Contraband (DVD/Blu-Ray) — Dir. Baltasar Kormákur. Starring Mark Wahlberg, Giovanni Ribisi, Kate Beckinsale.
A former smuggler (Mark Wahlberg) returns for one last job when he needs to bail out his idiot brother-in-law, who owes money to a drug dealer (Giovanni Ribisi at his very skeeziest).
As its title and plot summary imply, Contraband suffers a bit from Generic Mark Wahlberg Movie Syndrome. The characters are about as interesting as mayonnaise. The ideas have all been done.
Still, this isn’t a half-bad thriller. It does a fine job of maintaining tension and shaking up the course of the plot whenever things get too comfortable. The setting on a cargo ship is a neat deviation from the usual formula.
I’m no Mark Wahlberg fan, but the man at least deserves kudos for knowing his limitations. He never plays a role that requires more than looking occasionally angry or worried. In this film, he sometimes even looks angry and worried at the same time.
Contraband is a safe, forgettable thriller. It would be a good movie to fall asleep to on TBS five years from now.
Rated PG-13 for Mark Wahlberg’s attitude.
3.5 out of 5
Dark Tide (DVD/Blu-Ray) — Dir. John Stockwell. Starring Halle Berry, Olivier Martinez, Ralph Brown.
Low-budget shark film not trashy enough to work as a B-movie and not good enough to be anything else.
Dark Tide opens with narration by Halle Berry’s character, Kate, recalling advice her father once gave her: be careful of the things you love, because they can destroy you.
You might guess that she’s talking about human relationships and emotional vulnerability, but no. She’s talking about sharks, which can destroy you by biting you in half. You shouldn’t love sharks.
This is one of those life lessons that doesn’t generalize very well to the average person. It’s advice that Kate, however, should really learn to take. She’s a marine biologist and a “shark whisperer” whose hobby is swimming unprotected with great white sharks. She has a grand old time doing this until her friend — get this — is bitten in half by a shark. You shouldn’t love sharks!
After a year of (quite reasonably) blaming herself for this incident, Kate is persuaded back into the sea with only the slightest of nudges. A rich businessman and his son offer her a modest sum of money for the chance to experience the same monumentally stupid thrill that she used to enjoy: a pleasure dip with a prehistoric fish monster.
Safety is Kate’s highest priority after the unpleasantness of last time, but she somehow decides that the best way to fulfill the bargain is to send her guests, with no training or breathing gear, on a rickety boat into the most dangerous shark habitat in the ocean. During a storm. At night. The trip does not go well.
Unfortunately, Dark Tide is not as fantastically terrible as it sounds. The more hilarious elements like “shark whispering,” “Shark Alley,” and the lead character’s notoriously poor judgment are fleeting moments in a film mainly defined by being just… kind of boring.
The vast majority of this nearly two-hour trudge is fluffy padding about personal issues and character relationships that don’t amount to anything. When things finally start happening in the final 20 minutes, they have little connection to the rest of the film, except that sharks are loosely involved. The morals we come away with are that 1) You shouldn’t swim with sharks, and 2) Halle Berry probably shouldn’t be put in charge of a boat.
Seeing Berry reduced to doing a monster-of-the-week movie a decade after winning an Oscar is sad. Let’s hope she stops before her transformation into Jon Voight is complete.
Rated PG-13 for shark petting.
2.5 out of 5