Review in a Hurry: Former smuggler Chris Farraday (Mark Wahlberg) is pulled into one last job to keep his screwed-up brother-in-law Andy (and by extension, the rest of the family) out of danger. An unusual sort of heist movie in which the heist itself keeps changing, Contraband makes for a fun flick at first, until a nasty—and tonally inconsistent—misogynistic streak kills the joy.
The Bigger Picture: If you love it when a plan comes together, you'll likely get a kick out of the way the plot here coalesces. Chris goes off to Panama with Andy (X-Men: First Class' Banshee, Caleb Landry Jones) to pull off a job right under the oblivious nose of a smarmy freighter captain (J.K. Simmons). Meanwhile, back home, best friend Sebastian (Ben Foster) must protect Chris' wife, Kate (Kate Beckinsale), from the wrath of sleazy drug dealer Tim Briggs (Giovanni Ribisi, once again trying out a ridiculous voice that even Daniel Day-Lewis would be embarrassed by).
Everyone is working a different angle, and events get even more entangled with the involvement of swaggering Panamanian kingpin Gonzalo (Diego Luna). As the complications build up, and as Chris must use his brain more than his fists to figure a way out, the movie's sleight of hand feels like a rare trick.
Alas, the movie takes a turn toward the dark and ugly late in the game, with a plot development so unpleasant that the filmmakers' subsequent attempts to walk it back demonstrate that they either knew what a cheap gimmick it was to begin with...or, perhaps more likely, that mitigating reshoots were done after audiences rightly recoiled. In a film so fleet of foot and light of heart prior to that moment, it turns the escapism into something you actually want to escape from. Then when things go right back to being gleefully goofy again, we wonder what the point was.
We'd love to make a couple of judicious trims and subsequently recommend this for a fun night out. As is, the squeamish will not be amused.
The 180—a Second Opinion: A running gag about a Jackson Pollock painting that nobody ever recognizes as actual art may be secondary to the main plot, but it's consistently amusing.