By Clint Morris
If movie posters told us all we needed to know about a particular movie, then Contraband is simply a flick where Mark Wahlberg gets around with a big-ass gun, looking sternly at the trash he’s about to take out.
And one wouldn’t be deemed silly for presupposing ”Contraband” exactly that -particularly since the man-shooting-a-gun movie became Wahlberg’s calling card there for a while.
Thing is, Wahlberg’s done with all that. A little film called ”Boogie Nights” happened. And later, ”The Departed”. The likes of ”Shooter” and ”The Corruptor” are beyond him, right?
Surely, For Wahlberg to return to the kind of one-note action thrillers he did before knocking the academy over with his stellar turn in the Scorsese film, he’d have to be downing hash-infused protein powder!?
Bottom line. Posters can deceive.
Despite the title, despite the poster and despite the presence of a gun, ”Contraband” still fits satisfyingly into the Wahlberg of new.
Yes, it’s an action movie but it’s also a classy one, one with an engrossing story and plethora of interesting characters (with actual arcs), that transplants pleasing export ”Reykjavík-Rotterdam” to Yankee terrain with good results.
Wahlberg is a former hot-shot smuggler who is forced back into the game when his brother-in-law gets into trouble. Meantime the heavies are coming down hard on our hero’s wife (Kate Beckinsale) back home.
I guess ”Contraband” is much more of a popcorn flick than Wahlberg’s last couple of movies were, they were all about Oscars (especially ”The Fighter”) and it’s definitely not a movie that’s choca-bloc with surprises or is devoid of cliché. But it’s also a six-pack ahead of the usual one-last-con actioner thanks to a crafty script, good performances (Wahlberg’s good and is backed up by an awesome union of young actors; though I’m sick of seeing Ben Foster in the same old role) and slick direction.
Still, is it the film Wahlberg should be following up ”The Fighter” with? No, probably not – it’s probably the most generic vehicle he’s done in a while (and Ben Foster might’ve been better to choose something else altogether; surely he’s sick of playing the same predictable loose cannon?) and it doesn’t exactly keep his name or face fresh in the minds of the critical community or academy but shit, maybe Wahlberg wanted to do something a little draining after all the heavy going stuff of late, and that’s understandable. And heck, one’s sat through much much much duller holiday home videos than this.