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Featured Blu-ray / DVD Review: Contraband

April 24th, 2012

Contraband - Buy from Amazon: DVD or Blu-ray Combo Pack

Contraband was an early year action film and generally these films are pretty bad and generally don't have a lot of box office power. This film did better that most in both areas, but is that damning it with faint praise? Or is this a good movie regardless of the release date? And if it is the latter, is the DVD and / or Blu-ray worth picking up?

The Movie

Mark Wahlberg stars as Chris Farraday, who is one of the best at his job. Unfortunately, his job is illegal (he is a smuggler) and he's long since retired and now has a wife and two kids. Fortunately, he's used the skills he developed in his past life to help him in his new life as a security expert. Who better to look for flaws in your security than someone who used to exploit them.

At the beginning of the film, we see his younger brother-in-law, Andy, and Andy's friend, Walter, trying to smuggle drugs into the states for a local gangster, Tim Briggs. When the ship gets boarded by customs, he has to dump the drugs, but this means he has to pay back the drug money, or he's going to be killed. When Chris goes to negotiate, Tim demands the full $700,000 street value, not just the buy money. Later on, Briggs even threatens to come after Chris's wife and kids if he doesn't have the full amount in two weeks.

Chris and his old partner, Sebastian Abney, decide on one last run. Chris will head down to Panama, with some of the crew on his dad's old ship (Danny Raymer, Tarik, Olaf) to grab $15 million in fake currency. They don't have a lot of time to plan and they worry about Captain Camp, the ship's captain, and the man who put Chris's father in prison in the first place, and who has a deep hatred for Chris as well.

The plan could work, but there will be no room for error. And with no time to rehearse, there will be a lot that can go wrong.

This film earned 51% positive reviews, and that's a near perfect way to describe the film. It has just enough that works to recommend the film, but there are more than enough flaws to prevent that recommendation from being enthusiastic. For instance, the film has pacing issues. It takes way too long to get to the action, while there are too many slow points throughout the movie. This is mainly because we are not given enough reason to really care about these characters. We are also missing the best part of a heist film, namely the pre-planning stage. You need to see the heist planned, so when it is executed and inevitably goes wrong, the improvisations are more fun than the original plan was. The complications don't add enough to the heist, but instead feel like a distraction. For instance, when they go to pick up the counterfeit money, they learn that an old friend of theirs has risen through the ranks and is now the local crime boss and they will have to deal with him directly to get the money. But, because of another complication, they have to help him rob an armored car. But instead of improvising a new part of the old plan, they have to come up with a second plan, which again doesn't have any pre-planning and worse still, we don't care about most of the characters involved. It's a distraction and doesn't elevate the main heist.

On the other hand, the film does have some great action scenes and there are a number of the main cast are great in their roles. Mark Wahlberg, J.K.Simmons, etc. It adds up to a movie that's worth watching if you are a fan of the genre, but not one that has a lot of replay value.

The Extras

The extras on the DVD start with an audio commentary with the director, Baltasar Kormakur, and one of his co-producers, Evan Hayes. It's a fairly lively track and certainly worth listening to if you liked the movie. Next up are a dozen deleted scenes; however, the total running time of just over six minutes, so they don't add a lot to the movie. The first of two making of featurettes is called Under the Radar, which runs for 17 minutes. There is also a shorter, 8-minute featurette called Reality Factor, which is about the stunts.

The Blu-ray has this and adds a Picture-in-Picture track, which has some behind-the-scenes footage, but it is too sparse to be really engaging. The Blu-ray is also BD-Live enabled with the usual features, as well as pocket BLU, My Scenes, etc.

The film's audio quality is good, but not great. The film was partially shot on film, and these shots have a lot of grain. It was also partially shot in HD, and these scenes look amazing. However, the switching between the two sources can be a bit distracting. The audio is better with the surround sound speakers getting a lot of action, with some directional effects and solid imput from the subwoofer.

Finally, we get to the price. The Blu-ray costs just $20 on, which is just 25% more than the DVD, plus it comes with the DVD / Digital copy. You can't complain about that.

The Verdict

Contraband is an acceptable action movie. If you are fan of the genre or of some of the cast, then it is worth watching. However, I would recommend just renting it. If you are interested in buying, then the Blu-ray Combo Pack is clearly the way to go over the DVD.

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Filed under: Video Review, Contraband