Title: The Infiltrator
Describe This Movie In One Simpsons Quote:
Mr. Burns: "The year is 1965, and you and I are undercover detectives on the hot rod circuit. Now let's burn rubber, baby!"
Rating Using Random Objects Relevant To The Film: Three Elvis the alligators out of five.
Brief Plot Synopsis: So baby, here's your ticket, and the suitcase in your hand.
Here's a little money; now do it just the way we planned.
Tagline: "The true story of one man against the biggest drug cartel in history."
Better Tagline: "Faking bad."
Not So Brief Plot Synopsis: U.S. Customs agent Robert Mazur (Bryan Cranston) is an old pro at undercover operations, but as the ’80s drag on and more Colombian cocaine makes its way into the country than ever, he hits upon the idea of tracing the drug dealers’ money. Paired up with a street-smart partner (John Leguizamo) and an agent on her first undercover assignment (Diane Kruger), Mazur becomes “Bob Musella,” a mob money launderer who gradually works his way into the highest echelons of Pablo Escobar’s organization, struggling to keep his marriage to wife Evelyn (Juliet Aubrey) intact, and to keep himself alive.
"Critical" Analysis: For all the grief rightfully piled upon the 1980s, they were great years for movies. More specifically, they were great years for movie villains.
Maybe it’s the rush of nostalgia you get watching The Infiltrator, like from that first giddy inhalation of amyl nitrate, but between the malignant fabulousness of Yul Vasquez’s Javier Ospina and Bratt’s Alcaino, who would’ve been a chef if not for America’s appetite for narcotics, the movie recalls an era when bad guys were somewhat colorful. Sure, they were also ruthless and sociopathically cruel, but at least when Escobar’s goons beheaded you, they did it with some flair. Watch and learn, ISIS.
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Still, it was an easy era to parody. Fortunately, director Brad (The Lincoln Lawyer) Furman avoids most of that, showcasing Mazur and Kathy Ertz’s (Kruger) skill at undercover work while also revealing the understandable stress caused by spending five years cozying up to the cartels. It’s a good story, and Cranston’s performance only draws us further in.
But even with Walter White in the lead and the eminently capable Kruger and Leguizamo shoring things up, there are still some missteps. A lingering shot of Mazur in front of the BCCI building – taking place immediately after he hits upon the idea of “following the money” – is a bit too on the nose, as is the use of Curtis Mayfield’s “Pusherman” during a money-laundering montage. As we saw in Flight, these facile soundtrack choices are lazy, and take away from what is otherwise a highly compelling effort.
Besides, the ’80s — in the form of predictable genre tropes — are very much alive and well here. Mazur isn’t “one week from retirement”; he’s actually given the option to quit with full benefits after an injury suffered during his previous job. That he elects to take on one last assignment, as you can imagine, doesn’t go over well with the Missus. There are also a handful of scenes involving Day-Glo paint and scantily clad ladies that would have been right at home in To Live and Die in L.A.
The Infiltrator benefits from two significant elements. First, it’s true (with a few minor embellishments), involving actual characters and institutions we’ve heard of, which makes the more fantastic elements effective. And then there’s the magnitude of the story. Operation C-Chase, as it was known, ended up one of the most successful operations in U.S. law enforcement history. It would have been all too easy for Furman to kitsch things up to the point where we didn’t really care, but by movie’s end, we’re not just invested in Mazur and Ertz, we actually feel something for the criminals as well.