Since his breakout role in ‘Boogie Nights’ Mark Wahlberg has established himself as a dependable leading man.  Ever ready with a scowl and rugged demeanour he has come a long way from his early musical career.  ‘Contraband’ is a fine example of the serious persona he has created with the blend of action and drama suiting his talents.  Whilst it would be good for him to occasionally do something different his latest is a solid effort despite some silly contrivances.


Ex-smuggler Chris (Mark Wahlberg) works in the security business and lives with his wife Kate (Kate Beckinsale) and young children.  Believing his old ways are gone he receives a nasty shock when his brother-in-law Andy (Calbe Landry Jones) asks for help. On the run from dangerous mobster Tim (Giovanni Ribisi), Andy enlists Chris’ help in running a contraband scheme in order to pay off his debts.  With his family at stake and danger at every turn Chris’s skills become his most valuable asset.


Derived from the heist/thriller formula, ‘Contraband’ once again finds Wahlberg as a heroic underdog.  His character’s desperation in saving his family reflects the self-interest of those involved.  Using the situation for their own needs, Chris’ friends quickly become saints or sinners depending on how swiftly events unfold.  Adding much intrigue to a fairly routine story, their changing motivations and some genuinely tense sequences make for engaging viewing.


Directing this remake of a 2008 Icelandic film, Baltasar Kormakur maintains a steady pace.  He successfully generates a gritty atmosphere with the cinematography capturing the urban environs with ease.  Letting down these elements are some over the top performances and increasingly ludicrous plotting.  Unfortunately these take away from its authentic feel although the level of conviction from the main leads help.


‘Contraband’ is a straight up Wahlberg vehicle for his enduring fan-base.  You know exactly what you’ll receive with his movies with his latest benefitting from his rough presence.


Rating out of 10:  6

Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close

Adapted from Jonathan Safran Foer’s novel, Director Stephen Daldry’s new work has received mixed views.  Based on the September 11 attacks its emotive subject matter has been seen as a ploy for garnering Awards.  Whilst it has indeed been nominated for many glittering prizes, its main reason for existing should be to stimulate the mind and soul.  That it mostly doesn’t is a fault of an unclear narrative smothering its good intentions.

September 11 2001 is a day young Oskar (Thomas Horn) will never forget.  Discovering his beloved father Thomas (Tom Hanks) was one of the victims of that day’s attacks, he tries to discover why this happened.  His grief stricken mother Linda (Sandra Bullock) is unable to provide answers setting him on a quest to uncover his own.  Finding a key hiding in a vase in his father’s wardrobe, little does he know it will unearth a familial mystery.  Helped by a mysterious stranger (Max Von Sydow) the journey he embarks forever changes him.


Occasionally having flashes of genuine pathos, ‘Extremely Loud’ almost fails on every other level.  The main reason is the depiction of Oskar’s autism.  It isn’t particularly established enough to allow understanding of his behaviour.  At times he comes across as being irritatingly rude to those doing their best to help him.  This isn’t the fault of Horn - who plays him well - it just makes it very difficult to join such an unlikeable character on his travels.


Other characters fare no better and never really contribute much to the overall story.  Von Sydow’s role is a good example as his role serves little purpose in changing Oskar’s viewpoint.  Having an overly melodramatic tone with swirling violins highlighting Oskar’s troubles doesn’t help either even if the conclusion is reasonably satisfying.  It’s a struggle reaching that point however with the production only the sum of its parts.


Told in an artificially confected manner, ‘Extremely Loud’ never really amounts to much.  Although involving in some places its coldness in conveying its story decreases any of its noble intentions.


Rating out of 10:  5