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Mark Wahlberg and Kate Beckinsale lead the cast of Contraband, a fast-paced thriller about a man trying to stay out of a world he worked hard to leave behind, and the family he’ll do anything to protect. Legendary smuggler Chris Farraday (Wahlberg) had abandoned his life of crime to settle into a life of comfortable domesticity with his wife and their two young sons. But after his brother-in-law, Andy (Caleb Landry Jones), botches a drug deal for his ruthless boss, Tim Briggs (Giovanni Ribisi), Chris is forced back into doing what he does better than anyone, running contraband, to settle Andy’s debt.
With the help of his best friend, Sebastian Abney (Ben Foster), Chris quickly assembles a crew that includes their childhood friend Danny Raymer (Lukas Haas) to head to Panama and return with millions in counterfeit bills. They must pull this off under the suspicious eyes of the ship’s captain (J.K. Simmons), whose long history with Chris’ father makes him suspect the younger Farraday of even shadier dealings.
Things quickly fall apart, and with only hours to reach the cash, Chris must use his skills to successfully navigate a treacherous criminal network of brutal Panamanian drug runners such as Gonzalo (Diego Luna), cops and hit men before his wife, Kate (Kate Beckinsale), and his sons become their target. Nordic filmmaker Baltasar Kormákur (Jar City, 101 Reykjavík) directs Contraband from a screenplay by Aaron Guzikowski, based upon the film Reykjavik-Rotterdam written by Arnaldur Andriason and Óskar Jónasson.
Since Kormákur had the opportunity to continue his vision in the American version of his movie, he could employ the same casting technique he used during the years he made movies in his home country. Rather than choosing an actor by his or her looks, the director casts Contraband according to the performer’s personality. “I like to find the core of people,” he says. “The outer appearance is less important. What is the person? You try to figure that out and make that right for the character.”
The first actor cast was the same man to whom the director brought his ideas for a film inspired by the one in which he last performed. Kormákur commends: “Mark has a mixture of boyish charm and toughness, and you believe him as a blue-collar guy. Chris has actually walked out of the criminal world, but then he’s forced back in. That’s the great thing about heist-thrillers. It’s great to see people step outside the norm and do something that the rest of us wouldn’t do.”
Describing his character, Wahlberg explains: “Chris is definitely a thinker, but he is not afraid to raise his voice or get his hands dirty.” For Wahlberg, when his character finds himself back in the game, and possibly over his head, that’s when the fun begins. He offers: “Chris is continuing to try to figure out a way to survive, to still solve the problem and then get his ass home to his wife and kids.”
When it came time to casting the role of Chris’ wife, Kate, a number of actresses were considered. None, however, brought the combination of beauty and iron will needed…until the performer who has handled the blockbuster Underworld series as effortlessly as she’s helped create comedies and period pieces threw her hat in the ring. Of the production’s decision to bring Kate Beckinsale onto the project, Kormákur says: “Kate was a good choice in many ways. She’s obviously very beautiful, but, at the same time, very real. There is an interesting mixture of sensitivity and toughness in Kate, and her role is a bit different from the original.”
Wahlberg agrees that they wanted Chris’ wife to have more of an attitude in this chapter of the Contraband story. “Kate responded to it right away and was hungry to do something different,” he reflects. “She reminds me a lot of Amy Adams in The Fighter. You’re watching somebody you’re used to seeing in a certain way completely surprise you.”
The actress admits that Guzikowski’s taut narrative captured her attention. “Contraband has a gripping story and terrific characters,” she commends. “It created a world that I was interested in and one that was unfamiliar to me.” Of her role, the actress says: “She’s a great character because she’s loving and strong, tough and quite reactive.”
Beckinsale explains that because she is apart from her co-star for much of the film, she spent much time considering the relationships within her character’s family. She says, “You have to fill in a number of things yourself so that when you show up to shoot, there feels like there’s a history between your husband and yourself, or your brother, whom you’ve helped raise. It was important to feel that strong foundation there.”
As the production had been underway for a few weeks before she joined, Beckinsale admits she felt like “the new girl.” Glamorous, it wasn’t. “I turned up on set and was covered in blood and then wrapped like a burrito in plastic tarpaulin,” she laughs. “It was hailing and freezing, and I was trying not to shiver. Then I was dumped into a muddy hole and had concrete poured on me. I thought, ‘Well, that’s probably as good a way as any to start to feel like part of the gang.’”
You can catch Contraband in cinemas from January 13. Tell us what you though of it on Toonari Post on Facebook or tweet a comment @ToonariPost.