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'Contraband' Review: Smuggled Cliches by the Dozen

This weekend’s new action film “Contraband” might be 90-plus minutes worth of Deja View.

Mark Wahlberg stars as a retired smuggler forced to take on “one last mission” to save “his wife and kids” from “an out of control” thug, but when said mission “doesn’t go as planned” he’s forced to “save the day” by “any means necessary.”

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“Contraband” might win some sort of green award for such diligent recycling, but with a better than required cast the film nicks our pleasure centers just enough to recommend it.

Wahlberg clearly isn’t taxing himself here, but he makes his character’s heroics feel grounded enough to stop any snickering. Or most, at the very least.

Chris Farrady (Wahlberg) gave up the smuggler’s life for a dull, but safe gig as a home security installer. Chris’ screw-up of a brother-in-law (Caleb Jones) didn’t get the family memo, so when he botches a smuggling mission Chris is left to pick up the pieces. That means placating the local drug lord (Giovanni Ribisi in full dirt bag mode) who wants his money back … or else.

Now, Chris must assemble the old gang to run one final mission, but naturally nothing goes according to plan.

“Contraband” teases us with fresh plot elements only to swipe them away like Lucy tormenting Charlie Brown with that football. Ribisi’s character is boilerplate evil, but when Chris first pays him a visit the thug’s daughter by his side. Watching two grown men exchange deadly threats, but then play act so as not to frighten the youngster, is a nice spin on a rather ordinary sequence.

Later, when Chris is knee deep in that tricky last assignment, one of his team members (Lukas Haas) practically wets himself with fear over what might happen next.

Those moments are fleeting, and soon we’re back dealing with Chris’ loyal wife (Kate Beckinsale), his loyal best friend (Ben Foster, ever interested) and an assorted gallery of loyal smuggler pals.

The mundane dialogue hardly shakes the feelings we’ve been through “Contraband” before.

“You were the best of the best, but the proudest day of my life is when you went legit,” says Chris’ father, jailed for apparently not being the best of the best at his illegal profession.

The third act mechanics strain our ability to suspend disbelief, but Wahlberg goes forth with such single-minded purpose it’s easy to give him a break.

“Contraband” could even be the start of a franchise – just where will Chris stash the stuff next time around? It’s more likely to be a January film release that isn’t as horrible as it might have been.

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