Based on the memoir by Bob Mazur, this 1980s-based narco-drama is set against the backdrop of Nancy Reagan’s ‘Just Say No’ campaign, when screens looked nicotine-tinged and everyone with a Y chromosome had a moustache. Bryan Cranston plays Mazur, a US Customs officer who assumes the identity of a big shot money launderer in order to infiltrate and take down Pablo Escobar’s operations through the dismantlement of the Medellin Cartel’s cash reserves.
Considering the nature of this true-crime biopic, you’d expect an immersive two-and-a-bit hours; instead, The Infiltrator ends up as a very underwhelming affair. Ellen Brown Furman’s generic script never lets you go inside the art of deception, and her son Brad Furman‘s direction forgets to make the audience feel the toll of a double life must take on undercover agents, à la Donnie Brasco. The director never manages to draw out any anxiety or suspense inherent to situations where the slightest of slip-ups could get you killed. Some scenes even lack connective tissue, creating a choppy momentum and needless set-ups which confuse the plot; at one stage, we zip from a poolside meeting to a voodoo “audition” to an old school cinema encounter with no idea how or why.
While a few scenes hit their mark, they only do so because of the cast’s efforts, specifically Cranston’s. Sadly, The Infiltrator adds itself to a long line of features which have yet to offer a platform worthy of the actor’s talents. It is content with familiarity and will leave the audience with no new insights, pining for other recent drug-based crime thrillers like the stellar Sicario or even Black Mass, which for all its faults managed to build some tension.
The Infiltrator | Directed by Brad Furman (USA, 2016) with Bryan Cranston, John Leguizamo, Diane Kruger. Starts September 29.