CONTRABAND (Baltasar Kormakur, 2011)
CONTRABAND works best when you think of the technical aspects: the icebreaker aerial shots, the restless camera when the characters are having a conversation, and the relaxed pacing. For a film about a smuggling, and eventual heist, CONTRABAND is pretty quiet. Thank God Baltasar Kormakur is no Michael Bay.
One can't help but liken CONTRABAND to "GONE IN SIXTY SECONDS", a film produced by Jerry Bruckheimer starring Nicolas Cage. CONTRABAND shares similar plot jumpoff and resolution with GONE, and they both feature Giovanni Ribisi in opposing roles (Ribisi is the victim that sets things in motion in the latter film). Mark Wahlberg is the Nicolas Cage character who is a retired career criminal forced back in the game due to family involvement in crime. Yes, the story isn't exactly original.
CONTRABAND also has that ITALIAN JOB feel (a movie which also stars Mark Wahlberg). Most of the suspense are layered during the planning stage, and while CONTRABAND piles up twist after another towards the climax, there is not enough poetic justice. Mark Wahlberg's character is just too self-righteous to do anything worthy of cinematic merit to the bad guys. There was a time when antiheroes used to be so badass any scum of the Earth will cower in fear, like when Clint Eastwood was still wielding his Magnum, or when Steven Seagal used to make movies that did not induce vomiting.
In fairness, some twists were enjoyable. Inconceivable, but enjoyable. CONTRABAND's pitfall is that it tries to speed everything up towards the second half, where time orientation and logic cease to exist. At lest Diego Luna is fun to watch as a Panamanian counterfeiter. The masking tape is a pretty classy and edgy touch.
I wanted to like CONTRABAND. It is a good enough escapist flick, but it could have been more. Kate Beckinsale plays the wife in this movie who is put there as the damsel in distress, designed to make the hero angrier, hence speed up the plot.