Contraband (2012)

<strong class="MovieTitle">Contraband</strong> (2012)

(In theaters, January 2012) January is often a Hollywood dumping ground for average genre efforts, but that’s not necessarily something to hold against smuggling thriller Contraband, a film that manages to find enough interesting things to do with a stock premise to keep viewers intrigued. Mark Wahlberg once again stars as a blue-collar hero, in this case an ex-smuggler brought back for "one last job" in the hope of saving family members from harm.  The bulk of the film is spent following him as he boards a ship from New Orleans to Panama City and back.  Procedural thriller fans will love the inside look at the operations of a modern cargo ship as Contraband spends just enough time describing how everything works.  Panama City is an under-used locale, and the film is credible in its depiction of smugglers working under the radar.  Otherwise, there’s quite a bit of plot to digest and a triumphant conclusion for the heroes.  None of this amounts to something new or even particularly enjoyable, but Wahlberg is instantly credible as a working-class hero and the look at container shipping is something you don’t see all that often.  Solid genre pictures work in part because they follow plot templates that practically ensure viewer satisfaction, and Contraband certainly does much to ennoble the notion that even average genre pictures are sometimes work a look.

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