Susan Granger’s review of “Contraband” (Universal Pictures)
This generic action adventure about high-seas smuggling is a remake of a 2008 Islandic thriller, “Reykajavik-Rotterdam,” which starred this film’s director, Baltasar Kormakur (“101 Reykjavik”).
When it begins, legendary New Orleans smuggler Chris Farraday (Mark Wahlberg) has abandoned an international life of crime to become a Louisiana home-security contractor, settling into middle-age, middle-class domesticity with his wife, Kate (Kate Beckinsale), and two young sons. But at a family wedding, Chris finds out that his punk brother-in-law, Andy (Caleb Landry Jones) botched a drug deal by dumping his cargo of cocaine in advance of a Customs raid, and now he is terrified of his ruthless, tattooed gangster boss, Tim Briggs (Giovanni Ribisi), because he owes him $700,000. Chris tries to intervene in his behalf but he’s rudely rebuffed. So cocky Chris decides to do one last job, running a pallet stacked with counterfeit bills from a distant barrio in Panama City to New Orleans to settle Andy’s debt. He dutifully assembles a crew, which includes his hot-head buddy, Sebastian Abney (Ben Foster), and their dimwitted pal Danny Raymer (Lukas Haas). But the contraband cargo arouses the suspicion of the container ship’s blustering Captain Camp (J.K. Simmons), who was none too fond of Chris’ father, and there’s mounting danger to Chris’ family from treacherous drug runners, lethal hit men and the police.
Adapted by Aaron Guzikowski, it’s such a contrived, predictable plot that its formulaic familiarity cannot be disguised by the jerky, hand-held camera work that is so often employed by cinematographer Barry Ackroyd, who won an Oscar for “The Hurt Locker,” nor Elisabet Ronalds’ deft editing. The most compelling scenes are nautical, involving freighter ships, dock workers and maritime law, particularly the claustrophobic interiors aboard the nearly 900 foot-long S.S. Bellatrix.
It’s interesting that the user-friendly online support includes Facebook’s Training Grounds (https://apps,facebook.com/traininggrounds) and Contraband Hustle Game (http://contrabandhustle.com), which should appeal to the target audience.
On the Granger Movie Gauge of 1 to 10, “Contraband” sinks to an undercurrent 5 and seems to be quickly headed for a perch on the derivative dvd shelf.