That may sound like faint praise but in today’s world of lazy cookie cutter films, CONTRABAND actually is something of a surprise, providing exactly what you expect without exceeding or failing your expectations. It’s the same story as so many heist movies before it (including GONE IN 60 SECONDS, which shares Giovanni Ribisi). But while the plot points are by-the-numbers and the screenplay riddled with clichés, it’s a formula that makes for decent popcorn fare for a January audience.
Probably the only interesting or unique thing about the film is that it was directed by Baltasar Kormákur, who starred in the original Icelandic movie REYKJAVÍK-ROTTERDAM as Wahlberg’s character. (Yes, this is a remake.) That probably explains why his Chris Farraday is the strongest and most dynamic portion of the movie, the only thing it actually seems to care about. Though Wahlberg is essentially playing the same guy he did in THE ITALIAN JOB, SHOOTER, etc., he still has enough to work with. The supporting cast is actually pretty impressive with Kate Beckinsale, Ben Foster, Lucas Haas, Diego Luna and the great J.K. Simmons, but nobody is anywhere near as fleshed out as the main character.
CONTRABAND naturally takes you through the world of underground smuggling, following Wahlberg as he picks up the goods, ships it and gets it across the border. Obstacles are obviously thrown his way, which makes for some effectively tense spots—especially when they go to Panama City to actually get the merchandise – but after that the movie just kind of putters along, never reaching the same heights as in the second act. That’s mainly due to the villains being much weaker than Wahlberg, which is the film’s big issue.
While it’s fun to watch Mark Wahlberg bash heads and outsmart the bad guys, it sucks that he’s never really challenged that much. Giovanni Ribisi is perhaps the least threatening bad guy ever. His gravelly accent and squirrely demeanor almost make him a joke. The final act really could’ve used a bigger showdown and a stronger villain, or at least one who couldn’t easily have his ass handed to him by Kate Beckinsale.
U-Control: This picture in picture option pulls up interviews, behind the scenes footage and more while you watch the movie, though it’s not constant enough to really warrant your time.
Under the Radar (17:02): This making of feature covers quite a bit of ground: the transition of the star of the original movie to director of this American remake, as well as how Wahlberg came on as producer and star, and more. You also get to see Kate Beckinsale covered in concrete.
Reality and Factor (7:56): This look at the action and stunts shows how they did everything real and practical as possible. It mostly focuses on the big action scene in Panama, as well as some of the fights. Walhberg clearly knows what he’s doing in this department.
Deleted Scenes: These twelve brief scenes is mostly comprised of more footage on the ship, with nothing that’s too sorely missed.
The set also comes with a DVD and digital Ultraviolet copy of the film.
Extra Tidbit: In addition to actor-director Baltasar Kormákur, CONTRABAND also shares the same editor as the original Icelandic film.