THE INFILTRATOR (USA/15A/127MINS)
Directed by Bud Furman. Starring Bryan Cranston, John Leguizamo, Diane Kruger, Daniel Mays, Tom Vaughan-Lawlor
THE PLOT: It’s 1980s America, and federal agent Robert Mazur (Cranston) is leading a double-life, being the good husband and father at home, and being pretty much whatever undercover badass creation his bosses need him to win this darn war on drugs. Shooting straight ain’t always easy, of course, especially when the drug ring you’ve worked so hard to win over gift you a fine hooker but your faithfulness to your wife means you got to create a fine fiancee. Who, in turn, the Feds have to flesh out, by putting a wide-eyed bit streetwise rookie (Kruger) on your case too.
Hoping to work his way right up through the drug chain to current kingpin Pablo Escobar – who we merely glance in a lobby – Mazur rises incredibly high through the ranks, he and his blushing bride-to-be getting up close and very personal with the Mexican crime lord’s second-in-command, Roberto Alcaino (Bratt). Have they gotten a little too close to do their job properly though…?
THE VERDICT: Taking an enormously thrilling, real-life undercover narcotics cop story and turning into a fairly thrilling, real-life undercover narcotics cop film, ‘The Infiltrator’ feels, for the most part, like The Imitator. We’ve been down in the underbelly of America’s crime lords many times before, and the distance Ted Demme’s ‘Blow’ or Mike Newell’s ‘Donnie Brasco’ are from Scorsese’s Goodfellas, well, Furman’s film is that distance again.
It’s one of those films where nothing’s actually wrong – good story, good cast, a mercifully muted John Leguizamo – but something’s not quite right. With ‘The Infiltrator’, there’s no true rush to the head here. And its two-hour running length begins to drag heavily about halfway through. So much so that you soon find yourself trying to place all the strong character actors in the support slots. “Hey, there’s that nice geezer from ‘This Is England’, the one who played Woody!”. “Oooh, Daniel Mays, from ‘Ashes To Ashes’!”. “Ah, it’s feckin’ Nidge, off ‘Love/Hate’!”.
So, file under Tuesday night, More4, 9pm.
RATING: 3/5
Review by Paul Byrne

  • filmbuff2011

    Films and TV series about the notorious Colombian drug kingpin Pablo Escobar seem to be all the rage right now. The Infiltrator only features Escobar once, but his name and presence is felt throughout.

    It’s based on the true story of Robert Mazur (Bryan Cranston), a US Customs official who went deep undercover with many of Escobar’s criminal associates in the mid-1980s and also investigated criminal activities in the banking community. Going under the pseudonym of Robert Musella, Mazur posed as an accountant based in South Florida. Fellow undercover agent Emir (John Leguizamo) brings him into contact with key associates in Escobar’s Medellin cartel, who want to launder huge amounts of cash as their cocaine floods American streets. Over time, he gains their trust, including that of Roberto (Benjamin Bratt) while keeping their conversations recorded via a suitcase with a tape recorder in it. Mazur is soon drawn into the extravagant lifestyle of the drug cartel that he has infiltrated, so he needs a fake fiancee in the form of fellow agent Kathy (Diane Kruger) to play her part. How long can Mazur stay undercover before he’s found out by the very people who have trusted him?

    After the average average Runner Runner, director Brad Furman returns to the kind of slick but entertaining films that he previously made like The Lincoln Lawyer. He’s caught himself a right shark of a story. Adapted by Ellen Sue Brown from Mazur’s own book, this is a fascinating deep cover story which is all the more remarkable for being true. How Mazur managed to stay undetected for so long, stay alive and establish deep trust with these cartel associates and their families is a miracle. But from miracles come great stories and Mazur’s one is a tense slow-burner.

    There are no car chases, explosions or grisly murders here. Instead, Furman is more interested in watching Mazur worm his way into this rotten apple and destroy it from the inside out. What’s equally interesting is watching the way Mazur slowly turns on his ‘friends’ – and the repercussions of that on his own family. As Mazur’s own wife Evelyn has said, he’s a man for whom there is no quit. Cranston’s craggy features and grim determination capture what he calls Mazur’s obsessive-compulsive behaviour. It’s another fine performance from Cranston, who is already having a good year after an Oscar-nominated turn in Trumbo. Leguizamo, Kruger and Bratt provide strong support too.

    The Infiltrator is more enjoyable than in it outwardly seems. It’s more of a strong character drama based on fact rather than a straight thriller. The interlocking characters form part of a bigger picture that spanned two different countries at the height of America’s war on drugs. The Pablo Escobar story taken from a different angle, The Infiltrator comes recommended. ****

  • Joseph McCarthy

    Bryan Cranston is excellent as an undercover agent, trying to infiltrate the drug cartel run from Colombia by infamous cocaine dealer Pablo Escobar. Putting himself, his family and his undercover fiancee, Diane Kruger, in danger as he gets higher in the organisation.
    Weighing in at more than two hours, it feels very long as Cranston’s earns the trust of the cartel members, carrying on a fake engagement at the same time, until he can maneuver them into a position to be arrested by uS customs

  • emerb

    “The Infiltrator”, directed by Brad Furman, is a stylish and engaging espionage thriller. It is based on the true story of middle-aged FBI agent Bob Mazur who, in 1986, went undercover as a money launderer for the U.S. Customs to take down Pablo Escobar’s drug trafficking regime and the infamous Medellin drug cartel. To this day, that operation is considered one of the most successful drug-busting operations in the history of the United States and it was almost inevitable that we would eventually see a movie on it. The result is one of the most thrilling crime dramas I have seen so far this year.

    Bob Mazur (Bryan Cranston) is a stern, driven man who is addicted to fighting for justice and has been ignoring many opportunities to retire. He believes the best way to stem the cocaine tide is not to follow the drugs but to follow the money. So
    he goes undercover as a money launderer, pushing funds to a complicit bank
    while at the same time getting friendly with the bad guys. He adopts an alias, Bob Musella (a name he finds on a gravestone) and starts becoming dangerously involved in the criminal underworld, climbing the ladder that he hopes will lead to the inner circle of the Medellín Cartel. Teamed up with a brash partner Emir Abreu (John Leguizamo), they insinuate themselves into the world of Pablo Escobar lieutenant Roberto Alcaino (Benjamin Bratt), gaining his trust and friendship, even seats on his private jet. Mazur becomes entwined with people who have no hesitations about murder and his bodyguard reminds him that if the truth comes out, the torture would be unbearable and they would glue his eyes open while making him watch as they do unspeakable things to his family. Complicating matters is the fact that Mazur is faithful to his wife and will not take part in a lap dance. This draws suspicion so he claims to be engaged and a fake fiancee is required. Cue the arrival of a hot new young partner, Kathy Ertz (Diane Kruger). There are twists and turns, setbacks and dangerously close shaves and there’s never a moment when we aren’t aware of the jeopardy at every turn.

    This movie is bolstered by an excellent ensemble cast, led by Bryan Cranston who gives a truly fine performance here. He is always in command while on screen, whether playing quietly with his children or a night on the town with his wife in which he has to immediately transform from Bob the married man to Bob the ruthless criminal when one of Escobar’s associates bumps into them at a restaurant. In addition, we get a suave and sinister Benjamin Bratt as Roberto Alcaino, one of Pablo Escobar’s most trusted distributors. John Leguizamo gives one of the finest performances of his career as undercover agent Emir Abreu with all the connections. He’s a lively but wildly unpredictable character who is paired up with Bob against Bob’s better judgment. Kruger is a good fit for her
    double-edged role, chatting away with the crime boss’ wife while secretly gathering information.

    “The Infiltrator” is an absorbing drama, well-paced, well-acted, looks great, is seriously tense and will keep you pinned to your seat. It’s is full of colourful, complex and cut – throat characters from all corners of the city – killers, con artists, informants, the Feds. It also has a number of really spine-tingling and
    tense sequences such as one particularly eerie moment when Cranston sits quietly with his main target as the pair share a drink over news reports of a murdered informant or another where he is out for a jog while a mysterious car trails behind him. However, at times, I felt that there were almost too many players on both sides of the law and I was beginning to lose track of who was who. Also, some of the intricacies of the money laundering process were over the top (for me anyway). Perhaps, rather than a movie, it would have worked even better as a multipart tv show because I thought the story could have been fleshed more. This is a story that really needs time to unfold and perhaps the 2 hour time frame is too short to do justice to the complex storyline. I really liked the final montage whereby the end credits run head shots of the real bankers and drug czars and undercover narcs portrayed in the film, with accompanying prison sentences and career updates. It really emphasized the credibility of the event and the sheer genius of the whole operation, although I thought the sentences imposed were far too lenient! For those who want a break from the loud, brash, bold blockbuster and would prefer a deeper, more suspenseful, slow burning drama – this is for you.