MOVIE: THE INFILTRATOR
STARRING: BRYAN CRANSTON; JOHN LEGUIZAMO; DIANE KRUGER; BENJAMIN BRATT
DIRECTED BY: BRAD FURMAN
AMovieGuy.com's RATING: 3 STARS (Out of 4)
The Infiltrator opens with the rocking sounds of RUSH's “Tom Sawyer” and closes with the spunky electric keyboard sound of THE WHO's “Eminence Front”. Those are two great songs to begin and end with. In between, you sprinkle another solid performance from Bryan Cranston, in an informative film, playing Robert Mazur, a U.S. Customs official who infiltrated a corrupt money laundering scheme, run by Columbian drug lord Pablo Escobar. The Infiltrator is missing the “wow factor” to make it a must-see, but it sports a strong cast, has surprising comedic beats, telling one hell of a story.
It's the mid-1980's, when the drug problems in the U.S. were rampant. Mazur, who was a former Tampa based IRS Accountant, had the idea of attacking the banks that laundered the money, instead of the low-level drug pushers. The screenplay, written by Ellen Brown Furman, is adapted from Mazur's own accounts in his 2009 autobiography, which involved his infiltration of the Medellin cartel, under the name “Bob Musella”, and posing as a wealthy handler of the bad guys money. In order to play the part, it involves wearing the finer suits, spending time with coked out underlings such as Javier Ospina (Yul Vazquez), distancing himself from his loving wife and two children, and posing with his “fiance” Kathy (Diane Kruger, looking fabulous in a mink fur coat). All of this, because as Mazur states, “one wrong move, and your dead”.
Most of the dramatics in The Infiltrator take place during intense conversations, where the threat of blowing your cover could result in the loss of your life. Director Brad Furman (Runner Runner; The Lincoln Lawyer) knows he has a stellar cast and, quite possibly, one of the greatest actors in the game today with Cranston. With slicked back hair and sporting a Magnum P.I. mustache, the Breaking Bad star chews up plenty of scenes. Wether Mazur is verbally duking it out with his partner Emir Abreu (played by a sweaty and equally entertaining John Leguizamo) or building on his relationship with Escobar's #3 guy Roberto Alcaino (Benjamin Bratt- cooking dinner for “Musella” and breaking all the clichés of your typical “bad guy”), most of the scenarios here work strongly. This movie makes you say, “oh yeah, these actors are professionals ya know”, and Cranston just raises the bar higher and higher.
Although there is not much to complain about The Infiltrator, there is a bit of a missed opportunity. Last years Black Mass seemed to relish and indulge in the classic gangsters and cops story, with Johnny Depp doing his intense, character thing. I liked that movie more than some, but it's that intensity, which Black Mass had, that feels missing here. The performances, from Cranston and small moments from Amy Ryan as the customs department leader, they are all good. Mazur's path to “taking down the bad guys” works. It's just missing that over the top speech, deeper character details, and possibly the finer touches of a well-known director, that could have made this movie great.
All things said and done, The Infiltrator is a no-nonsense, strong armed movie. It would be hard for me to not recommend it because there's not much to complain about. It has commendable acting across the board, a true-crime story feel, and some light-hearted humor moments that slice through the typical tough guy films. Plus, it has Cranston. It is clear to me, that this guy can do nothing wrong. Already this year, he gave an award worthy performance as Lyndon B. Johnson in HBO's All the Way, and he makes taking down drug cartels in The Infiltrator look like he's been doing it his whole life. Sign him up as a secret agent. I believe this guy could be the world’s most interesting man.
Written by: Leo Brady