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Published on March 23rd, 2012 | by willok

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Movie Review: Contraband

Mark Wahlberg, akin to a Ken Doll, comes in two versions; the believable, serious, characterful, film and TV producer giving time to screen roles we know of Fighter and The Departed and also the swaggering, millennial era B-movie star who makes movie choices that are questionable, but fun to rip apart in a cinema post-mortem. In Contrband he travels firmly in the latter territory and hence in this review, he shall be Marky Mark. There isn’t too much of a plot to spoil in this type of fare; we’ve all been here before – a reformed family man slips back into the murky world of his criminal past to help out a relative, he brings together a motley crew of criminals and has to race against time to save his family. As such, things are on extremely shaky ground. Everybody is working very hard to convince us there is some seriousness ahead, there are short scenes of exposition and blatant spoon feeding of detail. This is the Jessica Fletcher school of plot construction – any thread of conversation, any allusion to the past, any seemingly pointless focus on something incidental will come into play later and someone somewhere will believe they are making art. They are not.

So the kid-friendly jigsaw pieces in place, the film gets moving and goes all-out in violent shoot-outs, tense slums of armed men, unnerving crime lords and occasional flits back to the unsuspecting family waiting back in New Orleans to be threatened by Giovanni Ribsi and his confused accent. Every opportunity is taken to up the thriller stakes, cat-and-mouse chases, armed stand-offs angry dogs. One part of the plan spirals into three other mini-movies in an attempt to fill the running time, with the ludicrousness quota out of all control. The scenario here may be that Marky Marks character is an able smuggler, engineer and logical thinker but there is no feasible way in which this sequence of events could be sustained and all the while we know that the stakes are never truly that great.  We have to watch while Mark is trapped in an overturned car being sprayed with bullets from above by armed police and know that he will come to no danger. The jaded movie watcher knows he must get home to punch the guy who has threatened his cute kids and Kate Beckinsale, wasted on whimpering-wife duty. Now before we relegate the movie to the bargain basement with Max Payne et al. it is important to acknowledge that the movie gathers tremendous, distracting pace in its third act and there is some drama to behold, not real questions as to eventual outcome but certainly excitement in watching Marky Mark ties things up in a ridiculously neat bow and deliver his own form of justice. Somehow events are salvaged, though not in any form that will make you take this movie any more seriously. 

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