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Movie Review: “The Infiltrator”

Jul 122016
 By , July 12, 2016

The Infiltrator

“The Infiltrator” – a film review by Gary Chew

Action/thriller undercover government agent chases south of the border drug cartel thug movies have, over the years, lost much of their value to only a dime a dozen. The new Bryan Cranston picture is such a film … but considerably more pricey. No, theaters didn’t raise current admission prices to see The Infiltrator; the movie is merely and considerably better than most films of the drug running genre.

The Infiltrator In a small way, Cranston assumes the role of “Hank,” his bald headed brother-in-law in cable TV’s superb Breaking Bad. But Bryan isn’t a DEA dick like “Hank” … he’s a US Customs undercover guy; an actual agent of the mid Eighties … named Robert Mazur. The movie is taken from Mazur’s book of the actual account. Ellen Sue Brown wrote the screenplay. Brad Furman directed.

Yes, Furman gives you your money’s worth as Bobby Mazur goes super deep undercover to infiltrate the trafficking of Pablo Escobar’s Medellin, Columbia cartel, acting as its principle money launderer. Mazur gets an assist from Emir Abreu, a street savvy US Custom’s agent from Puerto Rico. John Leguizamo is perfect in that role. Mazur must feign that he’s engaged to Kathy Ertz — she’s just joined US Customs — even though, in real life, Mazur is married and the father of two young children. The German-born actor, Diane Kruger, does the part of Ertz.

The InfiltratorMazur and Ertz become close friends with Escobar’s second in command, Roberto Alcaino (Benjamin Bratt) and Alcanino’s wife (Elena Anaya). The US agents must walk a tight rope of deceit in duping the Alcainos to bring off the big, historic sting. Drug lords and corrupt bankers are ultimately indicted as well as the collapse of the Bank of Credit and Commerce International.

It’s always difficult to know how much “true story” movies are punched up for entertainment value, so you’re on your own to find out the complexities of this caper. The script is sleek and swift and takes up with intimate sidebars attendant to the narrative’s main thrust: Mazur’s family stresses, the conflicts of Mazur’s secondary undercover crew and the close proximity that Mazur and Ertz must work in order to appear as a couple in love and about to married.

The InfiltratorOther good performances are given by Juliet Aubrey as Mazur’s wife and Olympia Dukakis as Mazur’s Aunt Vicky. All of Dukakis’ scenes are hers, even when Cranston is alongside her … a welcome touch of comic relief. Amy Ryan as Bonni Tischler, Mazur’s US Customs honcho, has the role that’s the peachy one. Amy Ryan can act the part of a really hardass boss. Good for you, Amy.

All that said, kudos must continue for the brilliance of Bryan Cranston. Who would of thought an actor playing the slightly goofy dad on television’s Malcomb in the Middle can present such range as a film and stage actor? He’s one of the best American actors going these days. Walter White, LBJ, Dalton Trumbo and a CIA boss in Argo. I’m impressed.

The Infiltrator is as macho as any mob movie. Furman has really put the “testostoronics” to it in a classy manner, but he has not forgotten what might go on in the human heart of good guys and bad guys.

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Gary Chew was a classical music host, programmer and producer on Capital Public Radio’s KXPR 88.9FM, Sacramento for 18 years. He retired in January 2007. Read more about Gary's long and storied career here.

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