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Blu-ray Review

DVD cover



Starring: Mark Wahlberg, Kate Beckinsale, Ben Foster and Giovanni Ribisi
Universal Pictures UK
RRP: £24.99
Certificate: 15
Available 09 July 2012

Having put his life as an international smuggler behind him, Chris Farraday is enjoying unbridled domesticity with his wife, Kate. When her younger brother is forced to ditch the drug he was trying to smuggle into the States, Briggs, the owner of the drugs, comes after him. In order to pay the debt and protect his family, Chris comes out of retirement to run counterfeit money from panama...

Contraband (2012 - 1hr, 49 min 38 sec) is a remake of the Icelandic film Reykjavik Rotterdam (2008) directed by Baltasar Kormákur, who was the star of the original.

Having seen the original film, I’m not really sure what decided Kormákur to take up the reins of making an American version of what was already a pretty decent film. Changing the location and the principle characters certainly haven’t turned out to be improvements.

The story plays essentially the same with Faraday (Mark Wahlberg) having to cover his brother-in-law's arse over a dumped cargo of drugs. Briggs (Giovanni Ribisi) is essentially an animal who seems more interested in the possibilities of violent mayhem than in just getting his money back. Of course, the more odious the character presumably the more the audiences enjoy seeing them getting some form of justice, though in such movies we can never be sure if this means a clever ruse to get them arrested or just killed.

With the ship just making a short stopover in Panama, Faraday enlists the help of the crew to cripple the ship, in order to buy himself more time. This creates the first of only two interesting action sequences when they overestimate the amount of oil to drain out, sending the ship on a direct crash course for the nearest pontoon. About half way through the film the heist itself is full of gun fire and action, although it is relatively short as well.

Juxtaposed with the main plot is what is happening at home with Faraday’s wife, Kate (Kate Beckinsale), who is being menaced by Briggs for his money. Faraday sends his old friend, Sebastian (Ben Foster) to take care of them, but Sebastian is behaving in such a highly suspicious way that he might as well have a tee-shirt emblazoned with the legend ‘I might be one of the bad guys’.

I can’t help but feel that Faraday, as a character, is a bit of a moron and not the genius international smuggler we are led to believe, So, you get involved in a heist to rob an armoured car, the cargo is valuable enough to involve a major shoot out and a large part of the Panama police, and it turns out to be a canvas of some sort. Now, I’m not the sharpest tool in the box, but I’m looking at this thing thinking, it’s a Jackson Pollock, got to be worth a fortune. Faraday looks at it and thinks it’s a tarp, useful only for covering his funny money. Logically Faraday is a man who thinks that stealing a ten dollar tarp is worth all the death and violence that its acquisition entailed.

Although the Blu-ray looks good, the audio at the beginning of the film is not well balanced between the mumblings of the main characters and the background noise, making the speech difficult to hear. The best thing about the film is the cinematography by Barry Ackroyd, which adds a grungy look to the locations. Apart from the cinematography it’s a by the numbers thriller, with nothing stylistically new to offer and nothing to say about the morality of smuggling.

The Blu-ray has a limited number of extras, a few deleted scenes (6 min, 24 sec), and the odd making of (17 min, 02 sec), a piece about the stunts (7 min, 56 sec) and U-control Picture in Picture, but none of it rises about the level of mediocre It does have a full length commentary, but even here the film struggles to make an impact.

If you’re a fan of Mark Wahlberg’s acting then it might be worth picking up, but considering the indecent haste with which the film came out of cinemas and onto disc, I’m pretty sure that you’ll be able to pick Contraband up in a bargain bin in a couple of months.


Charles Packer

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