When the first “Contraband” trailer hit in September, its conventional action pacing, strong doses of Mark Wahlberg machismo and virile use of the song "Red Nation" promised two possible outcomes: 1) A passable or even solid genre flick or 2) Yet another inhabitant in the forgettable Mark Wahlberg action-movie ghetto (“Four Brothers,” “Shooter,” “Max Payne”).
The newest International trailer, on the other hand, takes an almost entirely different angle. The first minute sets it up traditionally with a pulsing musical push. Already it features way more of the cast including Giovanni Ribisi (who seems to be channeling his inner Ratso Rizzo) and sustains a gloomier tone than the slam-bang of the American trailer. About midway, a theme of near-Vangelis-like emo-proportions attempts to frame "Contraband" not as straight action but as a gritty, emotional crime saga with the stylistic heft of “The Departed,” or perhaps even “Drive”. But that’s quite a stretch. The basic pounding Mark Wahlberg action/thriller core remains in tact.
Hints, however, at potential depth may not be totally unjustified. The director, Baltasar Kormákur, is a respected Icelandic filmmaker and actually played Wahlberg’s role in the film "Contraband" is based on, “Reykjavik-Rotterdam” – though he didn’t direct. Kormákur (whose films as director include “A Little Trip to Heaven” and “The Sea”) hasn’t exactly set international cinema on fire but he isn’t a complete non-entity either.
With a decent supporting cast in place -- Ribisi, Diego Luna, Ben Foster, Lukas Haas and J.K. Simmons -- we're hoping this can be a bit more than an average car-go-boom Mark Wahlbergh action vehicle.
"Contraband" hits on January 13, 2012.