Reading a recent interview with Mark Wahlberg, anyone would think he was the new Godfather. "minted, respected in Hollywood, both as actor and producer. Think he's sold out? Fine, but know two things 1) you're wrong 2) you'd be a fool to say it to his face." - Total Film
Well, just so we're clear, this may be the same man that refuses to let The Fighter go down with the naysayer, devoting five years of his life to a project he was convinced would work when others didn't, but he is still, and will gleefully always be, the vacuous, out-of-depth wooden mannequin that almost made us laugh in all the wrong places in The Happening. He has an unfortunate air about him that belies his success. One great (and a couple of decent parts, oo-er Mrs) film does not a player make and he should remember this next time he takes a call from Spielberg and knocks him back; an alleged fact he is very keen to share, like the kid with a bigger ice cream, he doesn't mind eating all of it right in front of you, but only after shouting about it for the world to hear first.
Regardless of the heated debate (he wishes) about the qualities (or lack thereof) of Mark Wahlberg, you cannot deny his tenacity. When he has got the bit between his teeth, he is something of the bulldog. That doesn't make every project he is involved with a success, however. Sometimes, enthusiasm in the wrong direction can alternatively be regarded as misguided, narcissistic or even naïve. Happier turns in The Departed, Boogie Nights and the aforementioned The Fighter are all great examples of Wahlberg on a good day, along with many of his producing credit for television, but do all of these positives make up for Planet of the Apes, or Max Payne, The Italian Job or The Happening? Well, Wahlberg may think he is king of today's Hollywood heavyweights, but frankly, I'm still leaning toward the 'not really buying this' camp, thoughtfully rubbing my bristly chin.
So to Contraband. A smuggler travels on a container ship to Panama to pick up some counterfeit currency, in order to get his little brother-in-law out of a nasty bind with the local drug lord. Any of this ring any bells yet? Maybe not exactly, but I'm thinking about fast cars, Nicolas Cage and Angelina Jolie with the worst haircut ever. So, as that little bulb goes on, let's not approach the subject of originality, for fear upsetting our new Hollywood monarch.
Secondly, whilst briefly skirting over the lack of invention, I have to say that I am quite fond of Ben Foster. So the kindest thing I can say about him here is that he is not quite Christian Bale. Everybody it seems, with the exception of Wahlberg, knows that Bale made The Fighter what it eventually became. You have to wonder whether Wahlberg thought himself lucky that he was standing at the same gates as Bale, dropping their kids off at school, or that he sees himself as a genius for seizing the opportunity. I think I already know the answer. So maybe, just maybe, Foster was approached in the same way. Maybe not. Regardless, the result here is markedly different.
What we have here is an unoriginal, clumsy uninspiring action flick with a poor script that relies too often on its repeated use of guns and ammo. The acting is standard, with the sole exception of Giovanni Ribisi, who fizzes and makes everyone else look second rate whenever he is on screen, which makes this all the more infuriating, given Wahlberg's incandescent posturing about his own talents. We could be forgiven for expecting more from him, given his recent efforts, but this just confirms what a difficult business Walhberg thinks he is the unlikely heir to.
To sum it up using the title of another review, which encapsulates every other one you will see in the next few weeks (including this one) - "As realistic as a GTA mission"