Bryan Cranston has come a long way from his stint as Tim Whatley, Jerry Seinfeld’s dentist. He’s an excellent choice to play Robert “Bob” Mazur, a U.S. Customs agent who in 1985 went undercover as fictitious New Jersey money launderer Bob Musella to work his way into the trafficking network of Colombian drug czar Pablo Escobar. With the assistance of fellow agents Emir Abreu (John Leguizamo) and Kathy Ertz (Diane Kruger), Mazur—to use his words—“followed the money” instead of the drugs. It led to one of the biggest drug busts in American history.
Based on Mazur’s memoir The Infiltrator: My Secret Life Inside the Dirty Banks Behind Pablo Escobar’s Medellín Cartel, director Brad Furman—whose mother, Ellen Brown Furman, wrote the script—lets Cranston go absolutely apeshit with his character. It’s impossible not to draw parallels between Mazur and Breaking Bad’s Walter White; it’s glaringly obvious that both characters are essentially family guys who choose a dangerous double life that consumes them to the point of losing who they are—not to mention their lives. This plays out exquisitely in a scene where a cartel member (Simón Andreu) who knows Musella spots Mazur and his wife, Evelyn (Juliet Aubrey), having a quiet anniversary dinner at a restaurant.
The Infiltrator is a good movie. Despite occasionally feeling like an episode of Miami Vice, it nonetheless has an intensity that slowly comes to a boil, and when it finally does: BOOM! The moral dilemma of betraying the people not only who come to trust Musella but also welcome him into their lives adds a dramatic slant that movies like this tend to lack. I was riveted. Considering its subject matter, though, The Infiltrator doesn’t exactly move fast. It’s more of a low key character study fueled by what’s going on in Mazur’s head. Benjamin Bratt, Yul Vazquez, and even Olympia Dukakis turn in great performances. There are some dark, funny moments along with some really unsettling scenes—like a weird voodoo ritual, an out-of-nowhere drive-by, and murder on the dance floor. It remains to be seen how memorable The Infiltrator proves to be, though.
(AMC River East) B