In 1986, federal agent Robert Mazur (Bryan Cranston) goes under cover to infiltrate the trafficking network of Colombian drug kingpin Pablo Escobar. Working with fellow agents Kathy Ertz (Diane Kruger) and Emir Abreu (John Leguizamo), Mazur poses as a slick, money-laundering businessman named Bob Musella. Gaining the confidence of Roberto Alcaino (Benjamin Bratt), Escobar’s top lieutenant, Mazur must navigate a vicious criminal underworld where one wrong move could cost him everything.
If you’ve been following my site for awhile, then you know that I occasionally write second opinion reviews to some of my site’s guest reviews. All of them so far have followed reviews from my friend Dan from Get Reel Movies but now this follows an earlier review of The Infiltrator by Jason from Jason’s Movie Blog that you can read here. I had this on my list of most anticipated films of 2016 but I didn’t get to see it until now since the film released a month later here in Canada than in the US (I forgot to change it in my list post). Better late than never I guess.
After his turn as Walter White on Breaking Bad, the chance to see Bryan Cranston in a darker role is definitely appealing. This would be quite a departure for him (or at least from what I’ve seen so far). It wasn’t so much that his role was dark, it was that the whole film was dark as well, although it could have been darker. Here Cranston plays Bob Mazur, a DEA agent working undercover, infiltrating (ha) the network of Pablo Escobar. The big thing about this one was whether or not he would survive. Seeing that this is based on a true story by Mazur and a film after all, this was predictable. This fact did not take away from the film, however.
This was predictable because it was a film and also not an original one. There have been countless undercover, dark, drug-based films and this one is no different. So expect all the cliches and all the other usual stuff that comes with it. This wasn’t necessarily a bad thing since it may not do anything new, it does the old stuff well. The plot does take some time to really get going and once it does, it still lacked intensity and suspense. Despite this, the film was still somewhat captivating although it felt like the film traveled above the subject matter and did not go deep enough.
The film may have had its problems where some of them can be easily overlooked thanks to Cranston. It’s easy to forget them due to his screen presence. He’s fun to watch here as Mazur is likable here and his own inner struggle was relatable. You couldn’t help but to root for him. He was on the brink of retirement and he wanted to stay alive for his family. This was an interesting subplot despite the film didn’t go far enough with it. Another interesting, underdeveloped subplot was the clash of styles between different agents. It was fun to watch Mazur and Emir Abreu (Leguizamo) play off of each other. Unfortunately, he pretty much disappears and he is replaced by Kathy Ertz (Diane Kruger). The film made a big deal about her inexperience but she fell in line, for the most part.
The film was also great in its depiction of the 1980s. From the sets, to the costumes, to the characters, everything was approached with a high degree of authenticity which made you feel like you were there. The was shot in a way that gave it a more gritty look which matched the tone and the subject matter well. The acting was good all around with Cranston being the driving force. Leguizamo was good in what little we got. Kruger was good too as she held her own alongside Cranston. They had great chemistry which made them fun to watch together. Benjamin Bratt as Alcaino was also good in what little we got of him. He supposedly had a relationship with Mazur but the weird gaps of time and pacing issues made it less believable.
Overall, this was a decent crime drama, elevated by Cranston’s performance but lacked depth and intensity.