Wednesday, 21 March 2012

Review: Contraband

CAUTION: Yen's blog contains harsh language and even harsher notions of propriety. Reader discretion is advised.

Contraband poster

109 mins / Dir. Baltasar Kormákur

When reformed smuggler Chris Farraday's kid brother-in-law gets in serious trouble with the local drug dealer, he has to come out of retirement for one last job. But in the world of illegal importing, things rarely go to plan, and Chris isn't sure who can trust any more...

The Good: Yeah, it's ^that^ movie, for better or worse. For the most part, it's very competently made. Our hero does all the wrong things for all the right reasons, and while he's never apologetic or remoseful about his career, you find yourself rooting for him solely because he's the best of a bad bunch. With the exception of Chris's two kids, there's barely a straight character in the whole movie. The bad guys in Contraband are resolutely bad, and as it turns out, so are a lot of the good guys. Once you know that Chris can't trust anyone around him, you can sit back and enjoy the carnage as a straight smuggling run detours into armed robbery and car chases.

I'd say the twists in the story are 'reliable', as opposed to completely predicatble. It's not so much about how the film's going to end, as how the characters are going to get there. Callbacks are clearly set up and counted back in, and while it feels like it's slightly too long at 109 minutes, once the action kicks in there's no downtime. It's noisy and tense right up until the final sunset.

The Bad: Most of the movie is shot with handheld cameras, and while it's thankfully (mostly) free of shaky-cam, there's a lot of hand-operated zooming going on mid-shot, which is a little disconcerting on a screen sixy feet wide. In that respect, it'll be a little easier to watch on DVD.

The Ugly: I can handle the twisty-turny plot and the two faced characters, but you don't achieve "gritty realism" by hiring actors who mumble all their fucking lines. Not all of them, by any means, but way more than I'm happy with. What the fuck is David O'Hara doing in this film? It took me five minutes to work out that he has a Scottish accent because I couldn't make out a fucking word he was saying. In that respect, pop the subs on and it'll be a lot easier to watch on DVD.

Worth £8+? In all honesty? Probably not. You won't get much out of repeat viewings, and it doesn't rely on a cinema screen to convey its message. It's more than suitable for a night on the sofa, though.


A solid half-way mark, but there's not really enough lasting impact to make it any higher for me...

• ^^^ That's dry, British humour, and most likely sarcasm or facetiousness.

• This is a personal blog. The views and opinions expressed here represent my own thoughts (at the time of writing) and not those of the people, institutions or organisations that I may or may not be related with unless stated explicitly.

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