“Contraband”, I found the word unfamiliar, probably because it wasn’t among the subjects I am particularly interested about. Yet, I picked up the movie anyway. Do you know why?
Despite my ignorance of the movie, never once seen its trailer on any of the cable channels I watched in my leisure, noticing Mark Wahlberg on the cover intrigued me. Known for his roles in numerous award-winning movies including “The Fighter” with Christian Bale (latest “Batman”) and “The Departed” with Leonardo DiCaprio (the “Titanic” and “Aviator”), I couldn’t help to read the synopsis of “Contraband” thinking that it might be worth-viewing as well. Not to forget “The Italian Job”, a movie of him I remembered most for its creative art of stealing, in every literal sense – in which he played next to Charlize Theron, an exotic South African-born, who were a lock breaking expert in the film.
Regardless of his parts in “The Happening” and “Max Payne” that earned him the notorious Razzie Awards for worst actors, Mark picked himself up by taking brilliantly conceptualised roles, smoothly clearing a spot on my mind for one of the most-likely watched actors. Before “Contraband”, I enjoyed the unique “The Lovely Bones”, in which he took up the role of a father, whose murdered teenage girl, played by Saoirse Ronan (an award-winning young actress for her role in the “Atonement”), had been trying to communicate with him from the spirit realm.
“Contraband” begins with illegal smuggling of drugs gone wrong. Andy, a newbie smuggler, purposely threw a package of drugs into the ocean when the ship he boarded was inspected by an immigration patrol. Furious with the loss, the drug lord threatened him to return the goods, or pay an amount of $700,000. To show seriousness of intention, they got Andy and his partner beaten up, and the latter couldn’t be saved.
Fortunate was Andy that his brother-in-law, Chris Faraday, the role played by Mark Wahlberg, felt committed to help settle the matter, especially when the inconsiderate demand intruded the well-being of his wife and two children as well. Being an infamously good, smuggling expert in the olden days full of mischiefs, and having an old man who was a convicted smuggler himself, makes Chris pivotal in the story development. His clever planning and impromptu decision making makes the movie constantly breathtaking, too good to miss.
With the help of Sebastian, Chris’ best friend and a fellow ex-con smuggler himself, Chris and Andy got themselves on board to Panama. Little was Chris aware of the danger awaits his family upon his departure.
On the ship, Chris teamed up with a couple of crews who used to be part of his mischiefs back then. Stealing the ship’s blueprint, preparing storage space for the illegal goods, and figuring out ways to jam the ship at a desired location – all these are presented to audience without leaving a clue to the purpose of each action. What is good from this movie is that audience is left to discover what each scene they were watching is for towards the climax and anti-climax.
Although pictured only briefly, the scenery of Panama Canal managed to captivate me. I heard so much about it, yet I hadn’t been bothered to Google it before re-telling “Contraband” through this writing. How fascinated it is that a huge ship can fit into a narrow canal and pass through straightly forward, or backward!
Anyway, Chris’ team managed to jam the ship that it had to stop for repair. Chris, Andy, and Danny – a crew who was also committed to Chris’ target – left the ship offshore to meet a contact for supplies of fake money. Unfortunately, the stock provided wasn’t a good-enough counterfeit. There and then, Chris was forced to change his plan, seeing the local counterfeit mafia, who had been known to produce excellent fraud jobs.
Driving a van their contact gave, they headed to the mafia’s workshop. Secured by several armed guards, the isolated factory seemed to present little harm that Chris decided to leave Andy with his capital fund in the van. Worse enough decision to leave his family with Sebastian, now he’d left his weak-hearted bro-in-law to explore the crazy idea of using the fund to purchase illegal drugs elsewhere and bring them back to the U.S.
True enough, upon settling a deal with the counterfeit mafia and having piles of good-quality fraud notes presented before him, Danny – who just returned from the van to pick up the capital – informed Chris that Andy had gone, with the money!
Furious but worried for their safety, having loaded guns pointed at them, Chris and Danny made a gambling deal to help the mafia in his robbery attempt. So, there we have again – another Plan B went haywire!
Nevertheless, at this point, one would have been able to guess that if Chris, who was supposed to be the heroic character, didn’t make it to return to the ship, with their goods, the story might turn out to be much of a disappointment. Therefore, with a conviction that he would make it, I continued watching, enjoying the suspense.
One thing I didn’t expect though was that the counterfeit mafia and his gang would get caught in the act, stealing a crazily precious painting from a CVIT (cash and valuable in transit) truck. While Chris and Danny were in his upside-down van, having been an accessory to the crime, the world out there was turned into a gunfight scene – between the criminal gang and the arriving cops. The mafia boss got shot when trying to leave the scene on a pickup truck, in which Chris and Danny rushed into for escape.
With the stolen painting in their hand and the mafia dead, they drove off to the port (on their van), prompting another waiting crew to open the earlier-booked container for them. The van was driven into the container, and it was immediately lifted off the ground to board the ship.
Of course the journey back home was another thrill, with Andy and the drugs, anonymous tipoff about the smuggling, and a hypocritical captain, Chris and his team managed to get out clean from the patrol’s inspection. At this point, one could only wonder, “Where have they hidden the piles of cash and pockets of drugs?” Going off board, none seemed to have carry anything peculiar.
“Where could they be?”
Perhaps you may want to find out yourself, along with other conflicts that face some other characters in the movie. “Who was Sebastian? What happened back home? Where was the painting?”
To me, personally, the movie was a worthy entertainment, although on the scale of 1 to 10, I could give it only a generous 7. But, it is definitely better than many other movies I’ve watched or desire to watch.