Movie review by
Jeffrey M. Anderson, Common Sense Media
Contraband Movie Poster Image
Popular with kids
Lots of suspense, violence, language in smuggling thriller.
  • R
  • 2012
  • 110 minutes

Parents say

age 17+
Based on 3 reviews

Kids say

age 13+
Based on 11 reviews

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this movie.

Positive Messages

There's some teamwork, with characters needing to solve a dangerous problem quickly, but they use illegal and immoral means to do so. The main characters generally show empathy, but only to people already in their little circle; others get the opposite treatment.

Positive Role Models & Representations

The hero is a trustworthy, reliable family man. But he resorts to illegal activities, violence, and trickery in a pinch. He also swears nonstop.


The worst violence happens when a vicious gangster threatens the main character's wife and kids while he's away. The gangster beats up the wife, and a henchman pulls a gun on the kids (who are about 8 or 10). Later, the wife is nearly sexually assaulted and then beaten further; she's knocked into unconsciousness. Also one major scene of shooting and killing, with lots of blood and several dead bodies, plus some hand-to-hand fighting and a few car crashes.


A loving married couple kisses and says "I love you." Some brief innuendo.


Almost constant swearing, with either "f--k" or "s--t" said literally every couple of minutes. Other, less frequently heard words include "p---y," "ass,""c--t," "a--hole," "hell," "goddamn," and "bitch."

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

The main character refuses to smuggle drugs, but the bad guys make their living smuggling cocaine. Viewers see big sealed bags of it, and characters occasionally snort some. A secondary character is a recovering alcoholic. He attends an AA meeting but falls off the wagon and drinks whisky in a bar. Characters are also seen drinking beer at a wedding, and minor characters are seen smoking cigarettes.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Contraband is an intense action thriller about a former smuggler (played by Mark Wahlberg) who's forced to go back into business to protect his family. Expect distressing violence: The bad guys beat up and nearly sexually assault the main character's wife, as well as point guns at his tween kids. There's also fighting, shooting, killing, and blood. Language is another major issue, with characters saying either "f--k" or "s--t" literally every couple of minutes. The bad guys smuggle cocaine, and viewers see huge bricks of it; characters are also seen snorting some. A secondary character is a recovering alcoholic who falls off the wagon.

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Adult Written byswaterfield February 3, 2012

Keeps you wanting more.

I enjoyed the movie, but this is one I would not let my child watch. The only thing that made me uncomfortable was the suggestion you get that a female characte... Continue reading
Adult Written bydavis4 January 21, 2012

too much terrible language

Didn't read commensense review first, big mistake, got up and left not even half way through, f word about every other word, no exaggeration!
Teen, 13 years old Written byXx that one bro Xx September 30, 2016
I think it was really really good it was really not that bad. It was prlesure the whole way through there was a few shoot outs but nothing big not that much blo... Continue reading
Teen, 16 years old Written byTotally500 September 23, 2012

Contraband is the bomb as i would say

very good movie i was expected it to be bad but overall good

What's the story?

In New Orleans, Chris Farraday (Mark Wahlberg) is a brilliant former smuggler who's gone straight for the sake of his wife (Kate Beckinsale) and two sons. But when his wife's younger brother (Caleb Landry Jones) gets in trouble with a local thug (Giovanni Ribisi), Chris must go back into business with his best friend, Sebastian (Ben Foster). Their plan is to ship out to Panama, pick up a huge, truck-sized pile of counterfeit bills -- Chris refuses to smuggle drugs -- and bring it back. Unfortunately absolutely everything goes wrong, from bad bills to a temperamental drug lord (Diego Luna) and a betrayal.

Is it any good?

CONTRABAND's plot (remade from a 2008 Icelandic thriller) is pretty creaky, but Icelandic director Baltasar Kormakur's execution is scrappy and energetic. The movie begins at ground level, with an authentically urban, working-class feel around Chris; it's similar in this regard to the atmosphere of The Fighter. Using this as a basis, Kormakur very simply keeps raising the stakes.

The story grows more and more absurd, but each new wrinkle generates more suspense. Kormakur isn't particularly good at subtle things (like revealing a secret twist or creating a moment of discovery), and the action could have been cleaner and sharper, but most of the movie is based around big events, and they're very satisfying. It's more about guts than brains, along with generating supreme tension. The strong cast also includes J.K. Simmons as a cranky ship's captain and Lukas Haas as a nervous helper.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about Contraband's violence. Is it suspenseful or gory? Is it necessary to the story?

  • The characters use questionable methods to accomplish their goals. What message does that send to viewers? Do the ends ever justify the means?

  • At the end of the movie, the main characters are left with the promise of great -- albeit ill-gotten -- riches. Do you think they'll find happiness?


Movie details

Our editors recommend

For kids who love thrills

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