In 2000, Giovanni Ribisi co-starred in the big budget remake of Gone in 60 Seconds. In the film, he botched a job stealing cars, so the psychopath who hired him forces Ribisi’s brother (a retired car thief) to run a job or else they all die. Contraband is pretty much the same premise, minus the cars, with added convoluted twists, and Ribisi in the mad man role. It should replace the Energizer Bunny in the immediate future, as Contraband felt like it just kept, going, and going, and going.
When his younger brother-in-law dumps his run of drugs into the ocean due to customs officers board the ship he is on, Chris Farraday puts his legit security business on hold for one last smuggling job to save everyone’s life. Refusing to transport drugs, Chris decides to move a hearty pile of counterfeit bills to pay off the debt owed. The powers that be have something else in mind though, and cause Chris and his crew to tackle their way out of some sticky situations.
You can count on every action film/crime thriller having some unbelievable holes in the story. At times they can be forgivable, but Contraband takes the premise to a whole new level. Cutting large holes in heavily manned tankers without being noticed, especially when the captain and his security crew know you are a smuggler? Moving a tremendous stack of seemingly real currency from the highest point of the ship to the lowest, where it is slowly placed into the large hole without anyone noticing? Having an hour to make it from the boat, to where the money is, back to the boat, then being delayed by having to make another stop to get the money and then getting mixed up in a sub plot to rob and armored car and make it back in time? It doesn’t matter your friends bought you more time by messing with the boat, it couldn’t happen.
There’s much more in there that doesn’t make any sense, but at one point, I became enraged. Eventually, it’s brought up that most smugglers just pay a fee to the boat’s captain who will let them smuggle their wears without kicking up a fuss. At the same time, Chris said early on, “You have to spend money, to make money,” referring to buying the fake bills to sell them off again. If this is the case, just spend the money to pay the captain off as well and make life easy on yourself? Chris has the stigma of being the best smuggler in the world, who came up with elaborate schemes to pull off some of the greatest jobs of all time. Why go through all the trouble? Pay the fee and relax.
The viewing experience is not made any easier with the tendency to use tons of rack and pull zoom shots when there is no action to make up for five minutes of no chases or gunfire. It’s a jarring, unpleasant, and makes a big budget movie look like it was shot by a drunk teenager.
Featuring a fully stacked cast doing their best to make the film worth while, nothing seems like it can save this film. Mark Wahlberg is in his flared nostril, wide eyed face mode and Diego Luna’s beard looks like it came out of a cereal box. Based on the previews, I was ready to stab Giovanni Ribisi in the face. I always seem to be turned off by whatever weird voice he is putting on, but it worked here. He never crossed that line of taking himself too overboard and it’s appreciated.
Contraband is not a long film at 109 minutes, but it felt like I was sitting there for an eternity. When the opening of the film seemed to be moving quickly, I should have taken that as a sign. As more and more sub-moronic curve-balls were introduced the madness felt like it would never end. Worst of all, it’s obvious how it will all end. You know before you walk in what the ending will be, but the fact the movie does nothing to hide it’s poorly outlined plot, doesn’t help. By the middle of the movie, you will be asking for a cyanide capsule.
Rating: 1 and a half out of 5 ‘Staches