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Good for Wahlberg fans
on March 6, 2012
"Contraband" is a 2011 action film starring Mark Wahlberg as a former smuggler reluctantly drawn back into the game for one last score, this time to help his brother-in-law (Caleb Landry Jones) who got in too deep with the bad guys (Giovanni Ribisi).
For the past few years Wahlberg has been cranking out the action films at a pace that truly amazes. He's been nominated twice for an Oscar ("The Fighter" in 2010 and "The Departed" in 2006) and recognized for "Three Kings" (1999), and "Four Brothers" (2005), although my favorite Wahlberg role (and guilty pleasure) "Shooter" (2007) has been ignored on the awards circuit.
If his awards were not sufficient praise, Wahlberg has delivered at the box office. Seven of his films have neared or topped the elusive $100 Million mark, and most of his films have been among the top 10.
And if awards and box office clout aren't enough, Wahlberg has a second career as a producer, a role he served on this film and on Oscar nominated "The Fighter" (2010) as well as several TV series ("Broadwalk Empire", "Entourage").
Unfortunately, Wahlberg is about the best thing in this film, apart from some good action scenes with lots of explosions and a coy performance from J. K. Simmons who apparently got time off from his role as the Police Chief in "The Closer".
Perhaps the problem is with the writers (Aaron Guzikowski, Arnaldur Indrioason, Oskar Jonasson) and director (Baltasar Kormakur), none of whom have much experience with American style action films. But they worked on an Icelandic thriller "Reykjavik-Rotterdam" (2008) and that film was the basis of this one. Or, more likely, the problem is that the villain, Giovanni Ribisi, simply carries no menace. Ribisi is a very talented actor ("Boiler Room", "Saving Private Ryan", "The Rum Diary"), but he's out of his depth in this genre.
Reviews were unanimously poor. Roger Ebert referred to the film as "crap" and said he was getting tired of violent retreads". Peter Travers (Rolling Stone) gave it 2 stars and complained that Wahlberg sleepwalks through the film. The NY Times called the story absurd and referred to the film as "thrill free".
Despite the poor reviews, "Contraband" earned more than $20 Million in its opening weekend and is on schedule to hit the $100 Million mark.
Bottom line - if you're a Mark Wahlberg fan you'll enjoy this one, but it is clearly one of his lesser accomplishments.