“THE INFILTRATOR” My rating: B
125 minutes | MPAA rating: R
Bryan Cranston became a household name on cable’s “Breaking Bad” by playing a decent family man seduced by the the money, violence and power of the drug trade.
In “The Infiltrator” he works an interesting variation on that setup. Here he’s a real-life lawman who goes deep undercover to undermine Pablo Escobar’s Columbian cocaine syndicate.
Director Brad Furman’s film (the screenplay is by his mother, Ellen Brown Furman) is a sort of police procedural enriched by intriguing psychological conflicts.
Set in the mid-1980s in Florida, “The Infiltrator” centers on Robert Mazur, a federal agent who comes to believe that seizing cocaine shipments is a losing strategy since there’s always more coming through the pipeline. A far more promising approach, Mazur believes, is to follow the money. The heads of the cartel can afford to lose drugs; they deeply resent losing their cash.
With the approval of his bosses (among them Amy Ryan and Jason Isaacs), Mazur creates an alter ego, shady businessman Bob Musella, who dresses well, lives big and has created a plan for laundering millions in the cartel’s ill-gotten gains. He begins by befriending the hard-drinking, whore-running street-level drug chieftains and rung by rung works his way up to the biggest movers in the Escobar cartel.
This is all very tricky, and Bob eventually finds it a challenge to separate the venal but charming Musella from his real life with a astonishingly understanding wife (Juliet Aubrey) and two kids. It must mess with your mind going from a coke-fuelled party in a topless joint to a cozy nest in the ‘burbs.
So that he won’t have to betray his wife by sleeping with a hooker (a gift from one of his new drug buddies), Bob claims to be engaged. A fellow agent, Kathy (Diane Kruger), must then step up to portray his trophy fiance. She’s a knockout, and you’ve got to wonder if under the pressure of their shared deception the two agents might not slip into a relationship of a more than professional nature.