Saturday, January 14, 2012
Last night I walked in to Contraband with expectations that were inflated by Marc Wahlberg's relatively decent career over the last few years. I think, that with the exception of Date Night, I've enjoyed most of his projects in the last few years, and I expected Contraband to live up to that. But, before I get into sentencing here, I was again struck by the thought that if you'd asked me back in my high school days, the early and mid-90s, if I thought the underwear-modeling, pants-dropping rapper would (1) still have a career in the public eye and (2) have a successful career doing more or less good movies, I would have told you that you were out of your mind.
While I would have lost that bet in the long run, Contraband isn't going to go down in history as one of Marky Mark's successes. The term "sleeper" comes to mind, although it's the kind of sleeper you don't wake up from. I was, well, not dazzled by the cast, but it does contain a good number of actors that I enjoy watching, and I felt like I was safe, even though it's yet another movie where Wahlberg plays some bad ass Irish guy from the East Coast. I guess you could say that he's the bad ass Irish guy version of Sandra Bullock, but somehow that seems like an insult to Ms. Bullock, and that is far from my intention.
A good story will suck you in. A good performance (especially on a movie screen) will make you feel what the actors are supposed to be feeling. You should have some of those emotions that form down in the pit of your gut, you shouldn't be... uninvolved, which is how I felt here. There was a major disconnect between the action on the screen and what was going on in my brain. There was no nail-biting suspense, no tension, even when it was clear the actors were supposed to be in a tense situation. There was no breath catching in my throat as events played out. At the end of the day, I wasn't concerned about these people or their plight, and that's a problem for a movie like this, where you have to care about what's going on.
I still love the cast here, although not as much right now. Well, I still love the four principle cast members: Wahlberg, Foster, Ribisi, and Beckinsale. But none of them were really on their game. Foster has given countless better performances, to include his TV stint, as has Beckinsale. Ribisi's character was odd, and his "Cajun" accent (I'm assuming that's what that was supposed to be) made it hard for me to understand him. I'm going to jump out on to the immodesty branch by saying I have a gift for language. I speak three fluently (seven if you count dialects that are not always mutually intelligible) and can fight my way through a half dozen more and I couldn't always understand Ribisi through his accent. Think about that. If that was an attempt at "Cajun," I'd have taken a pass on it. It sounded like he'd contracted some sort of problem with his larynx. Wahlberg acted like he was bored, and I thought Beckinsale was acting like she was waiting for her paycheck to clear. There were the occasional good moments in Contraband, but mostly, I just wanted to jump off the ship.
For me, this was a huge miss on every front. With Wahlberg averaging one film a year, you'd think he'd pull a Will Smith and make it a good one film a year.