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Reviews: ‘Contraband,’ ‘Red Tails,’ more

By Staff | Jan 25, 2012


Exalting the contributions of Black Americans in World War II, “Red Tails” soars into the clouds with the “Star Wars” battling spirit embraced in “Top Gun” air-show maneuvers. From opening to close, you’ll feel your hands attached to a giant invisible joystick throttling up, down and upside down, dodging ammo and sending it back. Produced by George Lucas, you must see this awesome spectacle and tribute on the big theater screen. The amazing effects do not, however, overshadow the bolder statement that even Lucas himself encountered – the ongoing struggle against prejudice, sometimes won and sometimes lost.


Brought out of retirement from drug smuggling, counterfeiting and other Central and South American crime rings, John Bryce (Mark Wahlberg) reluctantly boards a plane to Panama City, Panama, where his wife’s brother faces a bullet through his skull for cheating a hood.

Shot in a dark-styled film noir perspective, “Contraband” adds a slice of the jerky pan and tilt camera movements of “Cloverfield” and “Paranormal Activity,” along with the domination of extreme close-ups. These place emphasis on the facial expressions and visual nuances of the actors. You feel like you’re nervously in the scene, where each confrontation equals life or death. Ultimately, the complex counterfeit smuggling becomes plodding hampered by its diminished capacity to separate good from evil and hero from villain.


Prepare for a wall-climbing, demon-shrieking and shaky camera combination of “Blair Witch Project,” “The Exorcist” and a hint of “The X Files.” The abruptness of the “found documentary footage” style at one screening turned a loud howling laughing woman into a candidate for screen to viewer demon transference.

I can’t levitate my thumb all the way on this one nor does the thumb sink into a devilish pit. Let’s say the scary hocus pocus in and out of focus injects steroids into the assessment, but diminishes as the production winds down.