Movie Review – The Infiltrator

Maybe stick with Narcos instead?

⭐ ⭐ ⭐
Tom Munday

Character-actor/TV extraordinaire Bryan Cranston has travelled a rocky-road on the big screen. Following Breaking Bad’s hit run, he has been seen in everything including Argo, Rock of Ages, Total Recall, Trumbo and Drive. He is one of those actors that elevates everything he’s seen no matter how terrible.

The Infiltrator, on paper, seems like a no-brainer. This crime-docudrama boasts a solid true story, dynamite cast and an interesting time period. The premise is simply enrapturing. Cranston plays US Customs Service agent Robert ‘Bob’ Mazar. His undercover missions send him into increasingly dangerous situations. On one mission, the wire strapped to his chest short circuits and causes serious injury. The injury gives him the ultimate way out – retiring with full benefits alongside his wife and kids. However, Mazur just cannot seem to give up. His taste for the criminal underworld leads him to the 1980s’ most infamous businessman/criminal Pablo Escobar.

Escobar is a fascinating figure. Currently, TV series Narcos delves into the drug Czar’s rise-and-fall story throughout the 1950s – turning South America from labyrinthine continent to enormous cocaine factory. However, the show also focuses on those fighting to take him down. The Infiltrator packs too much and yet not enough into its 2 hour, 7 minute run-time. Unlike Narcos, this crime drama has limited time to establish multiple plot-threads and characters. Instead, it becomes a bloated and perfunctory re-telling of otherwise arresting events. The movie follows Mazur’s every move from go to woe. Following the last mission before retirement cliché, his job sees him tackle Escobar’s entire drug ring between Colombia and Florida.

The first half of the film chronicles the transition from Mazur to dirty-businessman alias Bob Musella. His frustration is palpable as he tries to get used to new partner Emir (John Leguizamo), a new identity and new threats to his life simultaneously. The second half brings in Mazur’s greatest threat when forced to befriend Escobar associate Roberto Alcaino (Benjamin Bratt). The drama relies almost entirely on their budding dynamic. As Mazur delves deeper into the web of drug kingpins and money launderers, several sub-plots fall by the wayside. Emir, despite being the second-billed character and pertinent to the mission’s success, drops off from the story until the final few minutes. Mazur’s undercover fiancé, Kathy Ertz (Diane Kruger), is little more than window dressing.

Director Brad Furman (The Lincoln Lawyer, Runner Runner) brings the best and worst of his filmography into The Infiltrator. Working from Ellen Brown Furman’s messy screenplay, Furman draws intelligent performances from the all-star cast. Cranston sinks into the role, balancing expertly between the character’s charismatic family-man, spot-on agent and sleazy businessman roles. The actor’s distinctive facial features and command of the screen makes everything more interesting. Leguizamo provides several much-needed funny moments. Furman’s bright, shiny visual style works like adrenaline. As too does the soundtrack, chock-a-block with hit 70s/80s disco/pop tracks.

The Infiltrator is yet another 2016 feature that could and should have been so much more. Credit belongs to Cranston and the electrifying cast for elevating the material. The movie sits awkwardly between taut crime-thriller and TV series.

The Infiltrator is available in Australian cinemas from Thursday September 1st

Image courtesy of Roadshow Films

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