Even in the tough financial climate, cinemas audiences figures are constantly on the rise in the UK and across the world. Mainstream blockbusters are still the most watched movies, but there’s been an undeniable boom in foreign language cinema takings. With people more willing to read the subtitles, it’s increasingly annoying and ludicrous that Hollywood producers’ deem it necessary to rehash Europe’s great cinema, rather than concentrate on new stories closer to home. Case in point is action thriller Contraband starry beefcake and surprisingly funny Mark Wahlberg. Released in Q1 this year, it passed by box offices barely noticed. A supposedly unremarkable film (I haven’t seen it yet), I decided to go back to the Icelandic source material it so unabashedly rips off, 2008’s Reykjavik-Rotterdam.
Kristófer (Baltasar Kormákur) is an ex con working as a security guard whilst on parole to support his wife Íris (Lilja Nótt Þórarinsdóttir) and their two sons (Baltasar’s actual sons). Behind on the rent and living on the breadline, their friend Steingrímur (Ingvar E. Sigurðsson), Íris’ ex boyfriend and Kristófer’s former partner in crime, is willing to give them some financial aid. The pair accept, even if it crushes Kristófer’s masculinity.
When Íris’ brother gets caught up in the illegal life he has tried to leave behind, Kristófer begrudgingly lends a helping hand by getting back in the game for one last job, funded all too willingly by Steingrímur who promises to look after his family whilst away. Heading back to Rotterdam on the same freighter he was arrested on all those years ago, Kristófer goes up against the shipmates, local police and anyone else who will stand in the way of getting the job done.
Competently made and acted – particularly from Kormákur, who went on the direct Contraband – Reykjavík-Rotterdam is unable to elevate itself from the all trite storyline. Where filmmaker Óskar Jónasson does break away from the mould is the inclusion of darkly comedic beats which flourish throughout the film; most of which are unsuccessful attempts to gain our interest and excitement about Kristófer’s hackneyed journey. Even worse still, whilst we may hold some some fondness to our anti-hero, it’s vicariously nurtured through our contempt in the poorly developed and menacingly weak villains trying to ruffle his feathers.
With indicative, pushy music trying to force a reaction in the audience, Reykjavík-Rotterdam is a rather underwhelming does cement its place as a rather underwhelming thriller. Still, probably better than the remake, I imagine.