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This Week at the Movies

"Contraband" could give you smuggler's blues and "The Devil Inside" is mercifully short.

January is often thought of as a cinematic dumping ground when studios release some of their least inspiring pictures.

The first two weeks of 2012 have been par for the course.

In “Contraband,” Mark Wahlberg plays a reformed smuggler who chooses to take on one last job after his brother-in-law is unable to pay his debts to a slimy ex-con (Giovanni Ribisi).

The movie is directed by Baltasar Kormakur, who starred in the Icelandic thriller “Reykjavic-Rotterdam,” of which “Contraband” is a remake.

This new version is loaded down with supporting actors, including Lukas Haas and Ben Foster, who play Wahlberg’s old smuggling buddies, as well as Kate Beckinsale as his wife. Diego Luna also makes an appearance as a paranoid Panamanian crime lord.

Much of the film is set on a ship on which Wahlberg and crew attempt to smuggle currency into the United States. Meanwhile, Beckinsale must stay at home and fend off Ribisi and his gang of thugs.

The script follows formula all the way down the line and the camera work is professional, but unmemorable.

The picture isn’t so much bad as it is standard in every way.

William Brent Bell’s “The Devil Inside” is significantly more memorable, but likely not in the way its makers intended.

I decided to catch up with the film following its surprisingly successful debut last weekend. Alas, word of mouth appears to have caught up.

The movie is simultaneously the first – but certainly not the last – found footage film and tale of possession this year. It is not particularly convincing on either front.

The picture utilizes the video diary format of reality television as we hear the testimonials of the film’s four characters: two priests, a cameraman and Isabella, a young woman whose mother murdered several people two decades prior while in a state of demonic possession.

The characters travel to Rome, where the mother is being kept in a mental hospital. Screeching, bug eyes and raspy voiced mutterings ensue.

Then, several of the characters begin to exhibit strange behavior following a failed attempt to exorcise the demon from Isabella’s mother. And just when the film begins to get interesting, it ends.

“The Devil Inside” is a cheap attempt to cash in on the success of the marginally better “Paranormal Activity” films. And it’s further proof that the found footage horror genre could be on its last, wobbly legs.

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