Saturday, 11 February 2012
FILM REVIEW: CONTRABAND
A remake of the 2008 European thriller, Reykjavik-Rotterdam, the latest Mark Wahlberg action vehicle, Contraband, would seem to have lost something in translation -- and gained some 25 minutes.
The original (which I've not seen) clocked in at just 88 minutes, and was Iceland's submission for the 2010 Foreign Language Oscar. But the remake, with no awards aspirations other than Razzie, runs 109 minutes and gains nothing in the process.
Oddly enough, the leading man from Reykjavik-Rotterdam, Baltasar Kormakur, is the director of Contraband; his ninth time in the director's chair and his first time shooting in English.
But I suspect the language barrier has less to do with the convoluted proceedings as they unfold in Contraband than do the holes in both plot and logic in the screenplay, adapted by Aaron Guzikowski.
Chris Farraday (Wahlberg) is a retired smuggler now home security installer who's made a legit life for himself in New Orleans, with a wife, Kate (Kate Beckinsale), and two young boys.
But when his brother-in-law, Andy (Caleb Landry Jones), botches his own smuggling operation and falls foul of Briggs (Giovanni Ribisi), a two-bit crim with a hot head and a penchant for violent intimidation, Farraday is forced out of retirement to protect his family.
Setting sail on a freighter, Farraday, Andy, and some of his former crew (including Lukas Haas) head to Panama City where they plan to take delivery of a large order of counterfeit money.
But once there, Farraday's plans are continually thrown into disarray: the money has been printed on the wrong paper and the only viable replacement belongs to another hot head crim, Gonzalo (Diego Luna), who's not about to hand it over unless Farraday helps him out with an armoured car hold-up.
And things just go from bad to worse for Farraday (and sillier and sillier for the audience), including an unplanned drug run by Andy at the behest of Briggs, and the threatened safety of Farraday's family. They've been left in the care of his best friend and best man, Sebastian (Ben Foster), who has had an ulterior motive all along for helping his buddy get to Panama.
Will Farraday make it out of Panama alive, and back to the freighter before it returns to New Orleans? Will they be able to hide their two illegal hauls from both the ship's captain (J.K. Simmons) and U.S. Customs? Will Farraday make it to his wife before she becomes a permanent piece of New Orleans architecture?
Who cares?! Any initial promise the film showed, with its impressive cast list (Ribisi and Foster are deserving and capable of so much more) and its New Orleans setting -- which gives the film a misleading sense of being grounded in a working class reality -- vanishes faster than a cocaine stash overboard during a Customs raid. And so, too, does any interest in these proceedings.