There have been a few movies recently where I prepared myself to review them, but never followed through. I then considered starting a series where I would do one or two-sentence bits and call it a mini-review. The realization came that in the current way I am processing and storing opinions, scenes, and thoughts on/of films in my head that the mini-review idea would not be easily supported. As I was getting into bed this previous night, loads of different ideas for the review of the movie catalogued here flashed through my head. I worried that upon getting onto my laptop the next day that I would lose the ideas and humorous edge I would have been going for. I am not in a humorous mood at this very moment, but I will try to share some of the things I thought of last night that I can remember. And no, I was not drunk while typing this four-hour endeavor.
Let's start with the title and film poster/DVD case. I am sorry ladies and gentleman of the press, but I have been having trouble remembering the title for this film. Committed? Well, there is the danger of prison sentences and being committed there for life for the protagonist and main character Chris Farraday (ending up just like his father), and another man may or may not want a woman to break her commitment to the marriage with her husband and be with him instead, but that's not the name of the movie. Collateral? Well, there is one sequence of scenes in particular where friends and strangers are simply considered collateral damage, and some drugs from an extraneous deal are dispelled in some water, but nope, that's not the title. Contingent? There are a number of ways that title could fit the bill as well, but nope, that's not the title either. Instead, it is Contraband. The most straight-forward allusion is to the drugs and money smuggled about, but "Contraband" could be talking about something else as well. It could be referring to the quips and return of strong vulgar language, a person attacking another either physically, mentally, or emotionally and both the dealer and the recipient not expecting something in return. It is confusing logic, but it is a logic that more often than it should holds true to the real world. A bully may go off the handle at someone, even when he/she knows that there will be no visible reaction. The person bullied may not want to fight back, not because he/she is afraid, but because he/she is used to the abuse and doesn't really care anymore. In a way the abuse, even if it is "just" verbal, is illegal, and the person who lets it go on, even if the victim, starts to become part of the problem if one has become complacent to the illegal actions and doesn't test to see if a different response would yield a different result.
If I remember, I'll circle back to that latter meaning of "Contraband" later and give it context and show its relation to the film itself. But the next spot on my mental checklist is the poster and home media packaging. Before watching this movie for the first time, for all this time, I thought all that jazz depicted Chris' (Mark Wahlberg's) pants as a little bit lower than they should be and he digging money out of his underwear or boxers, his arm extended behind like a stereotyped chimp's to scratch himself. Don't laugh at me. I'm serious. I have seen another movie he starred in called Ted, and I wouldn't have put it past him and this different group of filmmakers if they had made my suspicions a reality. Well, I'm sorry to disappoint you, lady readers in the audience, but my initial thoughts were wrong, and if you suspected the same thing as me and that was the only draw this movie had for you, pick up a copy of that teddy bear and watch that instead. You'll get an interesting nibble of a scene to fit your tastes there instead. Back on-topic, it isn't underwear or boxers shown, for it is duct tape being displayed from under his shirt instead, locking the bills into place. No, there are no shirtless scenes either, at least not by my sporadic moments of recollection. Go home, or if you are already there, imitate his posture in the pic instead and try to picture what he may be thinking. That will keep you busy while others read on.
There is a sift of sand that seeps from that part of the production into parts of the remainder of the film. Once in a while things don't make any sense, there are sudden mood swings, or portrayals don't match with the tone the story and editing is emitting. Giovanni Ribisi's accented slurring and facial features only become more distracting over time. Chalk it up to his inhaling of drugs, but if he didn't have a gun in his hands, I wouldn't be that afraid of him. Diego Luna's Gonzalo of Panama goes from friendly and like an old friend to Chris and then threatens him as not being respectful because he doesn't take him up on the offer of adding more troubles to the ones he is already dealing with. Here is how this plays out in my head. Chris: "Wait, what? My brother-in-law vanished with the fake money?" Even though he heard this, Gonzalo takes advantage of his friend's distress and things go like: "You don't respect me! You won't take me up on my offer. Buddy, I love you, but YOU'RE DEAD!" "Okay, okay, I'll help you!" "I now hate you, but I won't kill you." "I'll risk my life for you so that I don't die because of you. I still love you, buddy." But it's an ambush by the SWAT team! Gonzalo: "I love you again, Chris! Take me out of here!" "Sure thing, buddy! Oh wait, you're dead. I'll just chuck you out the door and leave the police to get you. Wait a moment. Was I just talking to someone? Oh yeah, that's my buddy! Bye, buddy! (Now I'll forget you ever existed for the rest of my life, and I'm out of time!)" I'm tired. The mental quotes were pointless. Kind of like the idea that the two were always good friends. Yes, Gonzalo has "changed", but come on! Really? ...Okay. Moving on. Just like Chris did. No emotional attachment to his former friend, or his friend to him.
That is what the movie boils down to: the watering down of emotions. The thrills are intense! The drama is gripping! The characters are...wait. I forgot about Sebastian, one of the three best examples I can give. He is Chris' former partner-in-crime and loyal confidant, protector of his wife and boys while he is gone. He is an alcoholic, and as time goes on...it takes a toll. Why does he drink so much? He can't pay Jim Church, a gangster, and so must use his friends and who he calls "family" to get the job done, scaring the crud out of them to make them listen. I am not going to debate morality anymore here, for it is a crime-thriller film, and there are ways to use that logic through plot dots and crosses to explain everything. The alcohol has taken his personality away, and this goes along with the watering down of the film's emotions. He is the bad guy, doesn't behave like the bad guy, gets violent despite not being a violent person, goes to cover up the trace of an accident he caused, and keeps...getting...slower...and more distant...and more unfeeling...as does the film. Then Chris comes, smacks him all over the place, and goes to fix the wrongs. Sebastian looks through the window panes and doesn't react. He doesn't fight back, he knows what he did was wrong, and yet he doesn't care that he has been beaten up. He doesn't care that he doesn't care about much. He is watching to see if Chris can save his wife because...well, because he wants him to. He created a problem that he made bigger on purpose that he wanted solved. Either that or because he sees Chris has a purpose, and is drawn to it. Realization: Chris and his family are the light to him because they care about things, while he seems unable to, whether he does something right one moment or wrong the next. He thinks without acting. Andy, Chris' brother-in-law, acts without thinking, but has good intentions, and is very fragile emotionally. Tim Briggs has been watered down emotionally through the drugs he consumes. To him, there is no reaction, for there is never anything equal and opposite to it. Do you know why these three characters are problems? Because they have no reason to do the things they do. They don't seem to take pleasure in the things they are addicted to: alcohol, drugs, crime, thrills. They do things simply because they have always done them. It took me all this paragraph space to explain what is going on. The movie does none of that. In the movie's eyes it is all simple. You drink alcohol, you have no feelings. You take drugs, you have no feelings. You do anything you admit is wrong while you don't express any feelings. When you threaten, there is no emotion. When you are attacked, you don't know how to react. Emotions aren't contraband, and you can't buy them. You can buy your pot, your booze, your cheap shots at old fun and glory, but they can only stilt you. These characters don't grieve, they just exist. They don't even do things simply because they can. They do them because the writing tells them to. This goes for all of them, every single character. They cuss at each other not because they want to, not because they are compulsive, for the compulsion is to break free from the constraints of their world, for their world holds no value.
Kate Beckinsale, of course, isn't given much, much like the norm, in the role of Kate Farraday. Mark Wahlberg could be easily replaced, but he naturally has a charisma that gives off that vital energy that Sebastian so craves: to care about something. If someone were to take Mark's place, that person would more than likely get confused by the drive of the script like J. K. Simmons does of his character and so nearly empty the palate of the film.
It's meant to be serious, yes, I think it is. I will share only one last thing with you. This will be stuck in my memory for quite some time, easily the most memorable moment of the film, and show what I am talking about. Tim Briggs drives a car through the front of Kate's work, steps out of the vehicle, and proceeds to come after and hurt her. She flees and Sebastian comes out nowhere to step inbetween the two, she crying behind him. Sebastian tells Briggs no and that it is done. Briggs looks sad, lowers his head, his shoulders go up, he turns around, gets back in the vehicle, and drives away. Kate cries in Sebastian's arms and he comforts with no warmth. There is no fight. Yes, Briggs secretly works for Sebastian. That's not the point. Briggs goes overboard when he follows orders, but he doesn't enjoy it. He does more than he is supposed to, yet there is no meaning in what he does. He doesn't feel anything when he hurts someone, he doesn't feel anything when he is ever physically hurt. But for a moment, he does hurt. Sebastian tells him "no", and he walks away, not showing any emotion except through his body language. Little puppy Briggs can't feel anything and does what Sebastian wants not only to get drugs, but he hopes that by pleasing his "master" that he will feel accomplishment. Sebastian doesn't feel either, so he can supply no warmth back for his loyal dog's deeds. They go back to themselves, not caring that they don't care that they don't care that they want to feel something but can't feel.
The ending is not rushed, but there is still no satisfaction. The film has worn itself out and lost its own purpose along with its villains. Chris tells his family one thing and feels another. He is a hypocrite, and treats those who mess up worse than he wishes Sebastian to treat his family. His story ends, as does the others. The endings have meaning to who they are, but who they are is not much full in depth. The ride was fun, but the joy is gone, the tone all swept away. Some are granted the dreams that we could only assume. Most of them have no meaning to us, for we are not like them. We do not live in a world where forensic evidence doesn't assist cops, where our faults are our attributes and only meaning in life. We can't be happy in our faults, for our successes strengthen us, not weaken. If we leave one life behind that we loved, it does at first sting when we pass into the next. But that sting is emotion and feeling. If you are trapped, you desire feeling. You are afraid of change, just as you try to accept it. Accepting it is hard, and misery can continue into the next. But there is dedication, there is triumph, no matter how small. This review reads just like the movie. The end has meaning, but may not make sense as compared to the whole. I do not feel as I did at the beginning of it. I was entertained making this, but if you mean to explore deeper depths, you must be aware that you must take precautionary measures. You must also take away meaning from what you found so you may better yourself to feel accomplishment. Have I, or have I not? If you watch the movie, you will know. If you read this review, you can assume. I assume nothing. For to me, this review, just like an emotion to express what I'm feeling while finishing this, is from over to gone.