Bob Mazur, in his bestselling memoir, sounds like any of us when we shift careers, writing that he wanted something that "kept my interest, that didn't box me into the same boring routine." The only difference is that Mazur didn't break the box quitting an ad job to launch a craft distillery or a dog-portrait Etsy shop — he became a billion-dollar money launderer for U.S. Customs, facilitating one of the biggest drug busts in U.S. history with a manufactured identity, a fake fiancée and a lot of luck.
Brad Furman's new crime thriller, The Infiltrator, starring Bryan Cranston as Mazur, attempts to recreate its subject's stories from his memoir of the same name. And like Mazur, there's a sense that Cranston, who hit a feverish fame with Breaking Bad, would like to break out of his Walter White box and get into another man's skin. He tries with The Infiltrator. Unfortunately, as he performs the acting equivalent of triple backflips, Cranston isn't given much of a safety net from the script or direction.
Written by Ellen Brown Furman, the director's mother, the story backs itself into some cliché corners, with dialogue you can hear a mile down the road. Director Furman's jumpy montage style and editing suggest a less-developed Soderbergh caper. As Mazur gets deeper into the cartel, making friends with higher ups like Roberto Alcaino (Benjamin Bratt), our infiltrator becomes less knowable, swallowed by the complex narrative and revolving cast of characters. There's a spark when Cranston shares the screen with John Leguizamo, but inside this particular box, the flame's sealed off from its oxygen and burns out pretty quickly.