In his latest shot at working-class-hero status, Mark Wahlberg plays Chris, a smuggler-turned-family man forced to get back in the game when his wayward brother-in-law gets in hock to a gang of dealers led by drawling wigga psychopath Briggs (Giovanni Ribisi, apparently channelling the spirit of George Kennedy). Leaving best pal Sebastian (Ben Foster) in charge of wife Kate (Kate Beckinsale) and their two small kids, Chris hitches a ride on a cargo ship bound for Panama, accompanied by a motley band of drug-runners.
Though admittedly drowning in Pabst-swilling Springsteen chic and weary one-last-job cliches, ‘Contraband’ is a stylishly directed thriller that benefits from a knotty, unpredictable script and an indisputably great cast. While frontman Wahlberg is suitably terse and brooding as the put-upon hero, Foster, Diego Luna, JK Simmons and especially Ribisi add much-needed spice with a ragged parade of scenery-chewing, scene-stealing supporting turns.
The result is unlikely to linger long in the memory, but it’s enormous fun while it lasts, particularly the central Panama sequences, all vibrant colour and thundering pistol fire. The final act, too, is a real crowd-pleaser, wrapping up a tangle of storylines in unfashionably upbeat, feelgood fashion. So perhaps ‘Contraband’ is crime-by-numbers – but it’s also honest, unpretentious and highly entertaining.