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Low End Chills and Thrills: Contraband finally allows Iceland to get noticed for more than Bjork 

Contraband, starring Mark Wahlberg, is the updated version of Lucio Fulci's Italian gangster splatter-fest of the same name.

click to enlarge screen_contraban.jpg
It's common knowledge that our modern movie-going experience has been inundated with remakes from every genre under the sun, so I was leery that Contraband, starring Mark Wahlberg, is the updated version of Lucio Fulci's Italian gangster splatter-fest of the same name. Well, there might be some miniscule similarities, but the Italian maestro's film is left unscathed. As it turns out, this film is actually director Baltasar Kormákur's remake of his own 2008 film, Reykjavik-Rotterdam.

This Contraband is a general mess on a very mediocre trajectory. Something definitely gets lost in translation from the Icelandic version because the American counterpart is a generic pile of crap. Still, it's not as bad as I thought it would be, possibly due to Kormákur's (Jar City /A Little Trip to Heaven)

weirdly laid-back style that builds little tension over a long period of time, leaving only tiny spurts of action interspersed between odd performances.

The plot is extremely old hat: ex-thief-turned-straight (Wahlberg) must do "one last job" in order to save his brother-in-law (Caleb Laundry Jones). The smuggling takes place on a barge where the caper-gone-wrong trouble ensues. With a really unforgivable ending and loopholes you could drive the barge through, this film features fairly harmless action that they tried to spice up with a gazillion F-bombs. The banal script offers no imaginative scenes and grates heavy on the somber mood. The dialogue is trite, to say the least. At one point, both of these lines are uttered: "I know what I'm doing" and "nothing will go wrong."

Speaking of bombs, Giovanni Ribissi once again goes into extreme cartoon mode as the ultra slime-ball mosquito in your ear (and face). Proving irritating rather than entertaining, Ben Foster is only adequate, while Kate Beckinsale is filler and Wahlberg helps his performance by keeping his whiny voice in a lower octave and cursing every other word.

I have never seen a movie in which the characters blurt out the word that should be kept under wraps, in this case "smuggling." In inopportune moments, characters brag about it like it's the coolest thing ever. "You guys were the "Lennon and McCartney of smuggling" and "Hey what are you doing? Smuggling or something?"

I wouldn't have been surprised if someone had said, "What's that in the bag? Smuggled stuff?"

In Reykjavik-Rotterdam, Kormákur starred in the Wahlberg role. That might be worth a look, as I'm sure the Icelandic take on it is far more bleak and perhaps more interesting. Contraband's attempt at art-house minimalism is present and with the weird pace and fragmented direction, all in all it wasn't the worst way to spend the afternoon. Still, go see Fulci's Contraband. It'll change your life.


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