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July 28, 2012
Contraband Blu-Ray Review
Cinema Release Blu-Ray Release Distributor Director
23/2/201221/6/2012UniversalBaltasar Kormákur
Video Codec Sound Format OFLC Rating Star(s)
AVC MPEG-4DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1MA15+Mark Wahlberg

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Giovanni Ribisi is superb(ly evil) in Contraband.

With a cast including Mark Wahlberg, Kate Beckinsale, and Giovanni Ribisi and a few set pieces with some great cinematography I was quite surprised to find this film was made on a rather modest $US25 million budget. The film is actually a remake of an Icelandic film called Reykjavík-Rotterdam and that films star, Baltasar Kormákur, has directed this American remake.

Chris Farraday (Wahlberg) long ago abandoned his life of crime, but after his brother-in-law, Andy, botches a drug deal for his ruthless boss, Tim Briggs (Giovanni Ribisi), Chris is forced back into doing what he does best — running contraband — to settle Andy’s debt. Chris is a legendary smuggler and quickly assembles a crew with the help of his best friend, Sebastian, for one final run to Panama and back, hoping to return with millions in counterfeit bills.

Things quickly fall apart and with only hours to reach the cash, Chris must use his rusty skills to successfully navigate a treacherous criminal network of brutal drug lords, cops and hit men before his wife, Kate (Kate Beckinsale), and sons become their target.

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Contraband includes some frantic action.
Contraband mixes action and drama quite nicely into a neat film that will probably divide opinions. It's not all- out action and violence but when it does kick in its fast, frantic and brutal. As readers would know I despise quick cutting and shaky-cam usage, but when it's used here - primarily during a heist sequence - it seems appropriate. Viewers should also be aware that there's quite a bit of swearing in this movie, but that's why it's been slapped with a MA15+ rating.

In terms of acting Mark Wahlberg, while doing a fine job, doesn't seem to be pushing himself in this film, and Kate Beckinsale seems under-utilised but has a few nice moments - not all of them pleasant for the character either. J.K. Simmons puts in a decent turn as the hard-nosed captain of the ship upon which the goods are being smuggled. It's Giovanni Ribisi who is the standout in this film for me. Not only does he capture pure evil, but with a little bit of a heart and reality that makes you believe he could be a real gangster living today.

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The Contraband Blu-Ray is, often, stunning.
Contraband was an interesting film with some great action sequences, decent acting and a decent plot. It's not the high point in cinema but we enjoyed this film a lot more then we expected. Definitely worth checking out if the genre is of interest to you.

Contraband was filmed on a mixture of 35mm film and digitally and while there are small differences here and there, and some slight variation in contrast and detail levels, this really is a great looking film with plenty of depth and sharpness to the image with fine detail evident through a large majority of shots. The film is delivered on Blu-Ray in the film’s original 2.40:1 aspect ratio using the AVC MPEG-4 codec and it's a very solid transfer indeed. Sure, it's not transfer quality but there is no doubt that this Blu-Ray release far surpasses the quality which DVD can offer.

The Contraband Blu-Ray's primary audio track is an English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track (24-bit/48Khz) which has great clarity and LFE effects. Surround sound channels are used on occasion for atmosphere, but kick in during the more action packed sequence - especially a major shootout sequence in the second half of the film. Dialogue is clear at all times, although the occasional accent may have you thinking for a moment or two.

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Mark Wahlberg, what you got stashed there?
Beyond the primary English track this Blu-Ray includes German and Spanish DTS 5.1 tracks at 768kbps as well as an English Descriptive Video Service encoded in Dolby Digital 2.0 at 192kbps. We sampled these tracks occasionally at various key moments in the film and didn't notice any major issues - indeed those requiring the German and Spanish tracks should be very pleased. Of course the Descriptive Video Service, being 2 channel takes quite a hit in quality.

Subtitles are provided in English, German, Spanish, Chinese, Dutch, Finnish, Korean, Norwegian, Portuguese, and Swedish. We sampled the English track at various points in the film and it was accurate to the dialogue in the film with subtitles placed near the person talking which makes it easier to read and know who's speaking without looking at them.

This disc starts up with a nice (skippable) trailer celebrating 100 Years of Universal films. Running for 2.28 it has clips from dozens of Universal's biggest films over the last century. Beyond that the Blu-Ray contains U-Control and several smaller features.

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Mark Wahlberg and Ben Foster star in Contraband.
U-Control (HD): Certainly the biggest and best extra on the Contraband Blu-Ray is U-Control which is a PIP window with interviews, on-set footage and more playable during the film. It's pretty good quality and worth a viewing on your second or third time through the film.

Deleted Scenes (6:24/HD): In all there are 12 deleted scenes here, but with a total runtime of just over 6 minutes there isn't a massive amount of substance here. Scenes are titled "I Did It", "Dancing Ninja", "I Haven't.. Yet", "I Don't Need To Be Reminded", "Alternate Crew Search", "Broken Seal", "Right About There", "Oil Cans", "Looking For Me, Captain?", "Sebastian Leaves", "Searching", and "I Have Never Run Drugs".

Under The Radar: The Making of Contraband (17:02/HD): This is a pretty good featurette which covers the production of this film, how it is a remake of an Icelandic film (in which the director of this film starred), similarities to real world, selecting the cast for the film, using real-world locations around New Orleans, and filming.

Reality Factor: The Stunts and Action of Contraband (7:56/HD): Although quite short this featurette gives a pretty good look at the action sequences in the film with the focus on the lengthy heist sequence which included a car crash, explosion and plenty of gunfire. It then moves into the stunt work in the film.

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Contraband is out now on Blu-Ray, and recommended.
Feature Commentary with Director/Producor Baltasar Kormákur and Producer Evan Hayes: While this isn't the best commentary ever heard, the two participants have plenty to talk about including the differences from the Icelandic and Hollywood versions of the film, on set anecdotes, and casting decisions among others. It's worth a listen if you have some spare time.

Not knowing what to expect I was pleasantly surprised with Contraband which is a slick film with solid cast and decent storyline. With a great transfer and decent extras this is a Blu-Ray well worth checking out.

Review By: Dave Warner


Note: All images in this article are Copyright© Universal. They are only indicative of the movie and not sourced from the vastly superior Blu-Ray disc format.