“Contraband”
We feel for Chris Farraday (Mark Wahlberg). In his younger years, he led a life of crime, but somehow, he has been able to get out of “the life,” and go straight, without anybody coming after him, either the Law or his former cohorts. His successors in the international smuggling business have apparently felt no need to eliminate him as a potential informant. He’s home free. He gets married, to the beautiful and loving Kate (Kate Beckinsale), and they have two children, and he’s started his own home security business (with particular personal expertise as a former thief), and all is peaceful and blissful.
Until it isn’t. Kate’s dim-witted brother, Andy (Caleb Landry Jones), has decided that he wants a part of “the life,” and he barely escapes a last-second discovery by drug enforcement officials suddenly boarding his boat by throwing his “stash” overboard. Except now the supplier expecting those “goods” is not at all happy, and wants to be paid, anyway. With interest. Andy, of course, doesn’t have that kind of money, and begs Chris for help. Chris knows only one way to earn enough money to bail out his brother-in-law: to make one more run with contraband. His beloved suburban wife, naturally, is very conflicted: she wants her husband to save her brother, but she doesn’t want to lose either of them to a botched amateur operation, either. Chris thinks he can activate some old overseas contacts and make this an easy, in-and-out swindle. Alas, and we knew this was coming, very little goes as planned.
The ship’s captain immediately suspects Chris, whom he knows by reputation, and assigns him to the mop bucket detail on the freighter, partly to humiliate him and partly to keep an eye on him. Chris has promised his little clandestine crew-within-the-crew that they will not be dealing in drugs, only counterfeit currency. But when they arrive in Panama , with only a small time window, his old supplier tries to sell him the cheap stuff, and when confronted, claims that a new operator has taken over all the quality printing paper. Chris has to find the secret hideout of the new supplier, who’s really just a thug, and then somehow arrange a deal, but even that goes awry, as Andy, ill-advisedly left holding the cash, caves in to pressure from his hoodlum-supplier back home to make a drug deal instead. This desertion in his ranks forces Chris to pay for his contraband by helping out the new thug with an armored car robbery, which goes badly, and turns into a shootout with the federales.
It gets worse. Chris discovers that he has been betrayed by his best friend back home, who is in cahoots with Andy’s supplier, and now his wife and children are at risk, because they’re left unprotected, and a convenient collateral.
Will our hero be able to return unscathed from his misadventures, identify the turncoats, keep Andy safe, rescue his loving but helpless wife, and return to happily ever after, with interest? Well, it’s a thrill ride trying to get there, anyway. Accompanied by a noble, languorous New Orleans backdrop and an authentic jazz/blues soundtrack, you could do a lot worse at the movies.
Dr. Ronald P. Salfen, Interim Pastor, St. Stephen’s Presbyterian Church, Irving , Texas