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'Contraband' is just average, but action fans will be satisfied

'Contraband' is nothing special, but Mark Wahlberg fans looking for an average heist movie will likely be happy

By Kofi OutlawScreen Rant / January 13, 2012

'Contraband' star Mark Wahlberg (l.) plays his usual role of soft-spoken tough guy in the new film.

Patti Perret/HONS/Universal Pictures/AP

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Everything about Contraband can best be summed up in the word “average.” There’s nothing too great about this B-movie action/heist flick, but nothing too terrible about it, either. While it is overly ambitious in some respects, it ultimately lands in that middle ground of mindless (and instantly forgettable) genre entertainment, despite its shortcomings.

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Mark Wahlberg channels his usual soft-spoken tough guy screen persona as Chris Farraday, a former master smuggler who has settled down into a law-abiding life as a working dad and loving husband to his gorgeous wife, Kate (Kate Beckinsale). When Kate’s little brother Andy (Caleb Landry Jones) is forced to dump a shipment of cocaine during a high-stakes smuggling run, he lands himself, Chris, and Kate on the hook of local thug Tim Briggs (Giovanni Ribisi).

Chris’ attempt to negotiate with Briggs is…less than successful, leaving him just two weeks to get back into the smuggling game and come up with the money owed to Briggs.With help from his best buddy Sebastian (Ben Foster), Chris rounds up a small crew of deckhands to help him pull off a scheme involving counterfeit bills waiting to be smuggled out of Panama. Of course things don’t go as planned, and there are a few of the standard heist film twists and double-crosses that leave Chris and Co. in tight spots and facing long odds.

For a glorified B-movie, Contraband has an impressive lineup of actors. Foster and Ribisi are accomplished character acting talents, and their respective characters are definite standouts (especially Ribisi’s high-pitched drawling thug). Caleb Landry Jones and Luke Haas are both young actors gaining notice, though they’re mostly window dressing here; Kate Beckinsale, on the other hand, is almost too hot to be convincing as the blue-collar Mrs. of a seasoned criminal. At this point most people know whether they like Mark Wahlberg’s bad boy persona or not, and he’s definitely playing to type in this film. Other familiar faces like J.K. Simmons (Spider-Man), Diego Luna (Y Tu Mama Tambien) and Sons of Anarchy star William Lucking all pop up here and there for some brief (but welcome) bit roles.

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