Robert Mazur (Bryan Cranston) is a career US Customs agent who specialises in undercover work. Adopting the persona of a money launderer, Mazur works his way into the trust of the Colombian drug cartels and a shady international banking clan that's working with them. Before long, Mazur is accepted as one of them and the line blurs between criminal and cop.
here are plenty of films that are elevated by performances rather than the setting and directing around them. You have a fantastic actor or cast working in the confines of what's essentially a decent enough film. So it goes with The Infiltrator, one of Bryan Cranston's best performances post-Breaking Bad in a story that could have more readily adapted into a miniseries than a film.
ryan Cranston is Robet Mazur, a US Customs agent who's made a career out of adopting a different personality in order to ingratiate himself with bad types. After one case ends with a permanent injury, Mazur's offered early retirement - but instead opts for another challenge and, with his partner, John Leguizamo, sets off to track the money behind the drug trade instead of the drugs themselves. Revolutionary at the time, but seeing it in 2016, it's more than a little familiar. Mazur then begins to work his magic and adopting a slightly heightened version of himself, eventually reaching the main US agent for the Medellin cartel. Cranston's ability to command a scene is what saves the film. You can really see him pushing out of every bit of effort and, even with a clunky script that misses the mark more often than hits, he still makes for a commanding performance. The same goes for John Leguizamo, who doesn't get half the credit he deserves as an actor. Another underrated talent working here is Yul Vazquez, who plays a bisexual drug kingpin with ties to Pablo Escobar. Playing it almost like a Bond villain, Vazquez puts some colour on what is, at times, a dour retelling of a violent and exciting - if that's the right word - time in American history.
he supporting cast all work their roles admirably. Our own Tom Vaughn-Lawlor fits effortlessly into the proceedings as Steve, one of the desk-bound US Customs agents assisting Cranston. Diane Kruger, meanwhile, has to double as Mazur's fiancee whilst Amy Ryan is the hard-nosed, straight-talking handler who crops up at various intervals to chew out Cranston for going too far. Jason Isaacs is under-utilised as a US attorney, only given a scene or two to make an impact whilst the excellent Dominic Gilgun lurks in the background as Mazur's bodyguard. Benjamin Bratt plays the role of the big bad with a surprising warmth and humanity that's a little hard to take, but works when you understand the larger story at play. Art Malik and Said Taghmaoui both work with the short amount of screentime they're given to make themselves into the slick, crafty side of a violent business.
ssentially, what The Infiltrator and the screenplay is driving at is that when you live too long in someone's life, you'll eventually lose sight of where you are. Again, like the story itself, it's all just a little bit too familiar to be anything other than interesting. Ellen Burke Furman's screenplay doesn't have a real sense of time or progress and it doesn't show Cranston's character experiencing any difficulties living a double-life - except for one poorly executed, flatly directed scene involving a cake and a waiter. All we see throughout the film is Cranston hanging out near pools or in hotel rooms, laughing and enjoying the drug kingpin lifestyle whilst John Leguizamo sweats it out on the streets for some unexplained reason. It's a shame because '80s set drug investigation stories are in fashion and, had there been some original thinking, this could have been something special.
ou get the sense watching The Infiltrator that if a better director was in charge here, there'd be a much, much better film. Brad Furman doesn't attempt to try something different with cinematography or setting up a scene; it's just working off references like Scorsese and DePalma without any real sense of originality or ingenuity. The story itself may not be unique, but there's enough talent in the cast to make something really different here. His previous effort, Runner Runner, was a complete waste of time whilst The Lincoln Lawyer was elevated from obscurity by a resurgent Matthew McConaughey. It's the same thing here - the cast's performance, led by Bryan Cranston, is elevating weak and bland direction and a mediocre and familiar script.
verall, The Infilitrator is an entertaining watch and there are some excellent performances, but you can't shake the feeling that there is a missed opportunity here.