Under the Radar

Contraband's Sea Heist

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Mark Wahlberg's action thriller Contraband arrived this week on home video in a Blu-ray + DVD + Digital Copy + Ultraviolet combo pack. If you've been holding your breath waiting for a commercial shipping heist movie, then you've got a real winner here.

Wahlberg plays a retired smuggler who gets dragged back into the game to pay off a debt owed by his wife's idiot brother. There's a lot of fighting and bloodshed and double-crossing but you can probably guess what happens in the end. Since Contraband neither promises nor attempts to create any new twists on the genre, it's worthwhile to list a few distinguishing characteristics.

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This movie has a good amount of  grungy commercial shipping action and at least some of the mechanical workings of a boat play a (minor) role in the plot.

Most of the action takes place in New Orleans and there are more than a few identifiable landmarks if Louisiana locations will convince you to watch a movie.

There's landlocked heist that takes place in Panama. Those scenes look a lot like outtakes from CSI: Miami.

Giovanni Ribisi plays a dirtbag drug dealer with almost as much unhinged glee as he displayed in the otherwise terrible The Rum Diary earlier this year.

Kate Beckinsale shows up as the Woman in Danger, something that's kind of distracting after the Underworld movies. You keep expecting her to kick Ben Foster's ass but she keeps on moaning softly as she waits to be rescued.

Both the DVD and the Blu-ray include a Making Of documentary called Under the Radar. There's nothing really compelling about the content but we'll give them points for the name.

Contraband is a remake of an Icelandic movie called Reykjavík-Rotterdam and this movie is (weirdly) directed by Baltasar Kormákur, the actor who starred in the original film but had nothing to do with directing that film. The new screenplay offers neither compelling character development or the kind of campy zingers that work so well in Jason Statham movies.

The Blu-ray transfer and sound mix is great. The DVD looks a little dark, but both the iTunes download and Ultraviolet streaming versions are of surprisingly high quality.

Contraband is loaded with actors (Wahlberg, Beckinsale, Ribisi, Foster, J.K. Simmons, Lukas Haas, David O'Hara) who've been in much better movies and make this one a lot more watchable than it would be with a late-period Steven Seagal cast. There's nothing new here but if you're happy with two hours of Mark punching out almost every other guy in the cast, then Contraband won't be a waste of time.

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