'The Infiltrator' Doesn't Make the Most Out of Its Terrific Source Material


You’re not likely to encounter many people like U.S. Customs Service special agent Robert Mazur, an undercover operative who once used the alias "Bob Musella" to take down drug lords and infiltrate some of the world’s most dangerous cartels. In 2009, Mazur wrote about his exploits in his memoir, The Infiltrator: My Secret Life Inside the Dirty Banks Behind Pablo Escobar’s Medellín Cartel.

The Infiltrator, the new drama based on his book, doesn’t make the most of that riveting source material. While suspenseful, the film follows a familiar trajectory and suffers from a poorly penned script. The film is currently showing areawide.

Part of the problem here is that Cranston, who was so good in Breaking Bad as an unsuspecting drug dealer, reprises that role, albeit with a twist. Here, he’s the good guy. But much like Walter White, the character he played in Breaking Bad, Robert is a guy who alternates between ruthless and compassionate, confident and insecure. At one minute, he's playing with his kids. At the next, he's giving a waiter the business and shoving his face into a cake. Unlike the terrific performance Cranston gave as screenwriter Dalton Trumbo, his acting here feels too familiar and seems like something he’s done before.

The film centers on Robert’s determination to help stem the flow of drugs into the states. To do so, he partners with Emir (John Leguizamo), another agent who relentlessly works the streets. Emir has an informant whom he says can help get them closer to the cartel bosses. Bob teams up with Emir and goes undercover as Bob Musella, a flashy businessman who can launder money for the drug dealers without arousing any suspicion.

Eventually, Bob befriends Roberto Alcaino (Benjamin Bratt), a cartel higher-up. The two become fast friends. They have dinner together and Robert introduces him to his fiancée (Diane Kruger), fellow customs agent Kathy Ertz, also working undercover.

The film builds in suspense as Robert gets closer and closer to bringing down the cartel. But the movie too often focuses on Robert’s relationship with his wife (Juliet Aubrey), who, predictably enough, doesn’t care for his dangerous line of work and suspects something might be going on with him and Kathy. She becomes particularly suspicious when Kathy swings by the house one afternoon to pick up the suit that Robert wore at their wedding so he can wear it at their (fake) wedding. The scene feels like it came right out of a Lifetime movie. 

Stick around for the film’s postscript, which provides a nice bit of closure to the proceedings and explains what kind of sentences the bad guys got. It’ll certainly make you want to read Mazur’s book. 

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