Wahlberg's Career Roller Coaster Climbs with 'Contraband'

Wahlberg's Career Roller Coaster Climbs with 'Contraband'

You’d be forgiven for thinking Mark Wahlberg’s career couldn’t survive “The Happening.”

That 2008 clunker turned all of the actor’s strengths against him. Then again, even Laurence Olivier would have a hard time pretending to fear a stiff breeze.

Contraband,” out this week on Blu-ray and DVD, hints at the erstwhile Marky Mark’s staying power. The film, which cast Wahlberg as a reluctant smuggler lured back to complete one last mission, raked in $66 million at the box office in January, typically a dormant month for movie-going.

No, “Contraband” isn’t a classic action film like “The French Connection.” Instead, it’s a serviceable time killer, held together by the actor’s intense glares and ability to portray both grit and tenderness, his true stock in trade.

From a commercial point of view, “Contraband” is a more impressive achievement than “The Fighter,” Walberg’s 2010 hit. That film featured a grand supporting cast, a can’t miss real life story and terrific boxing scenes. “Contraband” is generic to the core, yet audiences rallied around it, and its star, all the same.

That says plenty about Wahlberg’s appeal and ability to pick viewer-friendly fare.

Next up for Wahlberg is “Ted,” a wacky, R-rated comedy from “Family Guy” auteur Seth MacFarlane. If “I Heart Huckabees” taught us anything, it’s that Wahlberg can be very, very funny when push comes to shove.

Wahlberg’s screen resume has its share of clunkers, though none as awful as “The Happening.” But the actor, now in his 40s, is proving he’s both resilient and appealing to a wide demographic of film fans.

UPDATE: Here’s a peek at one of the Blu-ray extras on the new “Contraband” release: