Thursday, September 28, 2023


January 13, 2012 by · 1 Comment 

Critics are divided almost equally over the merits of Contraband, the new thriller starring Mark Wahlburg as a retired smuggler forced to return to his old business. On the one hand, there’s Roger Ebert who dismisses the movie as “this crap” in his review in the Chicago Sun-Times. On the other hand, there’s Joe Morgenstern who refers to it as “a thoroughly satisfying entertainment” in his review in the Wall Street Journal. In her review in the New York Times, Manohla Dargis agrees with those critics who regard the plot as absurd. However, she remarks, “the story doesn’t matter. … If anything, the film’s adherence to implausibility as a defining narrative principle … is part of its low-key kick.” Likewise, Wesley Morris writes in the Boston Globe, “I don’t know that a lot of Contraband makes sense. But I’m not sure that it has to. The director Baltasar Kormákur carries the movie off with efficiency, brutality, and humor.” And Mick LaSalle puts it this way in the San Francisco Chronicle: “Let’s start by admitting three things: that Contraband is a ridiculous movie, that it wasn’t meant to be a ridiculous movie, and that it’s an enjoyable movie. One of the things that makes it enjoyable is that it’s so ridiculous.” But an implausible plot is not the only thing the movie’s critics are complaining about. The actors, too, take a drubbing. Steven Rea in the Philadelphia Inquirer remarks that Mark Wahlburg’s performance is “a big comedown from The Fighter.” The actor, he writes, can do a character like the smuggler “without even thinking about it — and that’s what he does here.” In the New York Post, Kyle Smith echoes that appraisal. “Contraband aims to be dumb fun but gets only the first half right,” he writes. “A better title suggests itself, but Paycheck was already taken.” On the other hand, Betsy Sharkey in the Los Angeles Times calls the film “an action-junkie’s playground” and praises Wahlburg as “an actor that has a natural guy’s guy chemistry with, well, guys, and a back-burner sexuality with women that can be turned up fast.” And Linda Barnard in the Toronto Star has this advice for ticket buyers: “Just eat your popcorn and don’t ask questions and Contraband will help pass a chilly winter night.”