Wednesday, 21 March 2012



A Hidden Gem.

110 Minutes. Starring: Mark Wahlberg, Kate Beckinsale, Ben Foster & Giovanni Ribisi. Director: Baltasar Kormákur. Screenplay: Aaron Guzikowski

'The Hunger Games', 'The Avengers' and 'The Dark Knight Rises' haven't even been released yet (wait one day for one) but are practically proof that 2012 is going to be an incredible year for movies, even after a somewhat slow start. Another reason this 12 month calender is going to make for some classic cinema is due to a lot of pleasant surprise films that really will rank among the best coming out right now.

Take last weeks comedy relief release of the surprisingly hilarious Jonah Hill and Channing Tatum comedy '21 Jump Street' for a great example. How about another? How about Academy certified but underrated lead leading man Mark Wahlberg? He's revealing something great. No don't worry we aren't talking about the same 'thing' as in 'Boogie Nights'...I think we've all seen enough of that. What I'm talking about is his new hit thriller; 'Contraband'.

Wahlberg is possessing another great film to add to his line of smuggled successes, that include the brilliant, pull no punches 'The Fighter', the formidable 'Four Brothers', the tide of 'A Perfect Storm', the straight-firing 'Shooter' , the hilarious 'The Other Guys' and his Oscar nominated turn in 'The Departed' with all those great actors around him. It's clear Wahlberg is a class in his own right. Those Marky Mark rapper days are long behind him, Wahlberg is a serious talent and those who don't see that seriously don't see movies. Once again he brings his brave and bold, no b.s., brawn with brains part to another blue-collar action thriller.

This really is thrilling too. It's rare these days that action thrillers are unpredictable and able to keep you on the edge of your seats, but this grimey and dark crime thriller is anything but generic. Genuinely this is one of the best and truly tense stories you'll be told in theatres all year. Wahlberg's character is on the straight and narrow, but this new life is on shallow ground when his wife's little brother gets in the kind of trouble you don't want with the kind of people you don't want to meet. Therefore in order to make things right, Wahlberg has to do the wrong thing and get back into the world of illegal contraband smuggling.

Wahlberg needs an even bigger boat as he sets sail on a cargo ship for the perfect storm of loyalty and double-crossing in all its tension and drama. As he looks to get into some funny money, there are little laughs afforded in a seriously desperate race against the wrong side of the law on a story that goes for broke and cashes in with substance and success.

The seemingly ageless and versatile Kate Beckinsale gives one of her most gritty and great performances to date standing by her man and looking out for her brother. While rising talent Ben Foster yet again shows why he's worthy of more attention than most establishing actors. His phone won't stop ringing after another great outing. J.K. Simmons and Mark's brother Robert Wahlberg also get in the way of things with some great performances but it's Giovanni Ribisi that almost steals the show. Just call this guy the new Woody Harrelson. A leading, classic character actor for our times with more to him. It's clear he's more than Phoebe's brother from 'Friends' these days. Looking even dirtier than he did on 'The Rum Diary', Ribisi is seriously sinister as a vile villain reeking of evil.

All in all this potent mix reveals a truly taunt and twisting tale of tension. It's one of those one and done films in the sense that you don't see anything coming as it gets better as the scenes and the stakes raise. As the plot thickens, your doubt if this picture is any good thins. It's the kind of film you wish you could watch again with a fresh mind. It's one of those raw but refreshing action movies that actually but the 'thrill' in 'thriller'. If you don't keep your eye out, this 'Contraband' may pass by unseen, but it's time you sniffed out something real in cinemas. Wahlberg makes his mark once again. TIM DAVID HARVEY.

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