Contraband (2012 film)

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Theatrical release poster
Directed by Baltasar Kormákur
Produced by Tim Bevan
Eric Fellner
Baltasar Kormákur
Stephen Levinson
Mark Wahlberg
Screenplay by Aaron Guzikowski
Based on Reykjavík-Rotterdam written by
Arnaldur Indriðason
Óskar Jónasson
Starring Mark Wahlberg
Kate Beckinsale
Ben Foster
Giovanni Ribisi
Music by Clinton Shorter
Cinematography Barry Ackroyd
Edited by Elísabet Ronaldsdóttir
Relativity Media
Working Title Films
Blueeyes Productions
Leverage Entertainment
Closest to the Hole Productions
Distributed by Universal Pictures
Release dates
  • January 13, 2012 (2012-01-13)
Running time
110 minutes
Country United States
United Kingdom
Language English
Budget $25 million[2]
Box office $96,262,212[2]

Contraband is a 2012 American action crime thriller film directed by Baltasar Kormákur, starring Mark Wahlberg, Kate Beckinsale, Ben Foster, Caleb Landry Jones, Giovanni Ribisi, Lukas Haas, Diego Luna and J. K. Simmons. The film is a remake of the 2008 Icelandic film Reykjavík-Rotterdam which Baltasar Kormákur starred in. It was released on January 13, 2012 in the United States by Universal Pictures.


Chris Farraday (Mark Wahlberg) is an ex-smuggler who now has a peaceful life with his wife, Kate (Kate Beckinsale), and their two sons in New Orleans. They learn that Kate's brother Andy (Caleb Landry Jones) was smuggling drugs, but dropped them into the Mississippi River during a surprise inspection by U.S. Customs and Border Protection.

Andy's boss, ruthless mobster Tim Briggs (Giovanni Ribisi), threatens to kill Chris' family if Andy doesn't pay him $700,000. Chris decides to raise the money by running contraband, working with his best bud and former smuggling partner, Sebastian Abney (Ben Foster), who has also gone legitimate and now owns a construction company. He promises Kate that he will not run drugs, joining the crew of a cargo ship in order to buy $10,000,000 in fake bills in Panama and smuggle them into the U.S. He is joined by Andy, good friend Danny Raymer (Lukas Haas), and gets help from crew mates. When Briggs breaks into Chris' house to scare his wife and kids, Kate moves into Sebastian's house for safety.

In Panama, Chris discovers that the currency bills he plans to smuggle back to the USA, are of poor quality and refuses to accept them. The only one who can provide good ones is crime lord Gonzalo (Diego Luna). When Briggs calls Andy and threatens to kill one of Chris' sons, Andy takes Chris' money and uses it to buy the cocaine Briggs wants. With the money gone, Gonzalo lets Chris and Danny help in a dangerous armored car heist as payment for the fake bills. They are successful in stealing a Jackson Pollock painting that resembles a splattered tarp in the heist, but Gonzalo and his men are killed, along with numerous police and security officers.

Chris and Danny make it back to the ship yard in a van containing the large pallet of fake bills and the painting. They load the contraband-laden van into a container which is loaded onto their cargo ship. Chris assaults Andy for stealing the money and buying cocaine, but apologizes when Andy explains why.

It is revealed that Sebastian has been working with Briggs, as gangster Jim Church (David O'Hara) threatens to kill Sebastian if he doesn't repay money he borrowed to save his fledgling construction business and to fund Chris' purchase of contraband. When Sebastian calls Chris, Chris tells him that he might drop the drugs Andy bought into the ocean—angry that Andy had done the cocaine side deal. Sebastian wants the drugs and instructs Briggs to assault Kate and warn her to tell Chris to "not dump it in the water". When Kate passes the message to Chris, he realizes that only Sebastian could have told Briggs about the plan to dump the drugs.

Sebastian contacts the cargo ship's Captain Camp (J. K. Simmons), with whom he clearly has an established smuggling relationship, and tells him that Chris is smuggling on his ship, and promises him a share if he makes sure Chris does not throw it overboard. Camp is not able to persuade Chris to tell him where the contraband cargo is, so he calls U.S. Customs to meet the ship in New Orleans. The Customs agents find the container with Chris' Panamanian van, but the van is empty except for the paint splattered tarp, which they ignore.

Once Chris is on shore, Briggs and his thugs demand the drug package. Chris takes Briggs to Camp's house, having made a duplicate key while on the ship, and knowingly activates the security system. Chris opens Camp's personal carpet cleaner, which Camp had aboard the ship, and retrieves the cocaine from the carpet cleaner's water tank. While Briggs and his gang sit in Camp's living room with the cocaine, Chris sneaks out. Camp awakens to the noise and comes into the living room as the police arrive. Both Briggs and Camp are arrested, in possession of the cocaine.

Kate goes to Sebastian's apartment to retrieve some personal items. When Sebastian gets angry with her, he accidentally bashes her head against a bathtub. Sebastian thinks she is dead and throws her (unconscious) body in a yet to be poured foundation at one of his construction sites.

Chris goes to Sebastian's construction site and brutally beats him, demanding Kate's location. When Sebastian tells Chris that she's 'gone', he tries calling her cellphone and hears the ringtone in a building foundation where concrete is being poured and rescues her. Sebastian is arrested and sent to prison, where he is greeted by a lynch mob.

Danny retrieves the fake bills, which were dumped into the Mississippi River by Chris before docking in New Orleans. Needing a vehicle to transport the bills, Andy buys the escape van, which the Customs agents had confiscated from the cargo ship, at a U.S. Customs auction. Church pays Chris $3 million for the fake currency and asks if he knows anything about the Jackson Pollock painting stolen from an armored car in Panama, telling him that it's worth $140 million and can be fenced for over $20 million on the black market. Chris, Andy and Danny know that the painting still in the van. The film ends with Chris, Kate, Andy and the kids living a very comfortable life in a waterfront house.



Filming took place in New Orleans, Louisiana and Panama City.[3]


Critical reception[edit]

Contraband garnered mixed reviews from critics. It currently holds a 51/100 on Metacritic indicating "mixed or average reviews".[4] Based on 156 reviews, the film currently holds a "rotten" score, 51%, from Rotten Tomatoes with the consensus saying there "...isn't enough to excuse Contraband's lack of originality and unnecessarily convoluted plot."[5]

Roger Ebert of the Chicago Sun-Times felt that "Contraband involves a lot of energy," but he was growing "tired of violent retreads of these heist elements."[6] Tom Long of The Detroit News criticized the film for having "too much plot and too little character" and concluded that it "comes off the factory floor with its engine running and ready to drive. But the ride feels overly familiar."[7] Claudia Puig of USA Today called "the 'one last job' trope [...] a particularly tired one" and remarked that while it "has a few moments of tension," the film "adheres to a predictable heist formula hardly worth trafficking in."[8] Andrew O'Hehir of Salon characterized the film as "exactly the sort of movie that Hollywood specializes in, the kind which seems on paper as if it ought to be entertaining, but winds up a massive and chaotic drag" and observed that "it's much more like a cynical hash job, whose faux-realistic manner can't hide all the hackneyed crime-movie situations."[9]

Peter Travers of Rolling Stone thought the film "goes down in a sea of Hollywood clichés" and that Mark "Wahlberg could sleepwalk through this role, and does. See this movie and you'll surely follow his lead."[10] Kyle Smith of the New York Post derided the film, noting that "watching a hero progress due in large part to lucky breaks and idiot moves by others does not make a movie" and that "it's puzzling why anyone considered this script worth shooting."[11] Scott Tobias of NPR dismissed the film as a "mediocre [...] thriller," something "to be remembered, vaguely."[12] Rafer Guzman of Newsday expressed disappointment that "a little action is all you'll get" and opined that the film "fails by overreaching: It aspires to the heightened drama of The Departed but lands instead in the bargain bin of forgettable action product."[13]

Justin Chang of Variety praised the film as "reasonably swift and effective" and for taking "a hard-driving line of action and a commitment to one-damned-thing-after-another storytelling", while suffering from "preposterous detours."[14] Michael O'Sullivan of The Washington Post compared the film to "an Ocean's Eleven movie, minus the glamour".[15] Owen Gleiberman of Entertainment Weekly stated that the film, "while often grungy and far-fetched, does keep you watching", which is sufficient for a film released in January.[16]

DVD release[edit]

Contraband was released to DVD on April 24, 2012 with a rating of R.[17]


  1. ^
  2. ^ a b "Contraband (2012)". Box Office Mojo. Internet Movie Database. Retrieved March 15, 2012. 
  3. ^ "Extras needed for ‘Contraband’ in New Orleans". On Location Vacations. Retrieved March 15, 2012. 
  4. ^ Retrieved 12 May 2015
  5. ^ "Contraband". Flixster. Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved June 26, 2013. 
  6. ^ Ebert, Roger (January 11, 2012). "Contraband". Chicago Sun-Times. Retrieved January 16, 2012. 2/4 stars
  7. ^ Long, Tom (January 13, 2012). "Review: Efficient, energetic Mark Wahlberg action flick Contraband lacks character". The Detroit News. Retrieved January 16, 2012. 
  8. ^ Puig, Claudia (January 13, 2012). "Contraband can't sneak its shortcomings past viewers". USA Today. Retrieved January 16, 2012. 2/4 stars
  9. ^ O'Hehir, Andrew (January 11, 2012). "Contraband: A thriller Mark Wahlberg can't juice". Salon. Retrieved January 16, 2012. 
  10. ^ Travers, Peter (January 13, 2012). "Contraband". Rolling Stone. Retrieved January 16, 2012. 2/4 stars
  11. ^ Smith, Kyle (January 12, 2012). "Shooting blanks: Wahlberg's latest is a perfect storm of bad plot, miscasting and unbelievability. In other words, Contraband is Mark raving bad!". New York Post. Retrieved January 16, 2012. 0.5/4 stars
  12. ^ Tobias, Scott (January 12, 2012). "Mark Wahlberg, After One Last Haul In 'Contraband'". NPR. Retrieved January 16, 2012. 
  13. ^ Guzman, Rafer (January 11, 2012). "An action-deprived Contraband". Newsday. Retrieved January 16, 2012. 1.5/4 stars
  14. ^ Chang, Justin (January 11, 2012). "Contraband". Variety. Retrieved January 16, 2012. 
  15. ^ Sullivan, Michael (January 13, 2012). "Contraband". The Washington Post. Retrieved January 16, 2012. 2.5/4 stars
  16. ^ Gleiberman, Owen (January 12, 2012). "Contraband". Entertainment Weekly. Retrieved January 16, 2012. 
  17. ^ "Contraband -". Retrieved 14 May 2012. 

External links[edit]