I’m man enough to admit that I love the “one last job” genre. For those of you who aren’t familiar with this genre you either don’t watch a lot of movies, or don’t pay attention to the movies you watch. A “one last job” movie involves a retired or aging criminal who has to do one more job to get himself out of the game forever and back to his family or his money or what/whoever he wants to be with. One of the most recent, and best, examples of the “one last job” genre that comes to mind is the Christopher Nolan, no pun intended, mindbender, Inception.
What is it about having to do one last job that makes a movie so damn exciting? Well, the stakes are almost always higher, and the payoff is always bigger. Whether it be millions of dollars, or the chance to be an actual citizen of the free world, sometimes all it takes is that one job to, well, get the job done. In the new action vehicle for Mark Wahlberg, Contraband, he plays a legitimate ex-con who now has a job installing alarm systems. That, my friends, is called action movie irony. Get used to it because it doesn’t get much better than that.
Wahlberg plays Chris Farraday, one of the best smugglers anyone knows. He did what he had to after he and his wife, Kate (Kate Beckinsale), had their two sons, Michael (Connor Hill), and Eddie (Bryce McDaniel). Kate’s brother, Andy (Caleb Landry Jones), has been going against Chris’ good word and doing runs, despite his brother-in-law’s advice to get out of the game while he could. Now, Andy has gotten himself into some deep doo-doo, dumping a bag of drugs that belonged to a local criminal, Tim Briggs (Giovanni Ribisi).
The only way that Andy can get off the hook is if Chris helps him out with this one last job to get him out for good. Calling in a couple of favors, including a reliable counterfeiter from Panama, Chris reluctantly agrees, enlisting the help of some old partners including his right hand man, Sebastian (Ben Foster), and newlywed Danny Raymer (Lukas Haas) to get the money for the drugs from Panama, and back to Briggs in two weeks.
Contraband is definitely not the best action movie you’re going to see this year, maybe not even this season, but for a January release, the month which is notorious for its bad films, it could be a lot worse, and the excellent performances by the cast, especially Ben Foster and Giovanni Ribisi, elevate the film from run-in-the-mill, to, marginally above average. There’s also a pretty cool cameo by Diego Luna, which contains the most action packed sequence in the entire movie.
The writing is obviously not what anyone would call Oscar-worthy, and the shaky cam can get a little irritating at times, but overall, it’s nothing to cry about. Contraband delivers exactly what you’d expect; an average enough story and predictable plot points. But it also offers some of the best supporting performances I’ve seen in an action pic in recent memory, and everyone can appreciate some good acting.