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3 reviews, 5 user ratings

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by Peter Sobczynski

"Smugglers Blew"
1 stars

When I went to the screening of "Contraband," it happened to be the last of three action-oriented films that just happened to be scheduled on that same day. Not only that, the first one happened to be a revival of "The Wages of Fear," one of the all-time classics of the genre and the second was "Haywire," a fairly brilliant new work that finds Steven Soderbergh, one of the most consistently inventive American filmmakers around breathing new and inspired life into material that might have come across as dull and derivative in the hands of others. Admittedly, it would be difficult for most any genre film to meet the bar set by those two films but even if it had been preceded by a Bela Tarr retrospective, it still would have come off as the poorer action extravaganza by comparison.

Set in New Orleans, the film stars Mark Wahlberg as Chris Farraday, a seemingly ordinary guy who, along with best pal Sebastian (Ben Foster), used to be, as one person observes, "the Lennon & McCartney of smuggling." However, Chris gave up that dangerous life long ago and is now living a quiet existence with a loving wife, Kate (Kate Beckinsale), two nondescript kids and a job as the Ornette Coleman of home security installation. Alas, Kate's moronic younger brother Andy (Caleb Landry Jones) turns out to be pretty much the Ringo Starr of smuggling and after having to toss his load of contraband overboard before the ship he is on is raided, he finds himself owing the semi-fearsome Briggs (Giovanni Ribisi), who is sort of the Ne-Yo of mid-level crime kingpins, over $700,000. Chris decides to strap on his smuggling belt and put together a crew in order to sail down to Panama with Andy and some old acquaintances--more or less the Mike & the Mechanics of smuggling--on a freighter in order to pick up a load of high-quality counterfeit money in order to settle Andy's debt. Needless to say, everything goes screwy, largely due to Andy's continued idiocy, and Chris winds up becoming embroiled in some wild misadventures with a local criminal (Diego Luna)--the Enrique Iglesias of violent debauchery--before rushing back home in time to prevent Briggs from harming his family.

I have no doubt that the vast majority of you were no doubt as bored to tears with reading the above plot description as I was recounting it. However, that pales in comparison to the utter ennui that will be felt by anyone trying to sit through the damn thing. Technically, the film is a remake of a 2008 thriller from Iceland (unseen by me) but in truth, it consists almost entirely of bits and pieces that have been taken from other (and certainly better) crime thrillers and jammed together seemingly at random. There is not a single original idea, exciting visual flourish or quirky performance to be had here at all. Director Baltasar Kormakur, who previously directed the intriguing dramas "101 Reykjavik" and "The Sea," tries to bring a wild and crazy-go-nuts feel to the material that one might find in an exceptionally lurid video game but he has neither the boldness nor the stylistic chops to pull something like that off--watching this film is akin to watching "Grand Theft Auto" being played by someone who is incapable of doing anything other than driving around in circles and shooting themselves in the foot.

Perhaps realizing that any efforts that they might make would be for naught, the actors pretty much coast through the film with the absolute minimum of effort. Wahlberg, a much better actor than he is usually given credit for, sleepwalks through his part with barely concealed disdain for what is going on around him. Ribisi, on the other hand, seems to have decided to amuse himself (and only himself) by delivering his lines via a mush-mouthed drawl that sounds like no accent ever before heard by human ears. As for Kate Beckinsale, she has been given such a nothing part to play that her return to the "Underworld" franchise is no longer that much of a surprise--as dreadful as those films are, at least she gets to do something in them.

As bland and inconsequential as its name, "Contraband" is a real drag--the kind of empty-headed drivel that seems to have been designed specifically to play in near-deserted multiplexes in the middle of January--and even the least discriminating viewers are unlikely to find much of anything of note in it. And yet, since there hasn't been a big new action movie since last month's "Mission: Impossible--Ghost Protocol," there is the possibility that fans of the genre might nevertheless come out to see it, if only for lack of anything else that they haven't already seen. To those people, all I can do is tell them to save their money and wait one more week for the debut of "Haywire," the rare kind of thriller that will enthrall adrenaline junkies and the art-house crowds in equal measure. A film like that enough to remind even the most jaded viewers of the thrills and excitement that the cinema can provide in spades when handled properly. By comparison, "Contraband" is such a brain-numbing bore throughout that most viewers will find themselves seized with the urge to smuggle themselves into another theater.

link directly to this review at https://www.hollywoodbitchslap.com/review.php?movie=22656&reviewer=389
originally posted: 01/12/12 22:35:12
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User Comments

12/28/17 morris campbell decent no more no less 3 stars
7/26/12 mr.mike Good for home viewing. 4 stars
4/21/12 action movie fan exciting film of smuggling revenge and double croos wahlberg and all else are fine 4 stars
3/12/12 The Big D Lowlife smugglers bicker and say the "F" word a lot--Stink, Stank, Stunk, and PEE-EEE-YEW!! 1 stars
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  13-Jan-2012 (R)
  DVD: 24-Apr-2012


  DVD: 24-Apr-2012

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