Contraband is a remake of the 2008 Icelandic film ReykjavÃk-Rotterdam. ReykjavÃk-Rotterdam was Iceland’s official submission into the Oscars 2010 for Best Foreign Film. Of course, it wasn’t actually nominated, but it enjoyed great success and critical acclaim in Iceland. Critics in the US (or at the least the ones that reviewed it) were not so impressed.
It’s choppy editing, hard to follow yet very simple story made it not a very pleasant viewing experience. I saw ReykjavÃk-Rotterdam before I saw this, and as I hated the original, I couldn’t see myself liking the remake very much. Once again, I have been proved wrong as Contraband is a, while flawed, very enjoyable thriller.
Chris Farraday (Mark Wahlberg) is an ex-smuggler living a peaceful life with his wife Kate (Kate Beckinsale) working installing security alarms. However, things turn for the worst when they learn that Kate’s brother Andy (Caleb Landry Jones) tried to smuggle cocaine on a ship, but dumped it when customs picked up their trail. Now Andy’s boss, ruthless gangster Tim Briggs (Giovanni Ribisi), threatens to kill Andy, forcing Chris to go on one last smuggling job to get $10,000,000 worth of counterfeit bills to pay back Briggs and save Andy’s skin.
Contraband’s plot is clichÃ©d. There’s no doubt about that. But even clichÃ©d plots and stories can be good if they’re executed well. This film is done very well. The acting, especially from Ribisi and Wahlberg, is generally very good, the direction (done by Icelandic director and actor Baltasar KormÃ¡kur, known for directing Jar City, and, funnily enough (although most likely not a coincidence), starring in the Whalberg role in ReykjavÃk-Rotterdam) is superb, and the sets and location are beautiful.
That doesn’t mean to say that it doesn’t have problems, because it does. There are a few nagging plot holes every now and then, or, at the very least, things that are not explained all that well. The acting from a couple of minor characters is rather hammy, although J.K. Simmons is by far the most enjoyable actor in the picture, even though he plays his part very loud and over the top, as he always does, but that’s what makes him so fun to watch. His performance as the Ship Captain is so good you start to wish the film was based around him. He plays the role similar to J. Jameson in the Spider-Man films, and Cave Johnson in Portal 2.
Contraband is an underrated film. I’m not sure what people’s problem with it seems to be. Critics say it’s derivative and mediocre, but I think, while it’s certainly not a plot we haven’t seen before, that it most certainly not mediocre.