PLOT (spoiler alert!!!):
Chris Farraday (Mark Wahlberg) is an ex-smuggler who works installing security alarms and lives a peaceful life with his wife, Kate (Kate Beckinsale), and their two sons in New Orleans. One day, Chris and Kate learn that her brother Andy (Caleb Landry Jones) was smuggling drugs in a cargo ship, but was forced to drop them into the Mississippi River in order to avoid arrest during a surprise inspection by U.S. Customs. Andy’s boss, ruthless mobster Tim Briggs (Giovanni Ribisi), is infuriated and demands repayment.
Chris meets with Briggs, who threatens to kill Chris’ family if Andy doesn’t pay $700,000 in two weeks. Chris realizes that the only way to raise the money is to run contraband and joins the crew of a cargo ship where his father Bud (William Lucking), currently in prison, used to run contraband, in order to buy $10,000,000 in fake bills in Panama and smuggle them into the U.S. with the help of Andy and Chris’ old friend Danny Raymer (Lukas Haas). While Chris is gone, Briggs and a couple of his thugs break into Chris’s house and scare his wife and kids. Chris asks his best friend, Sebastian Abney (Ben Foster), to take care of his family. He suggests that Kate and the children move to his apartment, and she accepts.
In Panama, the Chief Engineer gives Chris extra time by sabotaging the ship’s pitch propeller, drawing suspicion from Captain Camp (J K Simmons). However, Chris discovers that the bills are useless and refuses to accept them. The only one who can provide them good ones is crime lord Gonzalo (Diego Luna). Briggs calls Andy and threatens to kill one of his nephews if Andy doesn’t use the buy money intended for the fake bills to acquire a stash of cocaine. Andy runs off, leading an infuriated Gonzalo to force Chris and Danny to participate in an armored car heist. They are successful, but Gonzalo and his men are killed in a firefight with the police.
Chris and Danny make it back to Gonzalo’s warehouse, where they then escape in a van loaded with the fake money and a painting stolen from the armored car. Meanwhile, Sebastian begins working with Briggs against Chris after Scottish gangster Jim Church (David O’Hara) threatens to kill Sebastian if he doesn’t repay the money he borrowed to save his fledgling construction business. When Sebastian calls Chris, Chris tells him that he might drop the drugs in the ocean. Sebastian tells Briggs to scare Kate in order to make sure that Chris doesn’t dump the drugs. That night, Briggs rams Kate’s workplace with his truck and assaults her, warning her to tell Chris to not dump the “package”. Sebastian pretends to rescue her, scaring off Briggs. He tells Kate to get in his truck, but she smells alcohol on him, takes her kids and drives to a friend’s house.
At the Panama City freight yard, the ship’s cook has a container standing by for the contraband-loaded van. He bribes a freight-yard supervisor to delay the loading of three containers to give Chris time to make it to the ship. Chris assaults Andy for stealing the money and buying cocaine. Andy reveals what Briggs told him before. Kate calls Chris and tells him what Briggs did to her and what he said. Chris is surprised that Briggs knew the idea of Chris dumping the drugs. He first suspects Andy, but after Andy persistently tells Chris he didn’t say anything, Chris figures out it was Sebastian, who he calls and threatens to kill.
Sebastian’s constant watch over Kate becomes tiresome to her. She goes back to Sebastian’s apartment to retrieve some personal items. Sebastian, under the influence, tries to force himself on her. Kate resists him, runs to the bathroom, locks the door and tries to call Chris. Sebastian insults Kate and tells her not to call Chris, telling her he needs to complete his mission and Kate calling him would ruin everything. Kate calls him anyway, and Sebastian breaks the door open, sending Kate flying and bashing her head against the tub. Sebastian thinks she is dead and panics, wraps her in plastic, and throws Kate’s unconscious body in a hole.
Sebastian then contacts Camp and admits that Chris is smuggling on his ship, promising him a share if he makes sure Chris doesn’t throw it overboard. Chris does not give up the contraband, so the captain calls U.S. Customs. However, when the Customs Agents meet the ship in port, they cannot find the drugs.
After Andy leaves the ship, Briggs and his thugs chase and corner him. After Customs has excused Chris, he meets Briggs in a desolate area of the cargo yard where he threatens to kill Andy. Chris breaks Briggs’s car window, throws him out, and beats him for everything he did to his family. He tells Andy to run and takes Briggs to Camp’s house, having made a duplicate key while on the ship, and knowingly activates the security system. Chris opens Camp’s personal carpet cleaner and retrieves the cocaine from the water tank. Briggs compliments Chris on his smuggling skills, and sits in Camp’s living room tasting the cocaine. Chris asks permission to go to the bathroom, and sneaks out in the Camp’s car. Camp awakens to the noise, and comes into the living room as the police arrive. Chris is long gone and both Briggs and Camp are arrested.
Chris goes to Sebastian’s construction site and brutally beats him, demanding Kate’s location. When Sebastian tells Chris that she’s dead, he tries calling her cellphone and hears the ringtone in a building foundation where cement is being poured and rescues her. Sebastian is arrested and meets Bud in prison, where Bud gives a group of inmates an approving nod as they surround Sebastian.
Danny retrieves the fake bills, which Chris had previously dumped into the Mississippi River. Andy buys the escape van at a police auction.
Chris meets with Church, who pays him $3 million for the fake currency. In a friendly conversation, Church asks Chris if he knows anything about a Jackson Pollock (Autumn Rhythm) painting that was stolen in Panama, telling him that it’s worth over $140 million, or $20 million on the black market. As they leave the meeting with Church, they find painting still in the van, having gone unnoticed. The film ends with Chris and his family in a waterfront house and happy.
Where should I begin with a movie like Contraband? Well, the trailers would have us believe that this was some kind of die hard action flick, but when you watch the flick you learn that is more of a crime thriller with some action thrown in there to keep it from being a drama. The quandary about this is whether or not it should have in fact been an action flick as opposed to what can best be described as Gone in 60 Seconds without the cars.
What did I like?
It works. I read a review about this earlier this week that said Mark Wahlberg, Ben Foster, and Giovanni Ribisi all have become the kind of actors that play the same role in just about every film they’re in. Now that I think about, that is true, but if it ain’t broke, why fix it? It isn’t like they stink up the place, as a matter of fact Ribisi is the only one who seems to have any life in this cast!
Calculated. The way in which they pull off this caper is quite impressive. The attention to detail really caught my attention. Usually in film where there are smugglers they don’t cover all the bases. These guys even went so far as to using salt to keep the money in a safe spot when they threw it overboard so as to keep from getting caught by the authorities.
Family. Unlike other films like this, they decide to keep an eye on the family, even going so far as to make them part of the plot, as opposed to seeing them wave goodbye and never seeing them again. For me, this was kind of an important thing, especially since it involved Kate Beckinsale!
What didn’t I like?
Ship. For some reason, I think this would have been better, or should I say more effective, if they had done this in the air rather than sea. I’m not saying the use of the boats was pointless, but given how paranoid everyone is about what kind of cargo goes in the air and whatnot, perhaps using that would have added to the intrigue.
No chemistry. I love Kate Beckinsale. What straight man doesn’t, right? My jealousy for him being married to her aside, I just didn’t buy that Mark Wahlberg was married to her. It seemed like some odd pairing that was done at the last minutes. Sort of like the understudy having to fill in because the lead got sick at the last-minute. Everything is there, except the time put in to feel each other. That’s what this was like.
Trouble. The whole reason behind this little caper, Wahlberg’s brother-in-law, doesn’t seem to be very helpful during this whole thing. He even runs off without telling anyone and when he comes back is lucky Wahlberg doesn’t kill him! I don’t know, I guess I’m just from a different generation where if someone offers to help you out, you do what you can to offer some assistance.
Contraband was an ok flick. I didn’t love it, but I didn’t hate it. For everything good, there was something that I wasn’t too crazy about. Do I recommend it, though? Yes, there is no reason that you shouldn’t see this film. Bear in mind, though, that not everyone is going to like it. Some of you will be bored with it and some may even get pissed with how things unfold.
3 out of 5 stars