The Infiltrator: Cranston Kills it in Otherwise Predictable Drug-Drama
Brad Furman’s latest film, The Infiltrator, is faced with the challenge of taking a relatively familiar subject of drug lords and undercover cops and spinning it into something innovative and new. Unfortunately, with so many other similar films already out there, the challenge proves a little too much for the production which, despite doing just enough to keep the suspense levels high, suffers as a result of a predictable and paint-by-numbers approach which undervalues the story’s undeniable potential.
Set in 1985, the story is centered on Robert ‘Bob’ Mazur (Cranston); an experienced U.S Customs Service special agent who spends most of his days working undercover busting small-time drug smugglers in Tampa, Florida. After suffering an injury on the job – witnessed in a satisfying opening scene – Bob is given an opportunity to retire early and spend more time with wife, Evelyn (Aubrey) and their two kids.
However, the retirement plans are shelved when Bob finds himself on another job, this time involving a much bigger fish – also known as Pablo Escobar’s Medellin Cartel – who, at the time, were smuggling more than fifteen tons of cocaine a week into the United States. Posing as a successful money launderer named Bob Musella – who earns his cash by protecting cartel money – Bob’s primary target lies with one of Pablo’s top men, Roberto Alcaino (Bratt) whom he soon befriends. Alongside fellow agent, Kathy (Kruger), Bob finds himself deep in the dangerous drug underworld.
As he has already proven in his groundbreaking role of a chemistry-teacher-turned-drug-lord in AMC’s hit TV-show Breaking Bad, Cranston is superb as Mazur; an undercover agent who relies on his experience – and brains – to get the job done. Expressive, entertaining and compelling, Cranston keeps things grounded as we watch him dive deeper and deeper into the dangerous arms of the cartel, his anxieties and fears are conveyed with such conviction that at times it becomes almost too difficult to watch. The same can be said for Kruger who is seductively captivating as Bob’s fake fiancé whilst Leguizamo – who plays Bob’s partner Emir Abeu – is equally effective as someone who is exhilarated by the adrenaline that the job brings.
Unfortunately, The Infiltrator is a perfect example of a movie where the performances are stronger than the story itself. Written by Ellen Sue Brown – who adapted the story from Mazur’s autobiography of the same name – the film offers plenty of moments of tension and could even pass as a satisfying dramatic thriller. However, it’s all too-familiar premise fails to offer anything new to the genre, with the director relying too much on genre tropes to tell the story, leaving the viewers with a bit of that been-there-done-that feel.