Contraband provides bare minimum, leaves much to be desired


The Associated Press

In this film image released by Universal Pictures, Mark Wahlberg, left, and Ben Foster are shown in a scene from “Contraband.”

Alex Williams

Generic action films like “Contraband” are rarely worth getting excited for, as most of them tend to capitalize on their star’s heroic persona while forgoing unnecessary elements such as plot, character or even impressive action sequences. While “Contraband” may not fail on the same level as many of its peers, it remains a wholly middle-of-the-road action film, decent in every way but so slight that it’ll be forgotten by next weekend.

Occasional action star Mark Wahlberg headlines as Chris Farraday, a smuggler who is turned straight by the love of his wife Kate (Kate Beckinsale) and their two sons, only to be drawn in for one last job after his brother-in-law Andy (Caleb Landry Jones) screws up a drug run for local drug lord, Tim Briggs (Giovanni Ribisi). Heading to Panama with Andy, Chris finds his carefully laid plans go wildly off course as he struggles to save his family from impending doom.

Obviously, originality is not in “Contraband’s” repertoire, but the film moves quickly (although the Icelandic film on which “Contraband” is based runs nearly half an hour shorter) and doesn’t waste time with its fairly predictable plot reveals and machinations. While director Baltasar Kormakur (the star of the original film) takes one or two opportunities to let the film’s action take on a stylized quality, he generally opts for a typical, glossy visual style and easily clears the low bar he’s set.

Wahlberg is serviceable as the conflicted criminal trying to get his family in the clear, bringing little fresh air to the archetype, but at least not making a mockery of himself in front of the camera as he’s been known to do with an entire film resting on his shoulders — lest we forget “The Happening.”

The supporting cast does more or less exactly what they’re asked; only Ben Foster as Chris’ best friend with nefarious motives and Ribisi’s Cajun accent stand out.

There’s really not much to say about “Contraband.” It’s a film that accomplishes everything it sets out to do, but never really goes above and beyond the standards of its genre, making for an action vehicle that works while you watch it and dissipates as soon as it’s over.

Printed on Thursday, January 19, 2012 as: 'Contraband' provides bare minimum, lacks originality