Hollywood Dramatization VS Human Emotion/Reasoning PT 1: Contraband and Alcaztraz

January 25, 2012 8 min read

When it comes to TV, Movies, Music and I suppose anything for that matter, I appreciate creativity, fantasy, alternate reality, and the conquering of the impossible. I’m willing to accept that people can fly and shoot lasers from their eyes, that dragons existed, Time Travel is possible, that animals can plot and mutiny against humans, alien invasions are inevitable, that under the right circumstances the threat of the living dead is plausible and just about anything else. In general, I believe in the possibility of the extraordinary, so I find myself entertained by the most outlandish possibilities in entertainment.

However, what I can’t accept is what I hope is poor representation of human emotion and decision-making or better yet, just lazy writing. Don’t get me wrong, I assume all writers have the issue. I certainly don’t think everything I write is award winning, far from it... But, when I spend my $30-$50 to go see a movie (one of best parts about being single is being on the low end of that these days…ha) or spend an hour to watch a TV show I have some, what I consider realistic, expectations*.

I spend a great deal of time working and so it’s always nice to have one or two TV shows that I enjoy to escape reality for a couple hours a week. I can’t count how many shows I started watching because they had an interesting premise, but I had to abandon because of plot loopholes or one character was so unbelievable/annoying that they became too painful to watch. Two recent things come to mind.

I like Mark Wahlberg. I like action movies. Although, I don’t expect big budgeted #1 Movies In America to be well thought out masterpieces. I go just to enjoy something visually stimulating and some over the top action, but it’s frustrating when there are these things that should have been obvious rewrites that get over-looked. Particularly when there are so many other options in how they could have been handled.


I went to go see Contraband because the trailer looked action-packed and that’s the mood I was in. In general the story was interesting. It had a psychological premise of how far would you go to protect your family? Would you risk your own safety? The safety of others? Your freedom? And to what degree?

Ultimately, the route he took seemed a bit outlandish. Mr Wahlberg needed to protect his wife’s brother and ultimately his family, who would inherit his “death debt” if what was due went unpaid. To do that he returned to his life of crime for what I assume was one of the more high-risk crimes of his career. That led him to travel on boat to challenge Panamanian gangsters, the coast guard, crooked boat captains, and his own inner moral conflicts. Maybe it’s me, but it seems rather than risk all of that it may have been easier to just deal with the one guy threatening you and your family. Sure, I get it, it doesn’t end with one guy, but he was clearly a psychopath who couldn’t be reasoned with and didn’t respect Mr Wahlberg’s street cred. That just seems like a better place to start. Truthfully, the risk he took by going on the voyage seems much greater than the risk of just finding a way to get rid of his adversary. Still, I get it. That is not as emotionally gripping of a movie. Fine, let’s let him go the long way, but wait there’s more…

We are supposed to believe that Mr. Wahlberg is smart, resourceful, and cunning. He is considered, by friends and foes, as the best and smartest smuggler in the business. He is virtually a one-man mission impossible. Yet, gangsters, particularly a psychotic loose-cannon madman, well played by Giovanni Ribisi, have threatened his wife and children on multiple occasions. When Mr. Wahlberg visits Mr Ribisi at home to reason with him, he is compelled to disarm and put a gun to his head, in front of the Ribisi’s daughter no less, which leads to more promises of payback to him and his family. After all of that, Mr Wahlberg still leaves his family on a boat mission giving no real warning to them of their safety being in jeopardy. No one is left to look after them. Perhaps he could ask them to go stay with friends or family while he’s gone. How could none of this cross his mind?? One might argue that the harassment of his family while he is gone is a critical piece to the building plot. I agree, but couldn’t that same point be reached more intelligently, not to mention interestingly. I don’t know, maybe the Gangsters hunt them down in their hiding place by being relentless in their pursuit (ya know more violence, which people love) or catch them surprisingly as they are packing to leave, or maybe just accidently run into them at a gas station...endless possibilities. Just something that shows there was some effort and that Mr. Wahlberg is truly as smart as suggested, but was just thwarted thru real-life loopholes and not Hollywood ones.

If that isn’t bad enough, the means in which Mr Ribisi actually gets into the house is beyond ridiculous. Imagine you are a wife of a guy who has lived a life of crime. He left that lifestyle to be there for his family and started a home business installing home security systems and helping homeowners be safer in their home. You are currently the nervous wife, overly concerned for your family’s safety due to the gravity of the situation at hand. Yet, your children and yourself are nearly killed because the Gangsters moseyed on in the thru an unlocked back door??? Seriously? No security camera, alarm or, heaven forbid, a lock! At least let them have to kick in a door or break thru a window. I understand that if they want to get in, they can, but let them work for it!

Honestly I can go on and on. I am pretty certain that the times and ways Mr Wahlberg put his family in harms way are far greater than the original threat itself. He could have stayed home and done nothing and kept them safer, just by being there. Only the Hollywood ending allowed them to be safe and alive in the end.

OK, apparently my frustration had me spend more time on that than I intended, so just one more semi-quick thing….Alcaztraz.

When I heard about this show and it’s connection to Lost, I was definitely intrigued. Upon hearing the storyline I was even more convinced, it sounded very promising. I made sure I was home for the 2 Hour Premiere Event and that further sold me on it.

I wasn’t familiar with lead star, Sarah Jones a.k.a Detective Rebecca Madsen. When I looked at her resume, which is very active, I realized I hadn’t watched her previous TV shows, but she did a solid job in the Premiere. I was already a fan of two of the lead co-stars. One is Jorge Garcia a.k.a Hugo from Lost a.k.a Diego Soto here. He was very likable in Lost and the same can be said here. He plays a similar character in the fact that he’s a cool-nerd that just seems like he’d be a great friend. On Alcatraz he’s a successful writer, comic book shop owner, and Alcatraz historian. Sam Neill is another key character, Emerson Hauser, and his resume goes back to the mid 70s, he’s put in some work! I was a fan of his other recent TV Show, Happy Town. It was very interesting and I was a bit upset when it got cancelled**.


However, when I watched Alcztraz this week I was a bit let down in the character development. Trying to paint Sam Neill as the hardened shell on the outside that is really an emotional timebomb just seems forced too quickly. In general, I can believe it, but the way it was portrayed here just seemed a bit much too accept as natural and should probably develop more over the course of the show. OK, OK, I might be being a bit picky. That isn’t even my main concern with the latest episode. The true problem rests in the Jorge Garcia character, Mr. Diego Soto. He is struggling with his place in helping with this investigation. He knows he has valuable information. He is obsessed in learning more about Alcatraz. Plus he thinks what he is doing is “super-cool”. However, he’s not really cut out for the danger, dead bodies, and all that. Completely understandable, the average person would feel that way. Although, it does seem a bit suspect because wouldn’t he have had to endure all of that stuff in his extensive research of every criminal activity of every inmate of Alcatraz? He should have some sort of cushioning to that right? OK, let’s just say that knowing it and witnessing it first-hand are not the same thing. Great point. Here’s my real issue. In this episode they are dealing with a Child Kidnapper-Murder. They already know they have a couple days to find this guy before the criminal returns that kidnapped child home, but DEAD. We later learn that Diego Soto experienced a similar or perhaps same experience at the exact same age, so he’s a bit more emotionally connected to this case. SO how does he respond??? He threatens to quit. Then he runs off on his own to solve the crime with no communication with the people who can actually help him stop it. Then, as we could have guessed, his theory helps him find the culprit and the child in a diner. Of course, magically at that moment he receives a phone call from Detective Rebecca and needs to wait for her to arrive. When the Killer and child finish their Cherry Pie snack and are about to leave, the only obstacle Diego can muster up to slow them down is dropping a pie plate in front of them. That lasts about 5 seconds. So he follows up by blurting out something like, “Hey what are you guys up to?”…You know because small talk with strangers blurted out uncomfortably always leads to a lengthy conversation. Those attempts hardly delay him a minute, but miraculously that’s all the time needed for Rebecca to arrive just in time to FAIL to save the day.

I don’t know, but I just really, really hope that in a real life situation, where you have the benefit of knowing that you are all that is between a child being murdered, that you are able to come up with a better plan to save that child’s life. Anything. I don’t even want to theorize about what he could have done because I agree any number of things could have worked better or possibly worse, but I’m just saying, dropping a pie plate?!?! Come on son!!!

As for Alcatraz, I’m still in. I’m going to continue to watch and just hope the character development improves. It’s just unfortunately there always seems to be THAT character(s) on a TV show that is so aggravating in their choices*** or movies with interesting or great plots that leave so many obvious loopholes in the script. Honestly my bigger concern is hoping that these thought processes don’t really reflect true human reasoning or lack thereof. I know the world is a scary place but lord help us! ☺ I really want to believe that human instinct is better than that. I don’t have any psychological advice for those on the losing end of that issue, so instead I opt for the easier fix. More and more it makes me want to get a job in Film as a loophole consultant. I think I’d do a pretty good job. Don’t even get me started on video games… I’ll share more of my ramblings of this nature as disappointments occur, which means, probably soon… Now go find loopholes in all of my writings and expose me, I can hardly wait ☺

Written By A Less Than Thrilled But Probably Too Picky Kevin Beacham

*Reading my writing is FREE and less time consuming so I get slight pass…ha. I suppose that time-consuming comment is questionable. I am pretty wordy…ha.

**But yes it had some character flaws too…ha

***I gave up so many show just because one character of facet of the show was just to annoying to watch. Ones that come to mind are Prison Break (second or 3rd season), Heroes (2nd or 3rd season), Flashforward (that girl looking for her sister which lead to her horrible choices and the boyfriend who just went along with all of it because of love…I nearly went insane…ha), The Cape (I tried so hard with this one), and the list goes on...sadly enough.

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