Not as bad as having your head wrapped in duct tape, but it’s still no picnic.
Contraband starts with a kid on a routine smuggling job, a job that unfortunately goes South and forces him to dump a whole bunch of cocaine into the ocean instead of, you know, delivering it to dry land. As you can imagine, cocaine’s kinda hard to snort underwater, so when the kid breaks the news to his pusher, he gets himself a complimentary trip to the hospital. So in steps the kid’s uncle (a notorious ex-smuggler himself) to save the day. Since the kid’s broke as a joke and no one else has an extra $700K they’re looking to get rid of, his uncle starts getting the band back together to pull one last job before calling it quits for good. The stakes are high, and they might not make it back, but like the poster says: “What would you hide to protect your family?”
Deep shit right there.
Apparently this is a remake of an Icelandic movie called Reykjavik-Rotterdam that you nor I have ever heard of, but apparently it was freaking awesome enough to warrant a Hollywood remake. Or maybe it totally sucked. Who really knows why Hollywood makes anything anymore? Either way, this was never something I planned on seeing, but since every other new release on Netflix is back-ordered ’til winter, this is what came in the mail. And because I lose sleep thinking about what you guys would do if left your own devices without reviews to read, I watched it. Such is the gift and curse of running this damn blog.
Anyway, the movie…
The action’s fine, it’s got your mandatory twists and turns to spice things up, and the plot plays out the way it always plays out. It is what it is, and that’s what I was expecting. Although if there’s one thing I was surprised by, it’s all the questions this movie had me asking. For instance:
Question #1: What’s with all the fake accents? J.K. Simmons talks like he’s a deckhand on the Bubba Gump shrimpin’ boat, and Giovanni Ribisi sounds like a nasally-congested, Kentucky-fried meth freak. Why don’t they just talk like they always talk? I don’t really get what these vocal overhauls were supposed to add to their characters, but given that subtlety isn’t exactly this movie’s strong suit, I guess it makes sense? Something tells me I ain’t getting an answer on this one.
But at least the acting is fine. Nothing to write home about, but it suffices for the kind of movie we’re dealing with. Even though he could really afford to stop doing movies like these, Mark Wahlberg is here taking care of business and rockin’ the Southie accent as usual; Kate Beckinsale’s here too; and so are Diego Luna and Lukas Haas. Again, nothing to write home about, but since showing up is half the battle, there ya’ go. The only one here who is worth writing home about (at least in a post script) is Ben Foster as Wahlberg’s right-hand man. Certainly helps that he’s one of the few characters here who talks like a human being, but Ben Foster’s just a solid actor, someone who doesn’t get nearly enough of the credit that he’s due. So thank God he’s here.
Question #2: What’s with all the cursing? Little did I know that a side-effect of boat smugglin’ is a real mean case of the Tourettes. Glad I stuck to blogging (side-effects include moderate cursing). As you can tell by this super-enthusiastic review, there wasn’t much here that gelled to my liking, but arguably the strangest thing about this movie is how much time is spent listening to these characters shoot the shit. It’s as though the writers were on some kind of mission to finally show the world how smugglers really talk after years of misrepresentation and lies. The end result is a swear jar filled to the brim with quarters, and unless it’s my fault for not having spent more time on a boat/leading a life of crime, it sounds far more excessive than it does authentic.
Movies really need to stop swearing for the sake of swearing already.
Question #3: Honestly, who would ever use duct tape as a mask? How was that the option they went with? You’d be better off cutting eye sockets out of your underwear and putting ’em on your head. Way less painful to take off. Ugh, Panamanian drug lords are idiots.
If you watch the trailer, you’ll know what you’re getting out of Contraband. I wouldn’t call it a bad movie, but “grating” seems pretty accurate. One of those special movies that I actually started to forget about while I was watching it, and that’s just no good. For all the better heist movies, action movies, and Mark Wahlberg movies that are already out there, I really don’t get why someone would actively seek this out. What can I say, the whole “what if Michael Corleone had been a smuggler!” schtick just ain’t cutting it for me. The upside is that you could always do worse, but then again, that’s no reason to lower your standards.