by Michael B. Hock
There are few actors I admire as much as Bryan Cranston. To me, Cranston is not simply an actor, he’s a shapeshifter who can throw himself into the comedic, like Malcolm in the Middle, the dramatic, like Breaking Bad, or the downright whatever the hell we’re going to get from him in the Power Rangers movie. The man can elevate himself into any part. The man has played a goofy Panda and was the best thing about the last season of the Cleveland Show. Simply put: he’s not an actor so much as he’s a gift. A gift for the viewing public.
If you’re wondering why I’m starting out like this, it’s so on the off chance that he ever comes back and reads this silly little blog, he’ll know that I love him well before I delve deep into The Infiltrator, the… movie? I’m going to say random assemblage of scenes that remind us that Bryan Cranston is a nation treasure.
The Infiltrator tells the true story of Robert Mazur an undercover agent who infiltrates the organizations of drug lords in an effort to stop them from laundering cash. He gets the idea to stop going after the cash and instead goes after the drugs themselves, eventually taking down Pablo Escobar and the Bank of Credit and Commerce International. All of this while juggling a family at home, and taking on a new partner in Emir Abreu (John Leguizamo, and underrated national treasure that should be forgiven for The Pest. If you’re unaware of what The Pest is, then you lead a blessed life and under no circumstances should you Google it.)
The Infiltrator, for the most part, is an interesting movie. It does move along what is going on in simple terms, so most people can understand what is going on – Robert Mazur goes undercover as Bob Musella, keeping the lies as close to the truth as possible in an effort to ensure a successful lie. The movie itself is filmed beautifully, filmed more as a gritty 1980’s cop-drama than the clear crisp lines we see today. Rather than sucking us in for a delightful escape, the movie goes out of it’s way to hold us at arm’s length, wanting us to see what is going on and offer no kinds of judgements.
The problem is that the movie, which is taylor made for suspense, doesn’t offer much of it.
Mazur is an interesting character. Yes, I know he’s a real person, but for purposes of this review – barring Cranston mystically channeling the real Robert Mazur from the 1980’s (and I wouldn’t put it past him) – he is a character in a movie, and none of this is meant to reflect on him as a person. But he straddles that line between the drug world and his world as a Customs agent. I can get being mixed up with the two, wanting to do your duty, but I didn’t get any of that here. The tense moments were broken up quickly, or lacked any real tension.
One of the most fascinating moments of the film comes when Mazur is out with his wife, and is spotted by one of his drug associates. This could have been a tense meeting between the two, Mazar needing to slip into his Musella performance while explaining why he’s out with a woman who is very much not his fake, U.S. Customs supplied fiancee (played by Diane Kruger). But there’s no real tension in this moment. He gets himself thrown out with an over the top display, but it’s not really touched on again, despite the fact that he and his wife were in a lot of danger, and still kind of could have been. The reason he had a fiancée is become he turned down the gift of a prostitute earlier, but it was heavily implied that he was happy to cheat here.
The Infiltrator is essentially a movie that relies heavily on performances, without putting much stake into the script or people itself. And while it’s fine… we have some great moments from Amy Ryan, being typecast as the hard-ass boss type but being perfect in every moment as the hard-ass boss type (seriously, when they redo another Lethal Weapon ripoff, I want to see her as the burden chief, yelling at officers to get their act together, but instead of act she should yell “shit.”) Diane Kruger works as Kathy Ertz, first-time undercover operative/someone to introduce difficulty in the Mazur marriage but doesn’t really.
The issue with relying on these performances is that too many people just vanish from the script while we’re focusing on Cranston. Leguizamo, who was crucial to the first third of the movie, vanishes and suddenly the two become best friends. Mazur’s family is shown, but so scarcely they almost seem to be a bit of an afterthought.
This should have been a great movie, unfortunately, it didn’t quite live up to its compelling story and more than talented cast.
Still love you, Bryan!