THE STORY – In 1986, federal agent Robert Mazur (Bryan Cranston) goes under cover to infiltrate the trafficking network of Colombian drug kingpin Pablo Escobar. Working with fellow agents Kathy Ertz (Diane Kruger) and Emir Abreu (John Leguizamo), Mazur poses as a slick, money-laundering businessman named Bob Musella. Gaining the confidence of Roberto Alcaino (Benjamin Bratt), Escobar’s top lieutenant, Mazur must navigate a vicious criminal underworld where one wrong move could cost him everything.
THE CAST – Bryan Cranston, Diane Kruger, John Leguizamo, Benjamin Bratt, Amy Ryan & Said Taghmaoui
THE TEAM – Brad Furman (Director) & Ellen Brown Furman (Writer)
THE RUNNING TIME – 127 Minutes
By Matt N.
Bryan Cranston is back dealing with the drug world, this time, set in the 1980’s and helmed by “The Lincoln Lawyer” director Brad Furman. “The Infiltrator” is tense in its exploration of a true story in which a U.S. Customs agent was able to bust Pablo Escobar’s multi-million dollar money laundering business. While the film may prove to be too formulaic for some and unfulfilled for others, the performances by Bryan Cranston, John Leguizamo, Diane Kruger and Benjamin Bratt help to keep the film constantly involving throughout its two-hour-plus running time.
It’s the 1980s and Pablo Escobar’s drug empire is in full swing within the United States. “The Infiltrator,” tells the real-life story of Robert Mazur (Bryan Cranston), a U.S. Customs Agent who spends his work day working undercover to bust drug dealers and money launderers. One of his fellow agents, Emir Abreu (John Leguizamo), receives a tip that leads to Mazur and he infiltrating the Medellin Cartel. Mazur goes undercover one last time as charismatic businessman Robert “Bob” Musella and becomes the cartel’s go-to guy for all of their money laundering which could land them in prison should Mazur pull off his job effectively. However, brushes with danger and getting too close to one’s enemies are only two of the problems that Mazur will have to encounter as he works his way up the drug cartel ladder to its highest ranking officials.
Bryan Cranston is a masterclass actor and in “The Infiltrator” he must put forth the performance of a lifetime which could mean the difference between life and death for himself. The drug underworld is a nasty business where painful torture and brutal killings of yourself and one’s own family is commonplace. Cranston’s Robert Mazur is well aware of this, and even with a retirement package waiting for him and risking his own marriage, he still does what he feels is right and because he’s damn good at it. Equally up to the task of putting on a disguise to bust others is John Leguizamo who puts in an unpredictable performance as Emir Abreu, Mazur’s on the streets partner who lives close to danger every moment of his life. Diane Kruger (Who I’m convinced never ages) also dons a mask as Mazur’s fake fiancee (Real name Kathy Ertz) and conveys quivering concern mixed with assured confidence the closer she and Mazur get to taking down the organization responsible for millions of drug money around the world. Benjamin Bratt is silently good here as well as (Playing Roberto Alcaino), portraying a man who leads a normal life at home with his beautiful wife and daughter and gains the affection of both Mazur and Ertz despite his high ranking criminal activities. Suffice to say, the cast here is doing everything they can to elevate the picture and they mostly succeed.
The direction by Brad Furman is also competent and clear in how he unravels the procedural story of deception. There are more than a few scenes where the tension he ratchets is unnerving and due to the commanding performance of an actor at Cranston’s level, the film nearly passes the boundary into becoming a truly memorable picture. However, the clear telling of the events within the film, it’s tension and performances is all Furman should hang his hat on as the film’s screenplay proves to be too “paint by the numbers” in many instances and doesn’t present anything new to the genre much in the way of story, character or craft. There are far too many instances where one or more of the fascinating chracters disappear for too long throughout the picture and we never get the full details behind the investigation much in the way a documentary would have provided. For a film that is paced reasonably well, I’m sure more time could have been spared to flesh out the screenplay just a tad bit more.
While “The Infiltrator” is a solid job from all parties involved, it will not be remembered as a classic nor possibly be remembered come to the end of the year. However, that is not to discredit the work that is being presented here. Furman’s direction is solid if a tad bit unremarkable. Performances are uniformly good across the board with Cranston leading the way. And the film’s story is an interesting one, just not a particularly memorable one that will be able to infiltrate viewer’s minds and stay there long after the final credits roll.
THE FINAL SCORE
THE GOOD – Brad Furman’s confident tension building direction coupled along with Bryan Cranston’s commanding screen presence makes for an entertaining thriller.
THE BAD – The film is not particularly memorable as the story is presented in a simple clear cut and dry manner.
THE OSCARS – None
THE FINAL SCORE – 6/10