From the March issue of Clash.
A remake of the Icelandic thriller Reykjavik-Rotterdam, Contraband sees its source’s lead actor Baltasar Kormákur (the excellent 101 Reykjavik and Jar City) step into the director’s chair while Mark Wahlberg moves into the starring role.
Wahlberg plays a former smuggler forced to return to his old ways to repay his brother-in-law’s debt to a local mobster (Giovanni Ribisi, who recalls Gary Oldman’s performance in Leon). Joined by a team of dubious acquaintances, Wahlberg sets sail to Panama in the hope of scoring a fortune in counterfeit money.
Two of the original film’s less convincing plot devices have been reprised here and feel just as awkward as they did before, despite adding a good twenty minutes to the running time, although Kormákur succeeds in delivering additional big budget thrills while also maintaining some of the original’s gloomy Nordic noir. Yet the film doesn’t really deliver on an emotional level – despite otherwise fine performances, Wahlberg and Kate Beckinsale’s limited chemistry fails to establish much sympathy for the troublesome predicament that their young family is coerced into.
Blending European and American cinematic styles is a curious move and Wahlberg’s races against the clock offer some excitement, but Contraband is an otherwise routine thriller.