I have to admit, I tend to agree with film critics in their judgements on films. Broadly. I often differ by degrees, but concur in the overview.
Contraband is one film that gives the lie to that.
I read some lukewarm to bad things about this film before I saw it. So I was expecting a bit of incoherence and Hollywood shallowness - and I was quite pleasantly surprised. You can read quite a few of those negative comments on Wikipedia - the sort of works that encourage you think it's not really worth bothering. But I can only disagree with them. There is really no doubt: Contraband is a definitely a good film.
The core plot involves an ex-smuggler whose family obligations compell him to do one more round, on a cargo ship picking up goods from Panama City. In the process, he has to navigate a number of competing forces, none of whom are entirely ethical.
What did I like about Contraband? Its complex plot, its gritty but telegenic cinematography, its taut direction, its view of a few worlds that I had not seen before (namely, freight shipping and Panama City), and some realistic characterisations - to name a few.
I like a complex plot, but a film that has plot holes is simply irritating. Contrary to one review, I found it scored well on both counts.
In particular, there was a dizzying array of competing sides - numerous individuals and groups that had their own agendas: by turns collaborative then at odds with other parties. Such a swirling script is epitomised by Guy Ritchie's Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels, which takes several viewings to sort out all the nuances. I believe I was on top of the shifting sands of this film, but it wouldn't do any harm to review the convolutions a second time around.
And that's a good recommendation: that it bears watching again. I can't understand why those reviewers seemed to be watching a totally different film.