Contraband tells of a retired über-smuggler (Mark Wahlberg), married to Kate Beckinsale, forced back into the life to save his screw-up brother-in-law (Lukas Haas), who owes a small-time drug-lord (Giovanni Ribisi, wonderfully over-the-top, as a low-life) one last run.
The slow-burning first half has a down-and-dirty look — ill-lit St. Louis bars and meany streets shot in grainy, dark, nervy-cam shots filled with bad boys dressed in inkiest blacks. The 2.35:1 images are generally flat and figures undimensional, but once the action moves to sunny Panama visuals improve: the ship is surrounded in fore- and backgrounds by the canal banks stretching deep into the picture, and rich colors finally appear in foliage and prison jump suits. Detail is sometimes good, with stubble and pores visible, other times lost in the gloom
From the opening action sequence of a raid on smuggler’s ship, surrounds are active, racking up tension with drumming all around and choppers and chase boats roaring by. Atmospherics and bassy bluesy songs continue well separated throughout and a brilliant, adrenalin-pumping set-piece of an armored truck robbery immerses you in booming explosions and automatic fire.
Video: 2.35:1. Audio: DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1. Extras: feature commentary by director Baltasar Kormákur and producer Evan Hayes, deleted scenes, making of segment; DVD and UltraViolet Digital Copy for streaming/downloading. Studio: Universal.