion play, and unfortunately, it’s just not quite clever enough to fully achieve either. Which isn’t to say it’s a bad movie. There’s plenty to entertain, particularly the cast, but there’s not enough here for me to recommend people leave their houses in the winter…

The movie revolves around a smuggler, played by Mark Wahlberg, who’s gone legit. He used to be quite the smuggling rock star, as we’re told, but now he’s happy to work an ordinary job as an alarm system installer. Unfortunately for him, his brother-in-law is a moron who hasn’t “quit the game” and he botches a run, leaving the entire family in danger. Thus, Wahlberg gets pulled in to do the clichéd “one last job” in order to get him off the hook for the money he owes.

What follows is a combination of a mob-movie and a bank heist flick. Not that they’re robbing a bank… they’re attempting to smuggle counterfeit money into the States onboard a cargo ship. But the all the timing things, all the secret tricks, all the “connections”… this feels very much a part of that genre.

Which is actually where this movie begins to fall apart for me. The “level of difficulty” never seemed right with this “job”. Things were either way easier than they should have been (to the point where you smell a Hollywood gloss-over of a problem that in real life would be much more complicated) or absolutely blowing up in their face (to the point where you’re like, wow it’s a bummer they decided to pull this smuggling job in the middle of armaggedon, huh?)

Things are often too simple here… I was often struck with the thought, well, it can’t be THAT easy. A phone call, a greased palm, turning the corner jussssst as someone walks by, hidden compartments left and right. There were several instances where problems were too easily resolved, or not given their just due. On the other hand, things at times go impossibly wrong. Some little detail is missed and they wind up in the middle of the equivalent of a small theatre military exchange. The bad guys want to menace, a little, but it winds up being close to a hostage situation. They tinker with the ship a bit and it almost crashes. That sort of thing.

Everything always seemed a little off in one degree or another to me. It was always a little dumbed down simple, or a little too batshit crazy. It never quite got the “just right”.

It didn’t really find the “Just Right” with the gangster angles, either, but it was closer. There’s double-crossing and low life punks causing havoc because they’re violent and want to be tough. There’s a couple of scenes where its fun to watch Wahlberg slap someone down, Ribisi is great as a scumbag, and I think David O’Hara could order off of a drive-thru menu and it would be freaking scary. But there’s still a few too many “Why would he do that”s and “Oh Cmon”s for my liking.

Especially the very end, which I saw coming for miles. Those of you who have seen it will know what I mean.

I also have to note that the frame is never still. It’s something that probably wont even register for a lot of people, but it bugged the hell out of me. It wasn’t exactly “shaky cam”, but shots were always zooming in and out… I’m sure it was a stylistic choice, but it left me feeling like I was watching a rookie DP.

Fortunately the cast is very watchable, and I’m more than content to watch movies centering on crime and violence. There are some legitimately funny moments, and a couple of the plot strand resolutions are very fun. I had to dock it way too many points along the way to  say it was very good or anything – but you wont hate yourself if you do go see it, you won’t regret your redbox dollars or putting it in your Netflix queue, and if you wind up clicking through the channels one day and stumble upon it on cable… you might even enjoy it.

B- No es muy bueno, but it’s not too bad either.

31 thoughts on “Contraband

  1. “Cotraband?” I could have sworn this movie was called “CoNtraband.” You know, the one with Marky Mark. I’ll probably see Contraband, it will probably be better than that crappy Cotraband you just reviewed.

  2. This looks okay, and your review seems to confirm that. My problem is I have trouble buying Wahlberg as a sort of badass gangster. He’s a solid actor, but I just don’t get that vibe off him.

    • Yeah… they dont try to make him tooooo bad ass. They do have him smack a punk around a little bit, that was a nice scene. Every other thing, he’s just like a smuggler. You know, nothing too outrageous.

  3. Yay! B- for a January movie, that’s always good to hear 😀

    I actually have high hopes for this (and when I say “high” I mean B- hopes haha) and hope to catch a viewing in the next few days.

    Good review Fogs!

    • Thanks Matt. Appreciate that as always!

      And you’re our lucky “Winner” of the FMR Thank you for being the 5,000th comment left on this blog.

      LOL. Just happened to notice when I got home that the comment counter was sitting at 5,000…. looked at the last comment made, and boom. Here it is.

      Thanks to everyone who hangs out here and sees this, I think it’s a nice little milestone 😀

  4. So that’s two for two reviews saying this is just sort of fair-to-middling. Well, it’s January. That’s probably about as good as people could expect.

    Congratulations on the 5000 post milestone.

  5. I feel like Marky Mark has done this character before. Bad guy turns straight, but goes back to being bad to do a good thing. Uh? Confusing, I know. I’m going to take your advice and just wait for the DVD.

    Anyway, I really enjoy your blog, if you can’t tell already. Keep it up…makes my day go by fast.

    • Thanks Jen That’s always great to hear. Love having people enjoy, hang out and talk movies… That’s what its all about

      Dont worry we’re not going anywhere. LOL. 😀

      Mark Wahlberg did play this part before it was called the Italian Job. LOL

      Say Hi to your mother for me, alright? 😀

      • HAHA! That was hilarious. It must be a Boston thing, because my friend says the exact same thing. He has never met my mom, but he alway says that.

        I’m glad you aren’t going anywhere. I feel better now.

        Peace and say HI to your mother for me, alright?

      • Hey , goat.

        I like your beard.

        I had a beard just like that in “The Perfect Storm” did you see that movie?

        Yeah, that cracks me up. There’s a few funny mockery ones out there on him… but I’ll save some for next time. 😀

  6. A great review! Made me want to watch this even less than I already did. lol!

    I do like Mark Wahlberg but this just seems like a reboot of other movies I’ve already seen.


  7. Think this sounds like the kind of film I’ll watch when it comes to my TV screen. The cast is full of people I genuinely like to watch but don’t think I want to spend money watching this one.

    • Yeah, the cast is the saving grace, for sure. I liked Wahlberg and Simmons, and Ribisi is great, what a dirtbag. LOL.

      Too many things that were dumbed doen or over exaggerated though for me to give it too good a grade.

  8. I share the same sentiments when it comes to this movie. Agree with you on a number of points, and that scene at the end with the cement…come on! Way too easy…smh. Great cast, but missed the mark as you said. I also agreed that it was good enough for a rental…lol

    • Thanks Taj… yeah, you know… it’s not horrible. It’s “Decent” That’s about the right term for it.

      How was Contraband?

      I dunno, it was “Decent”

      Sounds about right LOL 😀

  9. Just got finished watching this one…when it was over I told my husband I thought the movie was cute; I don’t think smuggling movies are supposed to be ‘cute.’ With that being said, it did entertain me & I liked the cast…everything was beautifully packaged up with a pretty bow though, as you said.

  10. Just viewed this watchable Wahlberg rental with some clever parts like the salt dissolve but way too much bushleague fairy dust was thrown around to make a story cohesive. Note: more gratuitous violence doesn’t necessarily make a better film; in this case, the opposite occurred in my view. Additionally, only cartoons survive some traumatic scenes like ones in this film.

    If more work was done on story, this could have been a fully baked heist movie rather than a crime film that was half baked at best. Fair rental if you need one.

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