Film Reviews

THE INFILTRATOR

By • Jul 15th, 2016 •

Share This:


Cranston is at the center of all the action. It’s a highly narcissist performance – like LBJ – and mesmerizing.

When James Gandolfini walked away from The Sopranos, fans gasped. He left Tony Soprano to do what? A few well-received but lackluster movies.

David Duchovny walked away from playing Agent Mulder but when movie stardom failed to materialize, he had to come back to The X-Files for a brief few episodes. Michael C. Hall refused to do Seasons 7 and 8 of Dexter until Showtime agreed to his $1 million salary per episode demand. Hall ended Dexter after Season 8 no matter how much money Showtime offered. (Has Hall’s career eclipsed Dexter? There are rumors floating around about a Season 9 with Hall.)

Think Hall will do it? Wait a few more years and he will want to be the highest paid actor on television.

Likewise, in 2013 Bryan Cranston left Breaking Bad and Walter White, a character as iconic as Tony Soprano, Agent Mulder and Dexter. He left Mr. White to do what? Was TRUMBO worthy of ditching Mr. White for? Would you dump a six-figure salary (reported to be $225,000 per episode) to play Lyndon B. Johnson on Broadway?

Next year, Cranston continues to guide his career path by appearing in the new POWER RANGERS reboot as Zordon, the all-powerful mentor for the Power Rangers.

With THE INFILTRATOR, Cranston is at the center of all the action. It’s a highly narcissist performance – like LBJ – and mesmerizing. Based on a memoir by Robert Mazur, Cranston plays the federal undercover agent who plotted and carried out a sting operation on the 1986 F.B.I.’s Most Wanted Man – Pablo Escobar.

This sting involved so many people on both sides that it is a tough sting to follow. Mazur has a family with obligations. His wife wants him to retire. But masquerading as a powerful money launderer is just too seductive to pass up. Flashy clothes, strippers and escorts, a young blonde fiancée, and a lot of government money to flash and spend are the perfect accoutrements of a fantasy life for a man closing in on 55 and still with too much testosterone to burn.

Busting drug mules was getting the agency nowhere in the war on drugs. Mazur decides to “follow the money” by creating a money launderer named Bob Musella. I don’t know exactly how he set it up but Mazur worked his way through various levels of Escobar’s cartel to put their enormous cash in the Bank of Credit and Commerce International.

How Mazur arranged for everyone to believe he was a money launderer without portfolio is left to spycraft or need-to-know.

Yes, indeed, the 80’s were fueled by cocaine, guns and sex. And all the people who could were over-the-top in their presentation of self. Drug dealers were recognizable and everyone seemed to know someone who had dinner with Escobar. Mazur’s associates are equally fascinating and highly stylized. There is his supervisor, Bonni (Amy Ryan), a tough lady that no one dare speak to; his partner Emir (John Leguizamo), a veteran who knows how to play his role with glee. He’s addicted to the danger and the drug dealing lifestyle; his wife Evelyn (Juliet Aubrey) who has been married to him for so long she knows more than the F.B.I. wants her to know; and finally, his “fiancée” Kathy (Diane Kruger), who is also a F.B.I. agent in her very first undercover operation). Kathy, in the role of young, blonde “fiancée”, is so raw you are sure she will expose the sting when she talks too much.

On the other side is equally interesting characters. Having a lot of money – especially drug money – allows people to develop their latent sociopathic tendencies. Bob and Kathy meet Escobar’s main money manager, Javier Ospina (Yul Vázquez). Clad entirely in white and with a female assistant/lover in constant silent attention, Ospina indulges in every depravity which is certainly a clash with Bob’s faithful husband and great father true self. Ospina is trained to be suspicious but eventually Bob and Kathy move up the food chain to Escobar’s chief lieutenant, Roberto Alcaino (Benjamin Bratt), and his wife. They quickly bond and Robert is a real sentimental, family-loving guy. You don’t work with or for him – you become instant members of his family. Trust means everything to him. Mr. and Mrs. Alcaino are a couturier’s dream couple. They are filthy rich and have great taste. But Mr. Alcaino – who admits to being hoodwinked once or twice – fails to see the con game happening in his well-appointed New York penthouse.

Alcano’s wife seems so desperate for a female friend she clings to Kathy as if she was a sinking ship’s lone lifeboat.

The thrill is there and the soundtrack is loud. You might not know why someone got killed or who did the killing, but THE INFILTRATOR is an intelligent film with a great deal of style. Cranston has the ability to overwhelm all those unfortunates who share screen time with him. Leguizamo shows why he a proven great supporting actor and the surprise of the film is Amy Ryan. When you want to see more of a brief character, you know the actor or actress has made a big impression.

Brad Furman, the director, gives Cranston the space to dominate the space and show-off. The screenplay is by the director’s mother, Ellen Brown Furman. Both Cranston and Robert Mazur are executive producers. As an executive producer, did Mazur whitewash some facts? Was he always such an upstanding man in the den of excess? Just asking…

Stay to the end credits which show the real photos of the sting alongside the film’s re-enactment. Very impressive.

 

Member of Las Vegas Film Critics Society: www.lvfcs.org/. Victoria Alexander lives in Las Vegas, Nevada and answers every email at victoria.alexander.lv@gmail.com.

 

Share This Article: Digg it | del.icio.us | Google | StumbleUpon | Technorati

Leave a Comment

(Comments are moderated and will be approved at FIR's discretion, please allow time to be displayed)