Brad Furman’s The Infiltrator, is a tense thriller based upon a true story, starring man of the moment, the omnipresent, Bryan Cranston. He plays Robert Mazur, a U.S. Customs official tasked with exposing a notorious money laundering scheme that’s linked at its very highest levels to the man himself, Pablo Escobar.
In the twilight of his career, with retirement just around the corner, Mazur is presented with the option to ease himself out of the job quietly, but call it fate or sods law, his final ‘take it or leave it’ role thrusts him into the biggest job of his life, and much to his long-suffering wife’s concern and displeasure, his commitment to his colleagues and to his position renders him unable to say no.
Together with a team of fellow undercover operatives, they seek to infiltrate this money laundering ring and expose its inner circle; working their way up into its upper echelons as they go.
Mazur adopts the guise of business ‘money man,’ Bob Musella, through whom financial transactions ‘get done,’ no matter their dubious nature. John Leguizamo stays true-to-type, playing his partner, the street-wise, cocksure, Emir Abreu. Emir supplies considerable know-how to proceedings, possesses considerable cojones, and generally adds an authenticity that’s so crucial at the ‘street level’ of this particular operation.
Mazur and Abreu must mix it up with an assortment of street hoodlums, and latterly, Mazur in particular, with a selection of ultra-moneyed, crooked tycoons.
A number of false friendships are made and their confidence is duly gained. One bond of friendship ultimately proves so strong that the sense of guilt that Mazur experiences when faced with the inevitable act of betrayal, borders on deep remorse.
Within such a highly volatile predicament, the possibility of being found out – or sold out for that matter – at any moment, is never far from Mazur’s thoughts . Everything is balanced precariously on the proverbial knife edge and the resultant tension from a number of incredibly near misses will leave your heart in your mouth.
But the film’s chief success comes from the exploration of Robert Mazur’s character, and more to the point, from Bryan Cranston’s excellent portrayal of him.
Rather than the swashbuckling all-action hero that Mazur’s character could very easily have been made out to be in the wrong directorial hands – whether true to life or not – Cranston, one senses, provides a far more realistic portrayal. A family man, and a man that’s fully aware of the folly of accepting this one final job, and the far reaching consequences that it could so easily bring about.
Robert Mazur is a man that engages in high-risk role play by day, living an enormously decadent high-flying lifestyle so as to ingratiate himself with those that he seeks to bring down, after which he must adapt back to his sedate, middle class existence by night. More to the point, he must continually square these two, disparate existences with both his own conscience, and with his wife, Evelyn (Juliet Aubrey), a task that becomes increasingly difficult the further he is drawn into the cesspit of the mafia inner circle.
For this, Mazur’s final assignment, he is even required to adopt a fiancee into his life, Bonni, (played here by the excellent Amy Ryan), a dedication to the role which whilst necessary and admirable, pushes Robert’s wife to her very limits of tolerance, particularly when sinister elements of Mazur’s work begin to encroach negatively upon his marriage and family life.
Director Brad Furman’s piece is commendable on a number of levels, most notably for not being sucked into the trap of turning the whole piece into an excuse for umpteen gangster shoot-outs and relentless car chases, but the overall impression is one of a film that falls a little short of being considered of any great importance within its genre, as watchable as it most definitely is.
Not pandering to the temptation to overly titillate or indulge in the gratuitous is all well and good, but there’s a nagging sense that Furman’s direction could have benefited from being maybe a little more ‘down and dirty,’ in order to achieve maximum impact. That said, there’s certainly enough here overall, particularly given such genuinely excellent performances right across the board, and a succession of hyper-tense set pieces, to make The Infiltrator a perfectly decent and entertaining watch.