A remake of an Icelandic thriller, it's easy to see why Wahlberg really went after this film. A blue collar family man who was once a top drawer smuggler, it plays to the Bostonian Oscar nominees ostensible strengths; tough, but sensitive when applicable. The overall film is a little disjointed, but generally enjoyable.
Not so long ago Wahlberg's John Bryce and his best friend Chris (the always watchable Foster) were infamous amongst the criminal elite for their smuggling skills. Now turned straight, he's dragged back into it when his dim-witted brother-in-law (Jones) pisses off Giovanni Ribisi's local tough bastard. Forced to repay a debt, John must take on a dangerous job to keep his family safe. While he's off changing his middle name to "danger", revelations occurring at home put the very family he's trying to protect at risk.
It's hard to put Contraband in a box, because it's neither an action film nor really a thriller - but it does have elements of both. Sometimes those elements are slick, if out of place (explosion during a heist in South America), others lack tension (the long plot reveal), but overall it has enough class to ignore its flaws. The casting of Ben Foster and Giovanni Ribisi certainly helps lend said element of class, as both actors are extremely underrated and immensely watchable.
This is very much Wahlberg's film, and thus his role is naturally the strongest. He has a couple of moments where he gets to be hard and tough and a couple where he's all tender with his missus. Speaking of which, Beckinsale's role is probably the poorest, and the British actress need only really look concerned, then in peril, for the majority of her screen time.
When Wahlberg's character leaves for what really amounts to a subplot, Contraband certainly loses something and never really feels like the same. Sure, he has to go for the plot mechanics to kick in, but it feels like just that - an excuse.
Certainly watchable, and generally fun, it just hinted at something better which is why some might be disappointed.