To save his brother-in-law from a New Orleans drug dealer (Giovanni Ribisi), reformed smuggler Mark Wahlberg heads to Panama to score a massive shipment of counterfeit cash. With the authorities breathing down his neck and his wife (Kate Beckinsale) under constant threat, the plan must go without a hitch. It doesn't. Director Baltasar Kormakur brings bags of Nordic grit to an industrial strength thriller that moves fast and plays rough.
They say crime doesn't pay, but here's a heavy duty remake that isn't afraid to suggest otherwise.
Based on Icelandic potboiler Reykyavik-Rotterdam and directed by that film's leading man, the story sends Mark Wahlberg into one-last-job territory as Chris Farraday, a former ace smuggler who's gone legit for the sake of his wife Kate (Beckinsale) and two young sons.
Alas, just when he thought he was out, Chris is pulled back in when Kate's dozy kid brother Andy (Caleb Landry Jones, X-Men: First Class) loses a boatload of drugs destined for unforgiving scuzzball Briggs (Ribisi).
With Andy's life at stake, Chris and his best friend Sebastian (Ben Foster) come up with a plan to get their old crew aboard a freighter bound for Panama, pick up umpteen million dollars in fake bills, and sneak the bulky booty back.
The outward leg is a doddle. Even grouchy skipper JK Simmons doesn't kick up much of a fuss at having one of US Customs Most Wanted aboard.
But as soon as they reach Panama, they run into trouble. In fact, an engine room glitch means they actually run into Panama.
It's a bad omen ahead of a hairy afternoon that starts with a counterfeiting cock-up and ends with Chris dragged into a security van heist by a trigger-happy kingpin (Diego Luna).
And with Briggs taking every opportunity to menace Kate and the kids back in New Orleans, the situation gets stickier by the minute.
Following his starkly impressive detective drama Jar City, Kormakur certainly brings the grungily voguish Nordic crime sensibility to bear on proceedings.
While charting familiar waters, the plot moves swiftly and efficiently, building a good head of steam over the first hour before exploding during the Panamanian highway robbery.
Led by the granite-jawed Wahlberg, the cast of reliable gruffs and scruffs also put in a solid shift (though with no Underworldly heroics to perform, Beckinsale is a virtual passenger).
Unfortunately, while Kormakur never loses control, the final act is needlessly over-egged with too many unlikely criminal allegiances, nick-of-time escapes and smug pay-offs.
It also ends on a moral wobble. Seems as long as no Americans are harmed, it's perfectly okay to profit from the deaths of other law enforcers. It's a custom that should be excised.