Video Verdict: ‘Contraband’

Thug Tim Briggs (Giovanni Ribisi) threatens Chris Farraday (Mark Wahlberg) in “Contraband,” a thriller about a former smuggler who gets sucked back into the business.

It’s a slow week for home video, as only one major theatrical release is making its way to DVD and Blu-ray. Fortunately, that title is a worthwhile thriller starring Mark Wahlberg.


3 stars (out of four)
Rated R for violence, pervasive language and brief drug use
Available on: DVD, Blu-ray, digital download and on demand

In 2008, Baltasar Kormakur played the lead role in “Reyjavik-Rotterdam,” an Icelandic thriller about a former smuggler tempted back to a life of crime. Four years later, Kormakur has returned to the material, but this time as director. “Contraband” is an English-language remake of the Icelandic movie, and it stars Mark Wahlberg as Chris Farraday, an expert smuggler who went straight after a stint in jail.

Chris gets sucked back into the business when his brother-in-law, Andy (Calen Landry Jones), becomes heavily indebted to a New Orleans gangster named Tim Briggs (Giovanni Ribisi). Briggs makes it clear that Andy won’t survive the month unless he comes up with $700,000. Briggs also tells Chris that he and his wife, Kate (Kate Beckinsale), are on the hook for the debt, regardless of what happens to Andy. Although Chris desperately wants to stay on the right side of the law, he knows the only way to raise the cash is a return to smuggling. So, he hatches a plan to transfer $10 million in counterfeit bills from Panama to the U.S.

Chris’ plot is anything but a sure thing, as it involves getting the forged money aboard a freighter without the captain’s knowledge. Fortunately, Chris has a team of veteran smugglers working with him on the ship, while his long-time friend Sebastian (Ben Foster) watches over his family at home.

As with many modern thrillers, the plotting in “Contraband” becomes highly improbable, particularly during sequences where Chris and his crew are in Panama. Still, Wahlberg is a charismatic screen presence, and he gets solid supporting work from Foster, Ribisi, Beckinsale and Jones. It’s fun to watch Chris negotiate his way out of one tight squeeze after another, and Kormakur does a fine job with the pacing. “Contraband” also scores points for a respectable third act twist that’s legitimately surprising.

DVD and Blu-ray extras include two making-of features, deleted scenes and a filmmakers’ commentary.


“The Innkeepers”: Horror film about two employees (Sara Paxton and Pat Healy) who are about to close a New England Inn that has been operating for more than a century. As they prepare for the facility’s final days, they decide to prove that it’s haunted. Of course, they get more than they bargained for. Written and directed by Ti West (“The House of the Devil”). Kelly McGillis also stars.

“Titanic”: Four-part TV miniseries that ran on ABC earlier this month. The show focuses on the 1912 sinking of the Titanic ocean liner. Oscar-winner Julian Fellowes (“Gosford Park”) wrote the script, and Peter McDonald, Steven Waddington and Glen Blackhall star.

“Dark Tide”: Thriller starring Halle Berry as a troubled shark expert who gets talked into leading a millionaire on a shark dive … without a cage. Olivier Martinez also stars. Directed by John Stockwell (“Blue Crush,” “Into the Blue”).

“The Organizer”: Criterion Collection release of director Mario Monicelli’s 1963 drama about factory workers fighting for better conditions. The film, which received an Oscar nomination for its screenplay, is presented in Italian with English subtitles. Marcello Mastroianni stars.

“Patton Oswalt – Finest Hour”: Comedian and actor Patton Oswalt received a Grammy Award nomination for the audio version of his “Finest Hour” comedy special. This release brings the standup routine to video.

“Pariah”: Drama about a Brooklyn high school student (Adepero Oduye) embracing the fact that she’s a lesbian while dealing with problems at home. Kim Wayans, Aasha Davis, Pernell Walker and Charles Parnell also star. Written and directed by Dee Rees.

“Cinema Verite”: HBO drama about the making of “An American Family,” the 1973 PBS documentary that helped pioneer reality television. Tim Robbins and Diane Lane star as Bill and Pat Loud, the real-life couple that agreed to let filmmakers document life in their household. James Gandolfini and Thomas Dekker also star. The movie was nominated for three Golden Globes, and it won an Emmy for editing.

“Young Goethe In Love”: Drama about an early romance in the life of German poet and philosopher Johann Wolfgang Goethe (Alexander Fehling). Philipp Stolz directed the film, and it is presented in German with English subtitles.

“Billy the Exterminator” – The Complete Season Four: Twelve episodes of the A&E reality show about the adventures of Billy Bretherton, a pest control professional. Season four is noteworthy because Billy and his brother Ricky leave their home base of Louisiana to tackle pests in other states.

“Camelot”: This 1967 musical is receiving a Blu-ray debut for its 45th anniversary. The story centers on King Arthur (Richard Harris), his beloved Guenevere (Vanessa Redgrave), and a love triangle that develops when she acquires feelings for Sir Lancelot (Franco Nero).

“Some Days are Better Than Others”: Independent drama starring musicians Carrie Brownstein and James Mercer as young people coming to terms with the fact that their lives aren’t always what they want them to be. Written and directed by Matt McCormick.

“Return”: A young woman (Linda Cardellini) struggles to fit into civilian life after returning from a tour of duty in Iraq. Michael Shannon and John Slattery also star. Written and directed by Liza Johnson.

“Crime After Crime”: Documentary film about the legal battle to free Debbie Peagler from prison. The now-deceased woman was incarcerated for more than 25 years for her connection to the murder of a man who physically and mentally abused her.

“Iron Man Anime” and “X-Men Anime”: Each of these DVD sets takes popular Marvel superheroes and reimagines their adventures in anime style.


– Forrest Hartman is an independent film critic whose byline has appeared in some of the nation’s largest publications. E-mail him at

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