A few years back Mark Wahlberg had done 'The Italian Job' which further established him as an actor who was a right fit for the action-drama affairs. While 'The Departed' stays on to be his crowning glory, there have been other notable efforts from him like 'Shooter', 'We Own the Night' and 'Max Payne' to name a few where he has often found himself in a tryst with law by either being on it's side or the other. 'Contraband' follows the same route as well though in the very first 15 minutes, it is apparent that the film would follow a template route with a surprise reserved for the end.
Now a genre like this comes with it's own grammar and you don't quite mind that as long as the drama is captivating. In case of 'Contraband' it is way too conventional, something that makes you feel that even out there in West, sometimes there is an idea bankruptcy that sets in due to which conventional stuff is being churned. Of course the man behind the idea is an outsider this time around in the form of director Baltasar Kormakur who has basically remade his Icelandic film 'Reykjavik-Rotterdam' here. However he has stayed away from the temptation of enacting the central character (which he had done in the original).
The man who is required to do the dirty job here is Mark who has to perform one last job in order to save his brother-in-law. The plot setting is all too predictable though. Mark, an erstwhile smuggler, is required to transport millions of dollars worth of currency for a mobster (Giovanni Ribisi) if he has to see the brother of his wife (Kate Beckinsale) alive. While he leaves her in the protection of his friend (Ben Foster), there are other surprises awaiting him as he sets on his journey.
A film like this basically scores if there are enough twists in the story or at the least; the pace is rapid enough to keep you thoroughly engaged. However in case of 'Contraband' there are cliches galore due to which the unpredictability element is lost out in the bargain. You realise from the very beginning that there would be a double crossing in the offing and while there is a good attempt being made to plan out the sequences that go with contraband deals, the edge of the seat factor is definitely missing.
Moreover it is quite apparent that as someone who has just stepped into Hollywood, director Baltasar has to further enhance his vision when it comes to sheer grandeur and magnitude. In case of 'Contraband' he chooses a safe subject to begin with and then keeps the scale and setting restricted as well, hence succeeding in controlling the budget but not quite coming up with an eye popping affair that would make one look at the screen in amazement.
Of course to give him due credit, he focuses more on drama than action here and at times succeeds well too. In fact towards the last 30 minutes of the film, the tempo goes higher up as well, hence resulting in an affair that turns out to be satisfying at the least, if not overwhelming. Still, for those who are now adding themselves into an emerging fan-base of Wahlberg, they would hunt for something much more intriguing which is the need of the hour. Ditto for those who would find Kate Beckinsale far underutilized, especially since she was recently seen as the face of 'Underworld' in the 'Awakening' instalment.
No wonder, in the final run 'Contraband' turns out to be a film that is reasonably entertaining for as long as it lasts but doesn't quite fit the bill when it comes to finding an entry into some of the smartest affairs belonging to this genre.