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American Women's Club of Hamburg

Contraband

alt ½

Starts March 15

Original language: English

This polished high-intensity action thriller is a remake of Reykjavik-Rotterdam (2008), the 2010 Icelandic Academy Award Foreign Language submission, about the ruthlessness of international smuggling. Baltasar Kormákur, then in the lead role, had the idea for an English version, and this time he directs. Kormákur and crew do not disappoint.

Set in New Orleans, Chris Farraday (Mark Wahlberg), contrabandist extraordinaire, has gone legit: he loves wife Kate (Kate Beckinsale) and their two sons, and has started a home security company. His friends, and father albeit in prison, support him. Simultaneously his young brother-in-law Andy (Caleb Landry Jones), running drugs from Panama has to dump them overboard the container ship off New Orleans when Customs and Border Protection officials come aboard, resulting in his owing his ruthless ex-con boss Tim Briggs (Giovanni Ribisi is great as the nasty) big time, and that reverberates into Chris’s comfy hold on conformity.

When Chris cannot reason with Briggs, his only alternative is to reactivate his courier talent. Best friend Sebastian (Ben Foster) helps Chris put together a crew, with assurances he will watchdog Chris’s family, so with a contraband plan for settling Andy’s debt and Andy in tow, they head to Panama. When the ship docks, and with only a few hours to complete their mission, one dodgy deed begets another and the arrangements goes awry, engulfing us in suspense. Trust and loyalty account for little, and corruption has long tentacles.

The Reykjavik-Rotterdam writers, Arnaldur Indriðason and Óskar Jónasson are helped by Aaron Guzikowski: the story’s plots and subplots take us at breakneck speed through the impenetrable cutthroat society that feed off international smuggling. From New Orleans to Panama, onboard a container ship (huge) and inside containers, Elísabet Ronaldsdóttir‘s editing is nimble, while Barry Ackroyd’s camera makes sure we see everything from every angle. Absorbing and entertaining, Contraband demands attention from the get-go. 

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