FILM REVIEW: Contraband (15)

Crime rarely pays for veteran thieves who are lured out of retirement by the tantalising promise of a lucrative final payday.

If a heist sounds too good to be true, then invariably it is, and an ingenious and seemingly foolproof plan is frequently an elaborate set-up designed to put the old-timer behind bars.

The central character in Contraband ignores all of the warning signs to mastermind a daring money smuggling operation in order to save his reckless brother-in-law from an early grave.

Naturally, there are unseen forces working against the protagonist and his motley crew, whose convoluted scheme gradually comes apart at the seams.

Mark Wahlberg is a brooding and muscular central presence, greeting each ridiculous twist in Aaron Guzikowski’s script with bewilderment.

We’re not remotely surprised that the best laid plans of these two-dimensional men are undone by cruel fate or that common sense is flung overboard for the sake of an adrenaline-fuelled action sequence.

Chris Farraday (Wahlberg) and best friend Sebastian Abney (Ben Foster) were “the Lennon and McCartney of smuggling” but both men have gone straight.

Chris now works on the right side of the law, installing security alarms to provide a steady income for his wife Kate (Kate Beckinsale) and children.

Trouble looms large when Kate’s baby brother Andy (Caleb Landry Jones) runs drugs for gun-toting mad man Tim Briggs (Giovanni Ribisi) and dumps the narcotics when US customs unexpectedly storms the cargo ship.

“I’m going to take care of it,” Chris assures his wife, reluctantly agreeing to smuggle millions of dollars of fake bills from Panama to pay off Andy’s debt with the help of old pals Danny Raymer (Lukas Haas) and Igor (Olafur Darri Olafsson) aboard a ship commandeered by Captain Camp (JK Simmons).

Once the boat docks, Chris has a small window of opportunity to collect the bills.

However, he must locate maniacal crime lord Gonzalo (Diego Luna), whose heavily guarded warehouse is in the heart of the grid-locked city.

Contraband is an assured reworking of the 2008 Icelandic film Reykjavik-Rotterdam starring Baltasar Kormakur, who sits in the director’s chair for this slick, high-octane remake.

Wahlberg’s lack of emotional depth in front of camera doesn’t prove fatal since his character spends most of the film clambering around the ship or dodging bullets.

He’s a likeable hero, breaking the law to keep his family together.

Beckinsale is wasted in a thankless supporting role, while Ribisi merrily chews the scenery as the loose cannon, who uses violence to ensure Chris delivers the fake bills on time.

A subplot involving a Jackson Pollock canvas worth 140 million dollars is preposterous, so too is Captain Camp’s comeuppance, but while the script springs leaks, Kormakur’s film stays afloat, buoyed by its suspenseful, action-packed interludes.

By Damon Smith

:: SWEARING :: NO SEX :: VIOLENCE :: RATING: 6/10

Released: March 16 (UK & Ireland), 109 mins