Mark Wahlberg rolls up his sleeves to kick some butt and perpetrate some crime — all for family, of course — in Contraband, an enjoyable little action-heist movie.
Chris Farraday (Wahlberg) used to be in the life — “the life” here being smuggling — but now has a small business and a nice house for his family: wife Kate (Kate Beckinsale) and sons Michael (Connor Hill) and Eddie (Bryce McDaniel). His former partner in crime, Sebastian (Ben Foster), is still his best friend but he has also gone legit. Though the guys enjoy talking about old times, they have no interest in getting back in the game. Or, at least, so it seems until Kate’s little brother Andy, (Caleb Landry Jones), winds up in the hospital. He was in a car crash but it definitely wasn’t an accident. His car was smashed into in response to his explaining to Tim Briggs (Giovanni Ribisi) that he had to toss the drugs he was smuggling into the country overboard when Customs boarded his ship. Now Andy owes Tim some $700,000 but is, we gather, too dopey to get it on his own. So Chris steps in and offers to do — all together now — One Last Job to pay off Andy’s debt. With Sebastian’s help, he organizes a scheme to bring millions in fake currency into the country via Panama. (Chris may be willing to commit crime but he’s not keen on having that crime be drug-related.)
You need not be an expert in heist movies to know that things don’t go exactly as planned.
This kind of movie represents maybe the best possible use of Wahlberg. He gets to be street smart, to be protective, to be occasionally funny, to be loving in a tough-guy way and to punch a few guys in the face. He’s good at this sort of thing, believable as a scrappy kid who has grown into a knows-how-to-handle-things man. It makes Wahlberg fun to watch in this role. He is lively and he has in Foster and Ribisi supporting characters who bring the same kind of relish to blending melodrama and action.
Contraband is a fast-paced but low-pressure movie. It doesn’t require a lot of you but offers some nice entertainment in exchange for the price of a movie ticket. B-
Rated R for violence, pervasive language and brief drug use. Directed by Baltasar Kormakur with a screenplay by Aaron Guzikowski (based on the movie Reykjavik-Rotterdam), Contraband is an hour and 50 minutes long and distributed by Universal Pictures.