New on DVD/Bluray: Contraband (2012)

Giovanni Ribisi and Mark Wahlberg in Contraband (2012) Movie Image

Mark Wahlberg and tough guy roles go together like something that really goes together well. Or, more appropriately, like Kate Beckinsale and skin-tight movie pleather. Of course, Wahlberg’s “Contraband” co-star Kate Beckinsale doesn’t slip on the pleather in the duo’s first joint project, but Wahlberg does play a tough guy who busts heads and takes names. So that’s one out of two, which ain’t bad in my book. Wahlberg and Beckinsale’s smuggling actioner “Contraband” will be arriving on DVD and Blu-ray April 24, 2012 courtesy of Universal Studios Home Entertainment.

Mark Wahlberg stars as legendary smuggler Chris Farraday, who has left his criminal past behind to be with his wife (Kate Beckinsale) and sons. When a ruthless drug kingpin (Giovanni Ribisi) threatens his family, Farraday must summon his old skills and contacts for one last run. Contraband takes you to the cutthroat underground world of international smuggling, and on a thrilling adventure that critics are calling “dynamic, intense and gritty!” – Mark S Allen, CBS/CW-TV (Sacramento)

Mark Wahlberg slips on his leather jacket for “Contraband”, a remake of the 2008 Icelandic thriller “Reykjavik-Rotterdam”. The original film starred Baltasar Kormakur, who brought the property to Hollywood for an adaptation and stayed on as director. Yup, this is one of those rare cases where the original guys voluntarily brought their movie from overseas in order to remake it. So yeah, no bitching about “Contraband’s” status as a remake, kids.

Wahlberg stars as Chris Farraday, the “Houdini of Smugglers”, according to local bad guy Briggs (Giovanni Ribisi), whose dope just got tossed into the river when his courier Andy (Caleb Landry Jones) gets boarded by the Coast Guard. Andy, it turns out, is also Farraday’s ne’er-do-well brother-in-law. Which is to say, he’s a major fuck-up. Farraday is now married to the gorgeous Kate (played by the gorgeous Kate Beckinsale), and lives a pretty drama-free existence with two kids. He spends his days installing security for rich people and reminiscing about the good old days with his best buddy Sebastian (Ben Foster), a former alcoholic who has also gone respectable. With Andy’s life at stake, Farraday has no choice but to get the old crew back together for “one last job” in order to make enough money to pay off Briggs. But as the unpredictable Briggs grows more impatient, Kate and the kids become targets. Meanwhile, Farraday has more on his plate than just getting that last job done with his skin intact, as double crosses, it seems, are aplenty in the trade.

The best part of “Contraband”? It’s not really the plot, which is pretty generic and you’ve seen it a few dozen times before with a few slight wrinkles here and there. Nope. The really good parts of “Contraband” find Farraday on a boat (captained by J.K. Simmons) and plotting his one last big job to save the day. As someone who knows nothing of smuggling beyond what I can stick into my pants, the best parts of “Contraband” is watching a pro like Farraday get it done, from hiding his goods to the insane amount of near-misses that separates success and failure (and with failure, imprisonment or death). “Contraband” should keep you on the edge of your seat, especially the middle section, which finds Farraday having to make one last-minute save after another. Great stuff.

Kate Beckinsale and Mark Wahlberg in Contraband (2012) Movie Image

Mark Wahlberg is certainly in familiar territory here. Truth be told, the guy can play this role with his eyes closed. There’s something very fun about watching Marky Mark strut his way through the screen telling everyone to chill the fuck down, even as you see it all go to hell around him. That’s just good stuff right there. Kate Beckinsale doesn’t have much to do, but she does it pretty well. The film’s real trump card is Ben Foster, as Farraday’s childhood buddy who is just all kinds of messed up behind his calm facade. Giovanni Ribisi, too, is downright hilarious as the bad guy. He’s never really menacing, but the guy is just so damn entertaining covered in tattoos and wicked facial hair.

“Contraband” did surprisingly good business when it opened earlier this year, and has launched director Kormákur’s Hollywood career. If you missed it the first time around, you should definitely give it a whirl. It’s nothing you haven’t seen before, but there are some really intense moments, and the film certainly doesn’t end the way you quite expect it to. In fact, the entire Third Act really caught me by surprise. As far as action goes, there is one major gunbattle in the middle, but otherwise “Contraband” is a pretty contained actioner, with most of the violence sudden and quick, and out of necessity rather than drawn out for cinema’s sake.

Mark Wahlberg in Contraband (2012) Movie Image

The Blu-ray Combo Pack comes with two discs, containing the movie in Blu-ray and standard DVD, along with a digital copy. Extras include six and a half minutes of deleted and extended scenes, and two featurettes, “Reality Factor: The Stunts and Action of Contraband” (about 8 minutes) and “Under the Radar: The Making of Contraband” (17 minutes). The final major special feature is an audio commentary track with director Baltasar Kormakur and producer Evan Hayes. It’s a pretty low-key track with the guys in the same room, but pretty good in terms of technical FYI.

Buy “Contraband” on DVD or Blu-ray April 24, 2012 from Universal Studios Home Entertainment.

Contraband (2012) Movie Blu-ray Cover