“The only medicine for suffering, crime, and all other woes of mankind, is wisdom. Teach a man to read and write, and you have put into his hands the great keys of the wisdom box. But it is quite another thing to open the box.” - Thomas Huxley
Last weekend we watched the 2012 Baltasar Kormákur film, “Contraband” starring Mark Wahlberg, Giovanni Ribisi, Kate Beckinsale, Caleb Landry Jones and Ben Foster. This was a typical “dick-flick”, which nevertheless kept us engaged despite its rather predictable plot. This was largely due to the well-paced direction, good acting and a good mix of action and character interaction.
The plot centres on Chris Faraday (Wahlberg), who was once a smuggler, bringing in illegal items or contraband into the USA on freighters. Realising the great risk this lifestyle placed on his new family, he leaves that life behind and goes legit, setting up his own security business. Andy (Landry Jones), his young brother-in-law gets involved with Briggs (Ribisi), a drug dealer, blowing a deal. Briggs demands restitution, which can’t be delivered by Andy. So it’s up to Chris to find a way to pay him as Briggs threatens Andy and Chris’ family if he doesn’t deliver.
Chris and Andy board a freighter destined for Panama, the plan being to bring back some counterfeit currency. Briggs threatens Chris’ family in his absence, terrorising his wife (Beckinsale) and child. When Chris learns of this, he asks his friend Sebastian (Foster) to take care of them, which he does. Sebastian advises Chris that it would be better to bring drugs instead of the cash, something that Chris doesn’t want to do. When in Panama, however, thing go seriously wrong for Chris and Andy…
The film is well-made and delivers what one expects from an action film. There is strong acting, good directing, and great cinematography that takes you to New Orleans, Panama, and the freight ship. Mark Walberg is excellent as the lead character, and is believable as the man pulled back into his smuggling past to right the wrongs of his naive brother-in-law and protect his family. The director does well in building intensity throughout the film, working up to a good climax.
For what is, the film is good and there are no pretensions to being what it isn’t – if you want Shakespeare, go see a stage play. One has to be forgiving of the standard plot (after all the screenwriter, Aaron Guzikowski, is a rookie) and some lapses of reality. But that said, one enjoy intense action, strong acting, and great settings.