I’m a Kate Beckinsale fan. It’s been slim pickings over the past three years, though. It seems like she has just disappeared over the past couple of years without any film releases in the theatre. 2012 will change that with no fewer than four films in which she takes part in being released. Fans of Kate’s can look out for Underworld: Awakening, a remake of Total Recall, Happy Holidays, Katherine Sloane, and Contraband. The last one is the first to hit the theatres just before the latest Underworld installment.
Contraband has Kate playing Mark Wahlberg’s beautician wife in this organized crime/action film. It is a story of a man who has gotten out of the smuggling business in order to keep his family safe and ironically is pulled back in by that very family. He is in a damned if you do and damned if you don’t position.
Chris Farraday (Mark Wahlberg – The Fighter, The Departed) has straightened up and now flies right. He is now a family man with a wife (Kate Beckinsale – Underworld, Click) and two young sons he loves very much. A legit businessman, ironically he owns a home security system company. Then just like that from one day to the next his idyllic existence has gone topsy-turvy.
Andy (Caleb Landry Jones – No Country for Old Men, X-Men: First Class) is exactly the type of guy that Chris has tried to distance himself from. He is Chris’s brother-in-law and has gotten himself into a heap of trouble. He has messed up a drug deal and his boss, Tim Briggs (Giovanni Ribisi – Saving Private Ryan, Gone in 60 Seconds) is a man of little sympathy and patience. Tim blackmails Chris into getting back into the running contraband business to save Andy’s life.
A top notch smuggler back in the day, Chris has very little time to pull off what is being asked of him. What he has to do is travel to Panama and return with millions in counterfeit money. With no other choice, Chris and his old pal Sebastian (Ben Foster – The Mechanic, 30 Days of Night) assemble a team and set about completing the time sensitive task in order to go back to his legit life.
Like many action films, Contraband expects you to accept many irregularities. With this film you cannot get bogged down in the details or you will drown. You just have to look at the big picture. A lot of it does not make sense. It is a caper film so accept that there will be holes. If you think about it films like this don’t really have to make sense; they just have to entertain. This one does at times though it is kind of herky jerky like the hand held camera in some of the beginning scenes.
Baltasar Kormakur’s (A Little Trip to Heaven) film is violent (Kate Beckinsale really takes a beating) and at times darkly humourous. He has a good supporting cast assembled and underuses them. Diego Luna (The Terminal, Milk), J.K. Simmons (Juno, Spider-Man), David O’Hara (Wanted, Braveheart), and Lukas Haas (Witness, Inception) are all good, but don’t have much to do. The worst is Beckinsale. She has a totally thankless and honestly quite useless role.
A standout is Giovanni Ribisi who really manages to convey the violent nature and sliminess of his character. Ribisi has gotten quite good at playing psychopaths. Tim is like a cartoon character, but due to Ribisi you are interested in watching him.
Films like The Yards and We Own the Night did this sort of thing better. Ironically, both of those films starred Wahlberg. But that doesn’t me that Contraband is a total write off. Under the right circumstances and in the right frame of mind the film can be enjoyable.