Drug money and cartel blood get spilled, then cleaned up, in this tense true-to-life crime drama. Based on the autobiography of US Customs special agent Robert Mazur, we see Bryan Cranston go undercover to attempt to reach the top of Pablo Escobar’s drug cartel.
It’s funny seeing Cranston surrounded by excessive money, drugs and violence as he famously was three years ago. The dynamic of accountant-dad putting on his money-laundering egomaniac mask seems lifted right out of an episode of Breaking Bad. There’s a real enjoyable novelty to that – and it’s even winked at a few times in dialogue.
If you break The Infiltrator down into parts, the most memorable pieces are sequences that dial the tension up to 11, and maybe even 13 or 14. It’s as if the film’s trying to make you as uncomfortable as possible for a long as possible. Or perhaps just as uncomfortable as Mazur himself.
Climbing higher up the cartel ladder, Cranston doesn’t portray a Mazur with the ballsiness of a Heisenberg. He’s an old man – an old man just one step away from failure on all fronts if his cover slips. It’s good that humour is placed liberally throughout. Without it, The Infiltrator would more resemble a gritty thriller, and would be unpleasantly stressful to watch.
Moral struggles that accompany the drug trade in ’80s Miami are presented, but not explored. Reagan’s War on Drugs is scrutinised in a few monologues, but they’re always delivered by ‘the bad guys’, then thrown away. There’s no real question who’s ‘good’ and who’s ‘bad’ here, or what path Mazur should go down, and that’s disappointing.
The Infiltrator presents an opportunity to catch Cranston exploring the high-pressure world of a high-stakes drug trade (again). Unrelentingly tense, it lets the audience blow off steam with well-timed humour. It certainly gets the heart pumping, but there’s nothing much for the brain to do after you’ve left the cinema.
CAST: Bryan Cranston, Leanne Best, Daniel Mays, Tom Vaughan-Lawlor
DIRECTOR: Brad Furman
WRITERS: Ellen Sue Brown (screenplay), Robert Mazur (book)
SYNOPSIS: A US Customs official uncovers a money-laundering scheme involving Colombian drug lord Pablo Escobar.