“It seems so weird that it’s been a week and a half since the last movie. I did re-see MI:4 yesterday. Still completely \m/ awesome. The scene on the Burj Kalifa is now officially one of my absolute favorite-est action sequences ever.

But yeah the January movie doldrums meant that there was nothing new last week I was interested in. The wide releases are typically leftovers that Hollywood didnt have enough faith in to release during a busier season. You’ve got all the Oscar bait-y indies and artsies, but their release schedule is wonky. What that all boils down to is that expectations were low.

In all honesty, I dont know if I would have gone to see this if it had been released during a more crowded season. I love Mark Wahlberg, the concept seemed okay, but nothing that got me too excited (although had I noticed Ben Foster in the cast earlier, that might have been the push I’d have needed). The lesson I learned is that I really need to trust Marky Mark when it comes to this style of film.

This isnt the first time I’ve underestimated him. I think what it is is that when he goes for something tough-guy-ish, it’s not flashy. It’s simple and gritty, and often overlooked. The whole time I was thinking about Shooter, which similarly looked kinda meh, but turned out to be really good (I have particularly warm fuzzies about it because I remember my Daddy had really enjoyed that one). But what was good about Contraband is just the way the suspense was built out. Yeah, there was a bit of a cheese factor of “”How much more could possibly go wrong?”” but even when I was able to predict how events were gonna play out, I still felt the heart thumping quickly, worrying over the characters. That was the other strength-the characters. I dont think I’ve ever felt so invested in the characters in this type of flick, which was a nice trade off for not having the flashy action sequences.

The characters would not have been so strong if not for the cast. I’ve come to expect nothing but excellence from Mark Wahlberg. While he may have been trying his hand at comedy lately, this is where he’s really at home. He plays the reformed but conflicted tough guy with just the right combo of heart and attitude. Likewise, Ben Foster has really found his spot in Hollywood, having come a long way from his Disney days on Flash Forward (and yes, all you Browncoats, that is Jewel Staite with him. He’s been just that close to an Oscar nod twice, and while this won’t be the film to do it, he’s still keeping his skills quite sharp.

It was nice to see Diego Luna again. I adored him in Criminal, but he’s only sporatically appeared in films since. And he’s usually playing some kinda crazy. This was no exception. It works though. What I’m not too sure about working is Giovanni Ribisi’s insistance on playing ultimate baddies lately. Yeah he does it well, but I much prefer him as a nice guy. Or maybe I just saw The Other Sister too many times. And since I often tend to skip over the girls, I’ll add that Kate Beckinsale was rather stunning.

Anyhoo, much better than I expected, and I’d even say better than it deserved to be. I did not expect to be giving it this rating.

Contraband – \m/ \m/ \m/ \m/

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