Contraband **

February 23, 2012 by James Berardinelli - Reelviews
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Contraband is the kind of thriller that offers just enough in the way of effective elements to assemble a two-minute trailer…writes James Berardinelli.

When it comes to a 110-minute feature, however, the sketchiness of the plotting and the director’s lack of sure-handedness sink the project. By their very nature, heist-oriented thrillers are intended to be erected upon a bedrock of contrivances, but a skilled director can obfuscate this reality and make the whole thing seem like one long, fun ride. Sadly, in the case of Contraband, the seams show. Either as a result of poor writing or sloppy editing, glaring plot holes are never plugged. The film’s structure is haphazard, the energy level is low, the surprises are few, and the ending is far too clean for such a messy motion picture. In short, this is pretty much what we have come to expect of movies released in January (at least those that are not Oscar-hopeful holdovers from the previous year).

Contraband is remake of the Icelandic film Reykjavik-Rotterdam. This movie’s director, Baltasar Kormakur, served as both producer and lead actor in the original, so there’s a solid connection. While Kormakur brings a sense of offbeat humor to the proceedings, his handling of action sequences is suspect (they lack tension) and the story is frustratingly driven by characters doing moronic and short-sighted things. The screenplay could be smart, but it isn’t. The pace is uneven; only on rare occasions is there a sense of urgency, and the “nick of time” ending seems like what it is: a bad cliché.

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James Berardinelli is a Los Angeles based world-renowned movie reviewer. J-Wire is proud to be associated with him.

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