This weekend, Mark Wahlberg invades your local cineplex with a movie about smuggling called "Contraband." As it turns out, I think that "Contraband" has a lot of plot holes. Cinemablend's Katey Rich also thinks there are a lot of plot holes. (You can read her review here.) So many plot holes, in fact, that we decided an obsessive discussion was in order. (Spoiler alert, obviously.)
Mike: So, what did you think of "Contraband"?
Katey: It has been about three weeks since I saw "Contraband, and I already struggle to remember that I saw "Contraband." I kind of wonder if Mark Wahlberg remembers that he made "Contraband."
Mike: I agree. Luckily, I took notes. I only take extensive notes during boring movies.
Katey: For lack of other things to do? Yeah, I've been there. Does anything from your notes make this movie seem more interesting? Mike: I did write down the words "exposition" and "Birdcage." Katey: Oh man, that "Birdcage" line still sticks in my craw. Mike: OK, let's get into this.
Katey: So I think the world needs to know: despite what the first half hour of this movie will lead you to believe, Ben Foster's character is NOT gay. Mike: You think Sebastian (Ben Foster) is gay because Mark Wahlberg compares Sebastian's home to the Nathan Lane/Robin Williams movie "The Birdcage"? That's quite a leap. Katey: And his good clothes and fancy apartment and intense attachment to Mark Wahlberg. And there was something about the way Ben Foster was playing him that made me think, Oh, that's an interesting character trait. But, no. There are no interesting character traits in this movie. Mike: So for the first half hour you were thinking, Well, that's a twist I wasn't expecting? That "Contraband" was going to make a statement on gay rights? Katey: At least that "Contraband" would have characters doing anything other than exactly what you expect. I think in the first half hour I realized the movie was kind of nonsense, but I was rooting for some bright spots. And if you call "giant plot holes" bright spots, then I guess there were some! Mike: What were your favorite plot holes? I have two. Katey: I think the complete disposability of the whole action scene in .... Panama? Is it Panama? Wherever it is, the scene with Diego Luna, in which he and Wahlberg are old pals but he's also completely expendable once he's dead, is kind of amazing. Mike: It is Panama. There is a Van Halen song about that place. Katey: It exists basically to make Wahlberg late getting on to the ship, and then there are ZERO consequences. Mike: It also exists to let David Lee Roth do the splits on stage. Katey: If only Mark Wahlberg were doing some splits Mike: He used to do things like that, you know. Katey: Wahlberg? You mean back when he did interesting thing in movies, rather than just standing in the middle of the frame and looking concerned? Mike: He used to sing, too. OK, to play devil's advocate... this is a movie about smuggling. They HAD to smuggle SOMETHING from SOMEWHERE. Why not Panama?
Katey: Oh, the fact that they went to Panama is no problem at all. Nor is the fact that there's some crazy action scene once they get there. And really, if you described the basics of this plot -- Wahlberg dragged back into crime, crime happens, everybody gets rich -- I'd be fine with it. It's that when you're watching it, it seems like nobody in the movie even cares about what's happening. Mike: Oh, I'll take it a step further and say that you can drop the words "it seems" from that last sentence. Katey: But like, this director is making his American directing debut. You'd figure he's bringing his A game. Is this seriously his A game? Mike: It may be HIS A game. It's certainly not the actors' A game. But let's talk about that for a second. That's a raw deal because Baltasar Kormakur probably has no idea that American actors phone it in on movies like this. Katey: I'd argue that Giovanni Ribisi is doing a lot of strange things in this movie, but phoning it in is not his problem. Mike: I'll give you Ribisi. But Wahlberg is SO not intimidated by Ribisi. With reason, I suppose. Why did he even agree to do this job? He just beat up the guy forcing him to do that job. Is Ribisi good in this movie? I can't decide. Katey: I would argue he isn't, but I think it's not entirely his fault -- his character, like virtually all of them, lacks any authenticity that might support the performance. None of this feels like it happens in any actual place, real or fictional. And it's really not fair to say, "'The Wire' did it better," but for God's sake, when it comes to talking about smuggling and shipping containers, "The Wire" did it better. Mike: "Star Wars" did it better. Katey: I, too, wish I had been watching "Star Wars" instead of "Contraband." Mike: So there's a long scene in which Wahlberg gets a new identity so he can get a job on one of those cargo ships. The second he steps onboard, the ship's captain, played by J.K. Simmons, says, "Hey, I know you. You're Chris Farraday." I am still so confused as to why Wahlberg/Farraday was allowed to keep his job. Katey: This is what I'm talking about -- things just kind of happen in this movie, one after another, and everyone in the movie pretends it makes sense so you're just supposed to go with it. Mike: And J.K. Simmons KNOWS that Wahlberg is a smuggler. "I've got my eye on you, Farraday." What? That's it? Katey: J.K. Simmons is a busy guy, man! He's got to captain that ship and yell at people!
Mike: I assumed that J.K. Simmons was in on the smuggle. But, alas, I also thought that this movie could be good. Katey: It seems our hope was in vain Mike: OK... the ending. Did you like the ending, Katey? Katey: You mean "'The Town,' but with no moral ambiguity"? Mike: That's good, actually. I'm going to steal that from you. Then smuggle that line to Panama in a van with a Jackson Pollock painting. Katey: Wahlberg could have at least grown a beard.
Mike: Why would you want a bearded Wahlberg?
Katey: Because Affleck did it. If Affleck could put in the effort, Wahlberg can too, dammit. Mike: OK, so the movie ends with Wahlberg successfully smuggling drugs back to the US through the use of a Rug Doctor, or something. Then he has Ribisi and Ribisi's thugs meet him at a house for the transfer. Wahlberg then calls the cops and tips them off to the meeting and sneaks out of what turns out to be the house of a clueless J.K. Simmons. Katey: WHO COULD HAVE GUESSED? Mike: My question for you, Katey: What is stopping Ribisi and his thugs from telling the cops, "It was Chris Farraday. He set this all up." Any normal person would do that to cut a deal. Katey: Maybe Baltasar Kormakur doesn't understand the American legal system. Should we cut him that break? Mike: He has, literally, 50 American actors on set. Katey: Maybe they don't understand the American legal system either? I mean, clearly none of them are watching "The Wire," so they might just not know. Mike: Wahlberg and his cocky grin are walking around at the end: "Well, got away with that one scot-free." Katey: He's Mark Wahlberg. You have no idea what kind of freedoms those abs can negotiate. Mike: I'll admit: I'd acquit Mark Wahlberg because of his abs. And I'm straight. Katey: They've done a great service to the American people. I'm fairly certain that when it starts airing on FX in about a year, I will have forgotten I ever saw it.
Mike: I was guessing Spike. Right after "Max Payne."
Katey: Probably both. It is exactly the kind of movie people flipping channels think they want to watch. Mike: That quote should be on the poster. "It is exactly the kind of movie people flipping channels think they want to watch." -- Katey Rich, Cinemablend Katey: And what's your pull quote? Mike: "I don't get paid enough to see movies like this" -- Mike Ryan, Moviefone. Katey: "Contraband" may be the definition of a First World Critic Problem Mike: From now on, instead of #firstworldproblems, the hashtag will be #contraband. "My bidet is broken" #contraband Katey: I encourage you get this hashtag going. In conclusion: ignore "Contraband." It will go away soon.
Katey Rich is the editor-in-chief of Cinemablend.com. You can follow her on Twitter.
Mike Ryan is the senior writer for Moviefone. He has written for Wired Magazine, VanityFair.com, GQ.com, New York Magazine and Movieline. He likes Star Wars a lot. You can contact Mike Ryan directly on Twitter