Blu-ray Review: Contraband

STUDIO: Universal | DIRECTOR: Baltasar Kormakur | CAST: Mark Wahlberg, Kate Beckinsale, Giovanni Ribisi, Ben Foster, Lukas Haas
BLU-RAY & DVD RELEASE DATE: 4/24/2012 | PRICE: Blu-ray/DVD Combo $34.98,DVD $29.98
BONUSES: commentary, featurettes, deleted scenes, more
SPECS: R | 109 min. | Crime thriller | 2.35:1 widescreen | DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1/Dolby Digital 5.1 | English, French and Spanish subtitles

RATINGS (out of 5 dishes): Movie | Audio | Video | Overall

The action-thriller film Contraband directed by Baltasar Kormákur is actually a remake of the 2008 Icelandic film Reykavik-Rotterdam, which Kormákur starred in. I haven’t seen Reykavik-Rotterdam so I can’t comment on the film, its story and Kormákur’s talents as an actor. As for Contraband, I can offer that the film is energetic, the story is silly and Kormákur should be more focused on delivering a product where the flash and fury has something real tucked in its sleeve so viewers looking for a dash of reality or logic don’t find themselves rolling their eyes by the end credits.


Mark Wahlberg (r.) squares off against Giovanni Ribisi in Contraband.

In Contraband, New Orleans security alarms expert Chris Farraday (Mark Wahlberg, The Fighter) is an ex-smuggler who’s forced to return to his former business. It seems his brother-in-law (Caleb Landry Jones, X-Men: First Class) owes a nasty gangster (Giovanni Ribisi, Columbus Circle) a lotta money and only Chris can raise the dough (via smuggling) to get him out of trouble. Leaving his wife (Kate Beckinsale, Underworld) and young child under the watchful eye of his buddy Sebastian (Ben Foster, The Messenger), Chris quickly gets a job aboard a cargo ship bound for Panama. Upon arrival, he gets involved in an armored car heist, a bunch of shoot-outs and chases, a stash of cocaine and lots of cash—all the better to return to New Orleans with. But Panama crime and scheming shipmates aside, Chris and company had better watch out for double-crosses, hell, even triple-crosses, coming from some not-so-obvious bad guys.

Yeah, Contraband‘s got a pretty silly and unrealistic premise, though Kormákur’s enthusiastic, fast-cutting direction and his team’s colorful production design pumps in enough energy, flavor and general action to keep genre fans amused. Still, the story and a number of its characters become so ridiculous by the final third that the energy, flavor and general action are really all that’s left to hold on to.

The film’s far-from-demanding performances are all adequate: Wahlberg can pull off a nice-working-class-guy-with-an-edgy-past role in his sleep, Beckinsale and Foster are good but deserve better, and Ribisi looks like he’s having the most fun sporting a funky beard, loads of tats and a thick-as-gumbo patois.

The audio and video quality of the Blu-ray are above average but far from exceptional. Visually, the action scenes set under the bright Panamanian sun are the most sparkly. As for the audio, it’s undistinguished, but the gunfire, car chases and bellowing are pretty damned loud.

The supplemental package is generous enough. The featurette “Under the Radar: The Making of Contraband” clocks in at nearly 20 minutes and covers all the important stuff—casting, the “art” of adapting an earlier film for a new production, action scenes and “characters.” Unless you love the movie, the featurette should suffice in terms of getting the behind-the-scenes story on the film—the commentary track with director/producer Kormákur and co-producer Evan Hayes covers a lot of the same material in a much longer-winded fashion.


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About Laurence

Founder and editor Laurence Lerman saw Alfred Hitchcock’s North by Northwest when he was 13 years old and that’s all it took. He has been writing about film and video for more than a quarter of a century for magazines, anthologies, websites and most recently, Video Business magazine, where he served as the Reviews Editor for 15 years.