HST… Film Review: Contraband

Contraband headerZac:  So Lauren, you and I both saw Contraband this week, the new film staring Mark Wahlberg, Kate Beckinsale, Ben Foster and Giovanni Ribisi about a bunch of smugglers trying to iron out a family debt; what did you think?

Lauren: I think that I am rather impressed with how easily you were able to narrow down that plot.  Smuggling is the main focus, but it is hardly alone as Contraband throws in everything possible to make this an exciting experience.  After a while it was just like, “oh come on!”  How am I truly supposed to believe this story anymore?  And not in an exciting, Mission: Impossible sort of way.  Too much of a good thing can become a great thing, but here we were just being buried in more plot points to stand in the way of our main characters from having an easy time with things.

Zac: Beyond the attempt to bury us alive in supposed plot twists, I found the film was both predictable and rather dull.  The film has no sense of pacing or forward momentum and it would have almost been more entertaining to watch a ship go through the locks of a canal; wait, the film does that for us.  The underwhelming plot twists and what have you might have been more bareable had the film had any cool set pieces to support them, but the film instead relies on tense moments surrounding our “hero” who we know has no chance of being caught or killed.

Lauren:  Agreed, predictable is the perfect word for this one even though they tried to keep us guessing.  At least I think they did.  It’s just not hard to guess what will happen next when nothing new is attempted.

What it comes down to is lazy screenwriting, on both the part of the plot and dialog.  Other than the constant jabbing at an over-appreciated painter, I was completely annoyed by how these characters talked.  Yes, they are criminals, so am I supposed to be intimidated by someone who drops f-bombs left and right?  They were worse than stuttering rappers with no understanding of a ranging vocabulary, so it was a little hard for me to believe that Wahlberg was smart enough to pull this stuff off on more than a luck based level.  Give me V over this (who gets bonus points for his alliteration skills in V for Vendetta).

Zac: Part of me was wondering if Ribisi, who turns on a weird accent for the film, was kind of good or kind of terrible here, and I am still not sure which one is the case.  The acting as a whole could have been far worse, but I have seen everyone involved do far better work in other films.  Wahlberg is in cruise control, Foster has nothing to do, and the same goes for Beckinsale.  Talk about undeveloped characters, damsel in distress is all she is asked to do besides sleep for the film’s third act.

The direction is also quite mediocre and brings nothing to the table.  Baltasar Kormákur is directing his first English language, hollywood film here and he doesn’t really impress.  He has no sense of his action set pieces and his camera is constantly hiding behind something.  I will say this though, the sequence in the lifted shipping container was something I hadn’t really seen before, but I feel like someone else could have done it better.

Lauren: Yeah, like the director of The A-Team.  Like you, I felt bad for Beckinsale in this role knowing what she is capable of (which she will hopefully exploit in Underworld: Awakening). Even as the lead, Wahlberg could have phoned this one in from home as far as I am concerned, though then we wouldn’t have seen him showing Ribisi just how little he was willing to take from him. During these moments Wahlberg was his usual BA self, though it isn’t hard to look too tough against Ribisi, who was suffering from what I will now diagnose as Norton Stone Syndrome (because of the “criminal” accent Edward Norton put on in Stone).  Or maybe he was confusing his accent mixing?  This is Louisiana after all, as I gathered from J.K. Simmons’ dialect.

All I know is no one was given anything to work with character wise, making me wonder what they saw in this script in the first place.  If they wanted their own Ocean’s Eleven (my knowledge of this genre is slightly limited), this wasn’t it.

Zac:  No, the Ocean’s series it is not, but I don’t think it was trying to be.  I don’t know what it was trying to be honestly.  You can’t be a fast-paced action film when your hero is stuck on a slow moving boat; I guess it was trying to be a sneaky thriller of sorts, but by the time we got to the final reveal I couldn’t have been any less suprised.

Lauren: Well obviously it wasn’t trying to be, but the adding up of possible deal breakers during a sneaky operation had me reliving the first film of that series and wishing I was on at home watching that instead.

Zac: Any who, I don’t know what else I can really say about this one as it doesn’t try to be anything we haven’t seen before.  You could watch the film on your couch and it might be entertaining enough to pass by on a lazy afternoon, but for someone spending their hard earned dollars I can never recommend this.

Contraband is a D+
Lauren: Final Grade: D+ (Hey look! We agree on something!)

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