In the 1980s, cocaine was king, and South American drug lords were making just crazy bonkers money by exporting their product into America through various port cities like Miami. They had plenty of help from banks, too, and before anyone really realized it, the drug trade became a full-blown epidemic. And that’s the setting for the new Bryan Cranston-led film, The Infiltrator. Based on a book by former undercover customs agent Robert Mazur, the story follows one of the largest drug busts in American history through the eyes of the agent himself (who became a fake money launderer) and looks into the brutal tactics employed by Pablo Escobar and his Medellín cartel. At first, it’s riveting to see the emotional and psychological toll it takes on the cops as they embed themselves into the drug trade through any means necessary, but there are ultimately too many tired devices utilized, and the film ends up lagging. It’s almost as if they had most of a great movie and then realized there wasn’t a strong ending, so they wrapped it up as quickly as possible.
Cranston provides a perfectly fine performance as the embattled agent who repeatedly puts work ahead of family (though it seems to have no lasting effect one way or another on his marriage and home life, at least so far as we’re shown), and his fellow agents, played by John Leguizamo and Diane Kruger, provide little more than reactionary lines to his risky moves like, “Yeah, I’ve got your back!” Benjamin Bratt brings a certain oomph to his role as one of the bad guy higher-ups in the cartel, and his charming performance shows that sometimes undercover work is totally super-hard when you start to like your targets! Everyone else just kind of exists in a vacuum, and they wait for Cranston to be onscreen so they can do crazy-terrifying things to let us know just how much is on the line. For the most part, this works, but they never quite make us care enough about Cranston or Leguizamo (or anyone, for that matter).
The Infiltrator is certainly not boring, but if you’re looking for anything more than a paint-by-numbers thriller, based on a true story or not, this is not your film.
Violet Crown, Regal,