Contraband | Screen | Pittsburgh | Pittsburgh City Paper


A junky but somewhat entertaining actioner about international smuggling

After his brother-in-law runs afoul of a hot-tempered gangster (Giovanni Ribisi), a world-class smuggler (Mark Wahlberg) is forced out of retirement to do one more big play. He and his buddy (Ben Foster) set up a deal that involves a van's worth of counterfeit bills and joining the crew of a notably corrupt ship run by a jerky captain (J.K. Simmons). Needless to say, plans go awry almost immediately, but our MacGyvering hero has a solution to everything. (Some solutions occur conveniently off-camera, in what we professionals call a "plot hole.")

Baltasar Kormákur's film, adapted from the 2008 Icelandic thriller Reykjavik-Rotterdam, is a jumbled mess: It veers from land to sea, from New Orleans to Panama, and from heist comedy to action thriller, while making stops in domestic bliss. It's 30 minutes too long, and ends in a moral muddle that suggests crime absolutely doesn't pay ... unless you're a likable sort of fellow. But it's also kind of fun, in a big, dumb way. Shipping-container intrigue is a micro-genre that I enjoy. (This is the huge but largely invisible global conduit for illegal people and goods.) And the actors — some of whom should have moved on from this junk food — make the most of their B-grade material. In English, and some Spanish, with subtitles.

Women & Non-binary Bike Summit
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Women & Non-binary Bike Summit

By Mars Johnson