All this week's cinema releases reviewed

Contraband, We Bought A Zoo and 21 Jump Street fight for box office success

Contraband – 4/5

In short:
Former smuggler John Bryce (Mark Wahlberg) has given up the trafficking trade to settle down with his wife Kate (Kate Beckinsale) and children. But when his brother-in-law Andy (Caleb Landry Jones) gets on the wrong side of psychotic drug dealer Riggs (Giovanni Ribisi), he is forced to make one last run to pay off his debts. Teaming up with old friend Sebastian (Ben Foster) he hatches a plan to smuggle a shedload of fake banknotes from Panama. But the times, they are a-changing, and an unreliable captain, crazy Panamanian gangsters and a few surprises could yet throw a spanner in the works - leaving John's family in grave danger.

[Related video: Exclusive interview with Mark Wahlberg]

What we think:
It's easy to see it as a somewhat familiar trawl down the heist movie format. But it's just as easy to go with the high energy flick that's executed with skill and no small amount of flair.

The word out there:
The Telegraph: The central family dynamic (Kate Beckinsale is terrific as Wahlberg’s wife) recalls Ben Affleck’s The Town, but with bonus machinery fetishism...
Empire: Contraband is a cut above cookie-cutter heist thrillers, and director Baltasar Kormákur looks ready for the big time.
Film4: It is criminal that a director of Kormakur's talent should make the run from the gloomy authenticity of Jar City to this bland Hollywood fare.
WhatCulture: Contraband is not an entire loss, but we’ve seen it all before.

Release date: 16 March
Runtime: 110 mins
Rating: 15




21 Jump Street – 3/5

In short:
After botching an arrest on their first patrol as police officers, Schmidt (Jonah Hill) and Jenko (Channing Tatum) are are sent to a secret department on Jump Street where they are assigned to an uncover job taking down a drug ring... at a local high school. Jenko and Schmidt had very different experiences in school, and now they find themselves forced to relive it all. As time begins to run out, they test one another’s patience; and the fast-approaching Prom is set to be the scene of the big finale, in more ways than one.

What we think:
Boisterous and entertaining it may well be, but '21 Jump Street' is also uneven and far too simplistic in the final reckoning. A fun film for a Friday night trip to the multiplexes, but it offers little beyond that.

The word out there:
The Guardian: It's a funny twist on teen movies and buddy comedies, creating a postmodern Police Academy, and there's an gloriously pointless freeway chase that reaches further back to the world of Smokey and the Bandit.
Total Film: Fast, filthy, fresh and funny, Jump is worth a punt.
TimeOut: It’s a shame that ‘21 Jump Street’ falls down both on plot and action – the car chases are a real bore.
Den Of Geek: It’s one of Hollywood’s funniest mainstream films in years, and a textbook example of how to bring an old TV show kicking and screaming back to life.

Release date: 16 March
Runtime: 110 mins
Rating: 15




We Bought A Zoo – 3/5

In short:

Los Angeles newspaper columnist Benjamin Mee (Matt Damon) is struggling with his children. Dylan (Colin Ford) is a young teenager who is about to get expelled from his school and Rosie (Mary Elizabeth Jones) might be happy on the outside, but Benjamin wants more for both of. In a rash moment, Benjamin quits his job, invests in a rundown house in the sticks and sets about their escape. One small problem: the new house is part of an 18-acre zoo, and it's up to the inexperienced owners to maintain and pay for the wild animals. Although the staff are helpful, especially head zookeeper Kelly Foster (Scarlett Johansson),  the money starts running out fast. Has Benjamin bitten off more than he can chew?

What we think:
The artificial moments of conflict all play out as expected, but there isn't a performance that can be faulted.

The word out there:
The Mirror:Matt Damon is the convincing heart of this uplifting film.
Total Film: It’s slight, sure, and there’s a better, less-glossy film buried in the material, but warm performances redeem Crowe’s agreeable return.
TimeOut: Crowe, to his credit, is more concerned with insights about family than romance –  and some of these are heart-on-sleeve touching if you’ve got a sweet tooth for the stickier stuff.
Sky Movies: It isn't the wildest safari you'll ever go on, but it has plenty of attractions to offer less cynical visitors.

Release date: 16 March
Runtime: 123 mins
Rating: PG




In Darkness – 4/5

In short:
It's the start of the Second World War and the city of Lvov has been taken by the Nazis. The Jewish populace have already been confined to the ghetto, and as we all know, things are about to get much worse. A small group band together and hatch a plan to escape to the sewers, where they encounter Leopold Socha (Robert Wieckiewicz), a Pole who knows the place better than anyone, and with the help of his young assistant (Krzysztof Skonieczny) he devises a plan to help them: at a cost. But two huge questions hang over his head, "will he succeed in his job?" and "why is he really doing it?" As tensions heighten and dangers worsen, he finds the answer to both

What we think:

A more earthy, or rather subterranean, 'Schindler's List', 'In Darkness' benefits from a few painfully recognisable characters and an all-encompassing gloom that leaves so many horrors to the imagination.

The word out there:
The Express: Largely avoiding the dangers of an episodic narrative the picture grips throughout and isn't as claustrophobic as you might expect, with plenty of drama occurring up top.
Total Film: Agnieszka Holland's bluntly realistic Holocaust drama stands apart from other attempts to film unfilmable events by painting a pitch-black portrait of its heroes as well as its villains.
Little White Lies: It’s hard to be totally down on such a noble and unpretentious enterprise, yet, with the familiarity of the wartime melodrama you can’t help but have wished Holland would’ve played a bit faster and looser with the rules.
ViewLondon: Harrowing to watch but emotionally rewarding, In Darkness is a superbly directed, powerfully written wartime drama with a terrific central performance from Robert Wieckiewic.

Release date: 16 March
Runtime: 145 mins
Rating: 15




The Devil Inside - 2/5


In short:

20 years ago Maria Rossi (Suzan Crowley) slaughtered two nuns and a priest as they performed an exorcism on her. Her daughter, Isabella (Fernanda Andrade) wants answers and enrols in a Vatican endorsed class to find out more about demonic possessions. She is being followed by a documentary film-maker and soon encounters two young priests who want to help her. After a troubling first encounter with a “possessed” woman, the team turn their attention to Maria. However her fractured psyche is a different prospect entirely, and soon the repercussions begin to be felt far and wide.

What we think:
A tired formula played out with only a handful of scares. The performances are fine, but the plodding pace badly let down the film.

The word out there:

The Hollywood Reporter: The would-be thriller proves as scary and unsettling as a slab of devil’s food cake — only considerably less satisfying.
Empire: Even with The Exorcist in the world, there is still scope for a contemporary, shocking and thrilling film to be made on the subject of possession. But this is not it...
E! Online: The story of Devil is actually not bad per say, but the documentary style isn't doing it any favors.
HitFix: The Devil Inside is just boring, more than any other particular sin it might commit. Except for that ending.  Seriously.  Shameless.

Release date: 16 March
Runtime: 83 mins
Rating: 15