The Infiltrator

A scene in The Infiltrator. (NuMetro)
A scene in The Infiltrator. (NuMetro)

What it's about:

Federal agent Robert “Bob” Mazur goes deep undercover to infiltrate Pablo Escobar’s drug trafficking scene, which was plaguing the U.S.A. in 1986. He poses as a slick, money-laundering businessman named Bob Musella. Teamed with impulsive and streetwise fellow agent Emir Abreu and a rookie agent posing as his fiancé, Kathy Ertz, Mazur befriends Escobar’s top lieutenant, Roberto Alcaino. Navigating a vicious criminal network in which the slightest slip-up could cost him his life, Mazur risks it all—building a case that leads to indictments of 85 drug lords, the corrupt bankers who cleaned the dirty money, along with the collapse of the B.C.C.I, the Bank of Credit and Commerce International, one of the largest money-laundering banks in the world.

What we thought:

The 1980s in the United States is remembered for a variety of historical moments, fashion choices, pop culture and the fall of the Cold War, but also for the height of the ‘War on Drugs’, whose policies still have had a large impact on today’s American society. Not only was this illegal industry booming in profits – the fight against drugs also became big business for the government who invested millions into busting large operations in a very public way. The Infiltrator, based on a special agent’s autobiography, follows the lead-up to one of the biggest busts during the period, as it blew open the involvement of banks in laundering the drug cartels’ money. Though it sounded exciting on paper, the adaptation to the big screen ended up being anything but. 

Special agent Robert Mazur (Bryan Cranston) takes on the role of Bob Musella, a corrupt businessman in the business of laundering drug money. Him and his two partners (John Leguizamo, Diane Kruger) become embroiled the drug network of infamous Pablo Escobar, taking down not only his officers but also the financial institutions bankrolling the laundering.

The characters were colourful enough, but they were betrayed by a cumbersome script that gave you the facts as they are instead of revealing it in the story and felt more like a dramatised version of events that you see on History Channel. As a feature film about drugs, the pace wasn’t nearly racy enough and couldn’t really stand out from all the other 80s films about drugs that saturate the cinematic landscape.

Instead of a drug heist it was more a money heist, and resulted in a film that felt like it was contrived by accountants rather than moviemakers. Pockets of boredom are peppered throughout the script, and not even the terrible 80s haircuts could entice the viewer to be more interested. The Infiltrator was a school lecture on why you should stay away from drugs and that bad people will get what’s coming to them. Even though the filmmakers tried to be ‘edgy’ by making the audience feel bad for some of the arrested criminals, they should have focused more on making the main character feel relatable instead of propping him up as some loyal good guy with little flaws. 

Cranston also fell flat without any real conviction in his performance, as if he’s painting by numbers instead of giving the audience a genuine Cranston show. The person who did outshine was Leguizamo, who invested more into a layered character that’s more nuanced than your clichéd loudmouth Latin American. Kruger also gave a solid act as the rookie undercover agent, and you know Cranston wasn’t at his best when other non-leads outshine him.

Because it lacks that movie magic that would make the subject matter interesting to those outside of America, I doubt South Africans would be clamouring to see this movie on the weekend, except for the hard-core Cranston fans. If that’s your only reason to go see this film, then rather save yourself the snooze-fest and binge on Breaking Bad or Malcolm in the Middle.