#REVIEW: “THE INFILTRATOR”
Review by David Baldwin for Mr. Will Wong
It’s the 1980’s and U.S. Customs Service special agent Robert Mazur (Bryan Cranston) is eligible for retirement after being injured in an undercover sting operation. But he is not ready to quit just yet. He decides instead to go back undercover as a corrupt businessman, where he helps launder money for drug cartels linked to legendary drug lord Pablo Escobar. But the deeper Mazur gets, the more dangerous his job becomes.
The true story at the heart of The Infiltrator makes for one hell of a nail-biting Thriller. There are a few creative licenses employed by Director Brad Furman (best known for his work on the McConaissance Kick-starter The Lincoln Lawyer), but he manages to make even the most low key scenes suspenseful and edgy. Yet the Film as a whole never manages to feel cohesive or complete. There are gaping plot holes at every turn, massive logical inconsistencies and a sense that a large chunk of the story is missing entirely. There is clearly a vast amount of Mazur’s story to tell here, but Furman does it a disservice by truncating so much of it and practically stitching larger events together without much explanation.
Thankfully the cast more than makes up for the plot’s shortcomings. The usually hammy John Leguizamo is actually quite taut and resolved in his performance as another undercover agent, breathing life into a character the Film only uses passively. Diane Kruger ditches her trademark accent and is nearly unrecognizable as Mazur’s undercover wife Kathy, giving an unspoken poignancy to her many scenes. Benjamin Bratt does some great work as one of the targets Mazur gets close to, but never really has enough time to develop the character. Small turns from Juliet Aubrey, Jason Isaacs, Amy Ryan and especially Olympia Dukakis – who completely steals the show in her two short scenes – are all well done.
But the reason you are going to watch The Infiltrator is to see Cranston as another questionable hero, and he delivers in spades. His character goes through an emotional ringer and you can see the toll it is taking progressively through each scene. If you remember how intense he was in Breaking Bad, you have an idea of how strong this performance is. The Film portrays Mazur a bit more saintly than he likely was, but Cranston does an impeccable job leaning on his darker underpinnings. An eye-opening scene with a waiter and the “wrong cake” is just one instance that will leave you squirming, but also ensures you do not take your eyes off Cranston at any time.
My girlfriend stopped watching The Infiltrator after about an hour citing that it was “too intense” for her. And I think that’s the highest possible praise I can give Furman’s Film. The storytelling is a bit too wonky in some areas, but the Film has a riveting sense of dread that does not let up until the credits roll. Leave it to the Dad from Malcolm in the Middle to continue making us so uncomfortable and unsettled all these years later.
Mongrel Media release THE INFILTRATOR in select theatres on Friday, August 12, 2016
and in additional cities starting Friday, August 19, 2016.