I really don’t understand Mark Wahlberg’s movie selection process. In the past few years, he’s done some great films like The Fighter, The Departed, and Invincible, some perfectly adequate movies like Shooter and The Italian Job, and some absolutely horrible movies like The Happening and Rock Star. I didn’t expect Contraband to be great, but I’d hoped it would still be worth watching. Too bad that wasn’t the case.
Once upon a time, Chris and Kate Farraday (Mark Wahlberg and Kate Beckinsale) were an elite smuggling team able to get just about anything past customs. But after having a couple of kids, it was time to settle down and go straight. Kate became a stay-at-home mom, and Chris started his own company installing security alarms. There were still plenty of bad people who wanted to bring bad stuff into the country, but they just had to find other people to do it. Kate’s younger brother Andy (Caleb Landry Jones) decided to try his hand at it, but when border security agents got a little too close to his boat he dumped the cocaine overboard. This kept him out of jail, but didn’t endear him to Tim (Giovanni Ribisi) who had hired him to do the job. Tim put Andy into the hospital and made it clear that if Andy didn’t come up with the cocaine or its street value in cash, he’d be going to the morgue, and then Tim would come after his family.
Chris had done plenty of work for Tim in the past and tried to reason with him, but the best deal he could get was two weeks to come up with the coke or the cash. Chris wasn’t about to be a drug runner, so he decided to go with counterfeit. As luck would have it, he just happened to have an in with the crew of a cargo ship that was just about to leave for Panama, where he knew a guy who could create “supernotes” that were virtually indistinguishable from legitimate currency. They’d have to work fast, since apparently the ship was only going to be in port in Panama for about four hours before turning right back around to get them back home in time for the deadline, but it was their only shot.
Your ability to enjoy Contraband is probably directly related to your ability to switch off your brain. It is full of logic holes and stupid plot points, but it’s also got a decent amount of action, so it can be fun if you try not to think about it too much. Unfortunately, I’m not very good at doing that, so the utter stupidity of the film hit me with full force while I was watching it. Like Tim’s insistence on continuing to intimidate Kate and the boys while Chris and Andy were doing the job for him. Like how incredibly convenient it was that a ship full of people he knew was ready to take him right where he needed to go right within his very tight time constraints, and how convenient it was that the counterfeiter had no problem coming up with a whole van full of supernotes at the drop of a hat. Like how the thousands of shipping containers would be unloaded and replaced (and the ship refueled and resupplied) in a four hour window. And those are just problems I can mention without spoiling anything.
Since it’s simply not possible to miss the absurdity of the story, you’d think that they would put in enough other content to try to overcome that, but I didn’t really find that to be the case. It’s not boring per se, but there are only a few scenes where there might be enough action to forget how stupid it is. There’s also not much in the way of comedy or interesting dialogue, so it’s pretty much a one-trick pony that doesn’t even do that trick very well.