Contraband… what?

I heard you like duct tapes.

First of all, I haven’t even heard of this movie prior to my boyfriend’s dad asking us if we wanted to see it. I always like discovering movies anyway (much to my boyfriend’s discomfort) so I figured why not.

Contraband is my official introduction to Mark Wahlberg. The only other movie I heard him from is “The Other Guys”. So I looked up the movie in Rotten Tomatoes and IMDB to see what the movie is about. Ignoring the other reviews about this movie, I dove head first with my boyfriend’s family to see what this movie has to offer.

Marky Mark plays as Chris Farraday, an ex-smuggler now living a peaceful life with his wife Kate (Kate Beckinsale) and their two kids. You see, this movie should have been called “My Dimwit Brother-in-law’s Screw-up” because the whole movie was about Chris trying to fix the screw-up his brother-in-law Andy did.

What’s this screw-up that’s so important, you ask? Andy dumps his hefty smuggled package of drugs into the sea when Customs raids the ship he was on. He passes on the news to his boss’ minions and as a result he gets hurt quite badly. I mean after all, who wouldn’t get hurt after a GMC truck rams your car into a light post. But anyway, he calls his sister Kate after the incident. Chris, for some reason, suddenly decides he will clean up Andy’s mess and repay the drugs. And I do mean suddenly. He doesn’t even take one second to think about it. Nobody even asks him yet. He just impulsively decides that he wants to do it. Now I understand that he’s your family, but I think you decided a little too quick there. A few minutes ago, you were making out with your wife in front of someone’s table in a party while saying that you’re done smuggling, then now you suddenly want to smuggle again? You’re a little too eager there, mate.

So in the next few minutes, we watch him prepare for his “run”. He plans his routes, he drafts his action plans, and hits up his best friend Sebastian to have everything arranged for him. Meanwhile, Kate continues to weakly talk him out of it yet at the same time she is almost guilt-tripping him into doing the run anyway because Andy is her brother. Stop contradicting yourself!

In the midst of all the planning, Chris decided to pay a visit to Tim Briggs, the ‘big boss’ whose cocaine just got dumped into the sea by Andy. Chris informs him, uncivilly of course, that he is going to get his $700,000 back (that’s apparently how much the cocaine was worth) in a month. Briggs demands that the money be returned to him in two weeks or he will turn his attention on Kate and the kids. Whatever made Chris think that telling Briggs all these is a good idea shouldn’t have been conceived. Now his family is dragged into this mess. Good move. Chris practically dug his own grave.

Let me pause my retelling right here and voice out my complaints about this movie. Aside from the focus of this movie, I have a problem with the camera work. Most of the time it’s tolerable, but on certain talking scenes the camera zoom is amateur-ish. You know the kind of camera movements you see in a documentary/mockumentary? Obviously slow, shaky, and you can see them readjusting. That’s the kind of zooming Contraband has. It’s very distracting especially when you’re trying to immerse yourself in the scene. It’s fine with documentaries but not with a film like this. You would think they would have the budget to polish the camera work. As if that’s not enough, some of the running scenes can also make you feel sick as well. It’s almost as if they handed the camera to the actor and he started running as soon as he pressed the record button. It’s incredibly shaky. It actually made me nauseous for quite a good bit.

Well anyway, so Chris gets on a ship, arrives at Panama, and carries out his plan of transporting the counterfeit bills. Cool stuff. When his initial contact fails to give him the specific type of bills he needed, Chris decides to pay a visit to crime lord Gonzalo. But instead of using the actual cash to buy loads of counterfeit money, dimwit Andy runs away with the cash and uses it to buy cocaine after getting a voicemail from Briggs threatening to kill his little nephew. Of course, misery loves company so Chris is forced to strike a deal with Gonzalo to get the bills for free. The exchange? Chris has to go with Gonzalo’s group to intercept an armored van so they can rob it. Chris and another friend of his blocks the armored vehicle, and Gonzalo’s group quickly opens fire.

Pause again. Gonzalo and his men are wearing duct tape on their faces. Yes, duct tape. Apparently, their idea of hiding their identity in a robbery is putting duct tape over their forehead and nose. I know you’re trying to conceal your identity but duct tape doesn’t do the job. We can still recognize you, you know? You look ridiculous as well, by the way.

Meanwhile, back on dry land, Sebastian suddenly turns his back against Chris and asks Briggs to harass Kate again to pressure Chris not to throw into the ocean the drugs Andy bought. Sebastian also attempts to rape Kate and ends up killing her (she’s really alive, unbeknownst to the character, but whatever). Why is Sebastian doing this? I’d love to tell you if I knew. I really don’t know. He just suddenly has a change of heart. I’m sure it was probably explained somewhere in the movie (but I won’t be surprised if it wasn’t), but I certainly didn’t catch it. Stop leaving me in the dark, movie!

Another thing. Remember I said Kate dies, or at least Sebastian thinks so? Well, you see, Kate hides into this super narrow and super small bathroom while trying not to get raped. I do emphasize the fact that this bathroom is indeed narrow and small considering how she’s about as wide as the distance between the bathroom door and the sink. Sebastian jerks the door open after several tries which causes Kate to hurl herself to the edge of the sink. Seriously, she throws herself on there. That bathroom is so small that if you do get hit by the door after a sudden jerk, the worse that could happen is you partially losing your balance. You have to try to get the back of your head hit the edge of the sink.

Since Sebastian now thinks that Kate is dead, he wraps up her body and prepares to dump it. We get a shot of Kate’s hand twitching, signalling that she is alive. Cool, she’s alive. Maybe she can devise an escape plan or kick him on the face before running away. Nope. Apparently she decides to take a beauty rest inside that plastic bag. She even refuses to wake up after cement is being dumped on her. Again, you have to try to not wake up with all those stuff going on around you. Why do you even bother twitching your hand if you’re not gonna do something? I know you just had a concussion on your head but last time I saw someone sustain a concussion in real life, it only took 5 minutes for her to regain consciousness. You’re not Princess Aurora, Kate. Wake up.

I’m not gonna bother recounting the last few scenes of the movie. Long story short, Chris kinda succeeds on his “run” and manages to get rid of whatever he needs to get rid of. Cool stuff.

Overall, this movie isn’t even good enough to be a popcorn flick. The plot, even though it’s straightforward, is not explained very well. There are so much holes I feel like it’s rushed, as if they didn’t have enough time to cover their bases. The camerawork can make you sick. Some events are too far-fetched to happen. Mark’s tone is almost monotone. The suspense is lacking. For an action movie, I didn’t feel the same rush as I did watching Mission Impossible or some other action movies. For goodness sakes, let the audience feel the time constraints Chris is supposed to be facing! A simple text letting us know of how much time he has left will suffice. But I guess that’s asking too much.

At least I didn’t hate this movie as much as I hated Hanna. *shudder*

Rating: 2 out of 5.

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4 thoughts on “Contraband… what?

    • Hi there!

      Thanks for the suggestion. I’m quite interested actually in the other movies he starred in, just so I can get an idea as to the kind of actor he is. I’ll start with “The Happening”. 🙂

      Cheers!

  1. There’s not a lot to think about while watching it and we’ve seen some of this plot before in other films, but for a movie opening in January, it’s actually pretty damn good thanks to a couple of cool heists and a relatively good cast. Nice review.

    • Hi there,

      Now that I think about it, perhaps I really should have just taken this movie at face value and enjoyed it for what it is. It’s just that sometimes I can’t help but be too overly critical.

      Good point, though. I’ll definitely keep working on taking in movies that way.

      Thanks for reading!

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