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Contraband

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    Nolando
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  • Contraband



    Released by Universal
    Released on: April 24, 2012.
    Director: Baltasar Kormakur
    Cast: Mark Wahlberg, Ben Foster, Kate Beckinsale, Giovanni Ribisi
    Year: 2012
    Purchase From Amazon


    Essentially a remake of 2008's Reykjavik-Rotterdam but moving the action Stateside the latest Mark Wahlberg vehicle Contraband is a fairly straightforward story of smugglers and betrayal.

    The lead actor from the original film, Baltasar Kormakur, takes over directing duties in this version which hops between New Orleans and Panama. Wahlberg is Bryce, a former smuggler who's gone legit, installing home security systems and with his long-time buddy Sebastian (Ben Foster - was he still hanging around NOLA after the 2011 remake of The Mechanic? I think he even dresses the same here) seems to be safe from his old life of crime. That is, until his wife Kate's (Kate Beckinsale who's weird to see in normal, non-Underworld blue light) screw-up of a brother, Andy (Caleb Landry Jones), screws up a smuggling operation for bad thug Briggs (Giovanni Ribisi). Having had to dump their shipment when boarded by US Customs, Briggs gives Andy a 2-week timeframe to restore the lost value. So, naturally, protective father-figure-to-all Bryce gets pulled back into his former life.

    Sebastian suggests Bryce smuggle drugs to replace the value of the drugs lost by Andy. But Bryce is firm in his losers-smuggle-drugs policy and sticks instead to counterfeit currency. He quickly assembles his old crew back together (including Lukas Haas - it's nice to see him get work, isn't it?), hatches a plan and gets them all on a cargo ship headed to Panama. He has to work under the very suspicious captain (J.K. Simmons, giving more to his small role than it deserves, yet again) to smuggle aboard a very large amount of the counterfeit bills for this all to work.

    Naturally, once Bryce gets to Panama, things start to turn sour. He only has a couple hours - while the cargo ship is being unloaded/reloaded - to pick up his contraband and escape. His original source gives him an inferior product which sends Bryce off to his other, less-trustworthy, gun-crazy source. And, naturally, Briggs is still threatening Andy with harm his sister Kate and her kids so Andy runs off with the payoff for the currency, forcing Bryce and Lukas Haas to assist with a dangerous armored car robbery. And, again, things go from bad to worse as they find themselves embroiled in a gunfight that eventually leaves all the criminals dead but, conveniently, gives them a chance to escape with the goods.

    As the story unfolds and Bryce races home, fighting against the captain and Customs' agents, he soon becomes aware that the drugs Andy went off to buy in Panama are really what Briggs and his cohorts are after. And, he soon discovers, others close to him might be involved against him as well. The rest of the film relies on Bryce's quick wits and ability to plan ahead, unlike everyone else around him. The fact that the film invests so much goodwill in his ability to smuggle counterfeit bills into the US amply demonstrates its broken moral compass that never quite resolves except to say that Bryce at least is a family man and not as evil as Briggs or others.

    Video/Audio/Extras:

    Universal's BD comes in full 1080p, AVC encoded 2:35:1 widescreen and takes full advantage of it. Contraband is shot such that it looks like 99% of the films out today, where the colors all seem super-saturated and extra-potent. But, oddly enough, some of the night scenes are almost too dark which seem to exploit more some failing on the part of the filmmakers rather than anything in the image processing. Weird. Anyway, the soundtrack more than makes up for this, the main track coming as DTS-HD 5.1 and it rumbles quite well for this actioner. The disc also features DVS 2.0 for Spanish and DTS Surround 5.1 for French. Subtitles are clearly displayed for English, Spanish and French as well.

    The features include 12(!) deleted scenes that total out to just over 6 minutes in duration. Obviously, some of these are incredibly short and most of them are pretty pointless. There are also two featurettes, the first being Under the Radar: The Making of Contraband. This runs about :16 minutes and covers a bit on the story itself, interviews the principal actors, talks up the locations used, and has a little longer interview time with the director. The tone is one of everyone involved really stressing the “realism” on display here, seeming to forget that this is still a movie...

    The second featurette, Reality Factor: The Stunts and Action of Contraband, runs about :8 minutes and talks up the action of the film. Again, everyone here is very concerned about the “incredible level of reality” they're demonstrating here, seeming to forget that other action movies are currently being made that are just about as real as this one...

    Finally, there's the commentary audio track accompanying the film from producer Evan Hayes and director Kormakur. Their overall tone is overly-explanatory, with the director frequently stating why a particular camera angle was used. That's fine and all but with a story that's pretty two-dimensional it's tough to buy his sell of there being anything more going on that what's actually in front of the camera at any given time. It's entertainment, not art, but Kormakur doesn't seem to agree, and earnestly tries to sell everything as having more inspiration and meaning for this “very real” film. Whatevs.

    Summary:

    Contraband is a serviceable action film with some fantastic actors working in the type of story you've seen before. But the action keeps it all moving along at a decent pace and the varied locales give you something a little more to enjoy as well. Not a great film but not a bad one, it's a pretty solid Mark Wahlberg vehicle and watchable enough.

    Click on the images below for full sized Blu-ray screen caps!



















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