Mark Wahlberg is not a bad actor. He can often be very good. Wahlberg has proven over and over since “Boogie Nights,” that he can be menacing, courageous, lightly comic and heroic.

Wahlberg won’t be doing Shakespeare any time soon, not because he can’t, anything is possible, but because like bank robber Willie Sutton, Mark knows where the money is. The money, of course, is in action, where the bucks make a bang. In most cases, like in “The Shooter,” or “The Basketball Diaries,” he pulled it out beautifully. This time out, it seems that Wahlberg had some time on his hands, and needed a cash flow to bankroll something bigger, something better. We’re sure he will.

In “Contraband,” Wahlberg is Chris Farraday, who, like himself, came up out of the streets. Farraday, is a New Orleans street boy born in a crime family, and has seen hard time in the system. Farraday was once one of the go-to boys for running illegal contraband, smuggling goods through his connections on the waterfront, where he worked as a deckhand and machinist on big box tankers.

Now, something like an angel of God and the love of a good woman, has laid a hand on his heart and shoulder, and he’s gone straight. Farraday has come up for legal air and founded a business installing security systems. How sweet the irony. He has a lovely wife, (Kate Beckinsale) and kids.

Things look like they’re coming up roses and jambalaya for Farraday, when his brother-in-law Andy (Caleb Landry Jones) blows a deal made with the more-evil-than-Satan drug lord, Tim Briggs (the excellent Giovanni Ribisi),

Unable to come up with the cash, Briggs puts on the squeeze. Farraday goes to reason with Mr. Briggs and gets a gun in his face and a threat to his family’s life.

Here’s where it all goes wrong. Farraday agrees to slide back into his bad-boy life to save his brother-in-law’s life. He puts together a team of old friends who still work the tanker runs out of New Orleans to the bleak shores of South America (see “Oceans Eleven”).

None of this makes sense. He could have just shot Mr. Briggs, a roach no one would have missed and walked away.

We accept that he might reluctantly attempt one more caper for his family’s sake, but soon it’s apparent that Farraday really misses his old life. He jumps into the dangerous caper with gusto and joy.

As is the case, bad things get really bad. The young brother-in-law who appears to be only 16, is so naive and stupid, that everything he touches turns to nitro and pitches his family into bloody chaos.

Then there’s the old trusted buddy Sebastian (Ben Foster who was so good in “The Mechanic” and “Messenger”) who turns out to have his own game plan running. Who among us would trust a waterfront thug-kid named Sebastian?

Wahlberg comes out of this with his star pants on, just barely, and Foster and Beckinsale are good actors and incapable of embarrassing themselves. But not long after the credits, the script falls apart. It’s apparent that Wahlberg and director Baltasar Kormakur, a refugee artist from Iceland, know this and begin to load in big chunks of special effects, lots of explosions, car wrecks, silly stunts and gunplay.

No one comes out of this looking like front-row seaters at the Sundance festival, and are all light years away from the big one at Cannes. “Contraband” is six weeks away from going big on the DVD circuit. Wahlberg, Beckinsale and Foster need to keep looking for better scripts. I rush to add that Ribisi, one of our really good character actors, has to stop taking these Elisha Cook Jr.-on-acid roles. He’s better than that. Just take a look at his medic in “Saving Private Ryan.”

J.P. Devine is a former stage and screen actor.

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