Mark Wahlberg stars in “Contraband” as Chris Farrady, a former smuggler who’s lured back into the risky business to pay off his brother-in-law’s debt to a ruthless drug boss.
The movie is a crime itself -- a sloppy, hackneyed remake of the Icelandic thriller “Reykjavik-Rotterdam” that is far below Wahlberg’s usual action standard.
One of its few virtues is Giovanni Ribisi’s over-the-top performance as Tim Briggs, the manic, tattooed, glassy-eyed thug who threatens Wahlberg and his family if the debt isn’t quickly repaid.
Two other fine actors -- Ben Foster as Chris’ turncoat friend Sebastian and J.K. Simmons as a stern ship captain -- are woefully underutilized, and Kate Beckinsale is nothing but window dressing as Chris’ wife.
Wahlberg looks good in his muscle shirts and knows how to deliver a deadpan one-liner, but he’s played similar roles with more panache and energy.
In the original, alcohol is smuggled from Iceland to Holland. The climes are warmer and the contraband dryer in the remake, where Chris transports counterfeit money on a container ship between New Orleans and Panama.
While Chris is away, Briggs terrorizes his wife and two kids. Sebastian is supposed to be protecting them, but he ends up doing more harm than good.
The obligatory crash scenes and fights are crudely shot, and since much of the film takes place on the ship, we don’t get to see much of the scenic Big Easy or Panama.
Director Baltasar Kormakur, who starred in the original film, does deserve credit for including the lively soundtrack scored by Clinton Shorter, and music sung by Big Head Todd and the Monsters featuring John Lee Hooker.
“Contraband,” from Universal Pictures, opens tomorrow across the U.S. Rating: **
What the Stars Mean: **** Excellent *** Good ** Average * Poor No stars Worthless
(Rick Warner is the movie critic for Muse, the arts and leisure section of Bloomberg News. Opinions expressed are his own.)