“Just when I thought I was out, they pull me back in.” That famous quote from the third Godfather movie fits the situation faced by Mark Wahlberg’s character in Contraband. Wahlberg plays a man drawn back into the international smuggling racket in order to save his family. But don’t expect Godfather-like quality from this action thriller. Although Wahlberg and Ben Foster deliver strong performances here, the film ends up with too many plot holes and mixed messages.
Chris Farraday (Wahlberg) has been trying very hard to be a law abiding citizen after years of involvement with smuggling activities centered in New Orleans. His wife (a practically unrecognizable Kate Beckinsale) and two young children are now the center of his world, so he wants to stay out of trouble. But Andy (Caleb Landry Jones), his brother-in-law, has angered some important people in the smuggling racket and needs help to get off the hook. If things aren’t cleared up for Andy, his life could be in danger. Chris’ wife and kids might also be targets. After Chris agrees to help Andy, he asks his best friend Sebastian (Foster) to take care of his family while he handles a new smuggling assignment.
Contraband shows how Chris and his pals turn this challenge into something more than expected. Yes, there are action sequences, bursts of brutality, and some suspense included -- mostly dealing with betrayal -- but the complicated shenanigans and farfetched nature of Chris’ plans become hard to swallow. Also, the ending fails to square with the film’s motif and comes across with a tacked-on sort of feeling.
Fine actor Giovinni Ribisi (Gone in 60 Seconds) seems miscast in Contraband. Playing one of the bad guys, he talks with a mumbling speech that’s very hard to understand -- which is a surprise to me because I’ve never had that problem with him before. And speaking of surprises, Diego Luna (Dirty Dancing: Havana Nights) oozes evil as Gonzalo, a bizarre criminal best to avoid at all costs.
Wahlberg (The Fighter) and Foster (The Mechanic), two of my favorite actors, display their ability to change from apparently concerned, decent guys into men of violence in the blink of an eye. They are extremely watchable, but both definitely deserve better films than Contraband.
(Released by Universal Pictures and rated “R” for violence, pervasive language and brief drug use.)
For more information about Contraband, go to the Internet Movie Data Base or Rotten Tomatoes website.