Directed by: Baltasar Kormakur
Written by:Aaron Guzikowski
Starring: Mark Wahlberg, Kate Beckinsale, Ben Foster, Giovanni Ribisi, Lukas Haas, Caleb Landry Jones
Released: February 23, 2012
Grade: C+

I’m a fan of Mark Wahlberg and I think he’s put together a solid resume (mixing many genres) but I’m the first to admit that Contraband is a pretty average action flick.  It meanders along with poor developed characters and culminates with a weak finale that tries too hard to please.  Let’s just say it was rare error on Wahlberg’s part and move on.

Perhaps I better say a little more.  I don’t want people thinking I’m a tired, forlorn critic who can’t string together a review containing more than 100 words.  We’ve reached 100 words right?   No, it seems not.  Hang on, now we have.  Excellent.  This review is coming along nicely.  Who said anything about writer’s block?

Wahlberg plays a home-security technician named Chris who is now happily married with two kids.  I found Kate Beckinsale an odd choice to play his wife.  It’s not that I don’t think they’re compatible.  It’ just her role is so tiny.  Why cast a bigger-name actress and not make full use of her?  Was she there simply to an extra name on the poster?

Getting back to the story… it turns out that Chris has a criminal past that he thought was behind him.  It turns out not to be the case.  His wife’s younger brother, Andy (Jones), has gotten himself involved with a nasty group of people who are importing drugs from Panama.  Andy was bringing in a large shipment from Panama via boat but had to dump them into the ocean when customs officers sensed something amiss.

Suffice to say his employer (Ribisi) isn’t happy.  He’s threatened to kill Andy unless he can come up with $700,000 as compensation for the lost shipment.  This is where Chris has to step in.  He rounds up a few old friends and together, they head to Panama and try to smuggle in a large sum of fake bank notes.  It’s only way he save his brother-in-law and protect his family.

There are a few moderately surprising twists in this tale but on the whole, it doesn’t add up to much.  The action scenes are ho-hum and the storyline could have used more oomph.  I haven’t seen the 2008 Icelandic film on which this is based but I’d like to hope it has more to offer.  I might try to track down a copy.

Posting a solid $65m box-office take when released in the United States last month, I’m sure quite a few Aussies will be keen to check this film out.  I’d be wary though.  Don’t set your expectations too high.