#62 Contraband

Contraband (2012)

Dir: Baltasar Kormákur

I love my brother-in-law, but I doubt I would smuggle for him!

That’s exactly what Chris Farraday (Mark Wahlberg) has to do in this film, when his wife’s (Kate Beckinsale) little brother (Caleb Landry Jones, X-Men: First Class) has to dump a haul of drugs he was trying to smuggle for a psychotic criminal (Giovanni Ribisi). Apparently the only way to recoup the losses is by getting back into the smuggling world that he’s been legitimately out of for a while.

This is a remake of ‘Reykjavík-Rotterdam’, an Icelandic film that was produced and starred the director of this American remake Baltasar Kormákur. The simple reason for remakes like this, is not that anything new or better can be added to the story, but simply that American audiences don’t like having to read subtitles and so a lot of foreign language cinema that proves successful internationally, gets the ‘Hollywood treatment’. I think I might have liked seeing the original, it has a slightly higher score on IMDb and I’m guessing the things I liked about this were in the original.

What I liked basically boils down to the interesting setting, that of smuggling via container on cargo ships. It seems to be a busy and complex world for smugglers, and not one that I’ve seen much of on film before. The action on the ship was the least violent, and by far the most enjoyable to watch, whereas the rest of the drama was quite standard fare for most action movies.

Though Mark Wahlberg is the lead, and takes up most of the film, it’s nothing particularly different for him. Ben Foster and Giovanni Ribisi are also playing their usual sorts of roles, though Ribisi may be slightly more menacing than usual here. For me the nicest little performance was by J. K. Simmons who I really enjoy watching, and in this case he’s very good as the ship’s captain who is unaware of the illegal activities that are being conducted behind his back on his ship.

I can’t really speculate too much on how this film clings to or differs from the original version without having seen it myself, though it garnered much praise whereas this ‘American language’ remake was lukewarmly received. Maybe I’ll give the original a go sometime as I’m unafraid of subtitles, and see if it maximizes the parts that I liked and minimises the overly convoluted extra stuff that I didn’t.


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