Released By: Broadgreen Pictures
October 11, 2016.
Bryan Cranston, Diane Kruger, Benjamin Bratt, Joe Gilgun
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Based on Agent Robert Mazur's book of the same name, The Infiltrator comes to the magical land of cinema courtesy of Director Brad Furman, with Breaking Bad's Bryan Cranston taking on the lead role of the undercover operative who helped to put a large-sized dent in the 80's drug cartels and the dirty banks that helped them launder millions of dollars. The film opens with Mazur (Cranston), a US Customs agent, working undercover to take down a low-level dealer named Dominic (Joe Gilgun), in the hopes that they'll be able to get closer to the cartels; organizations largely based out of Colombia, that traffic millions of dollars worth of cocaine to the United States weekly. Mazur is badly burned by the wire he's wearing, and offered the chance to spend more time with his family as a retiree with full pension, but instead opts to continue his work, setting his sights on the large sums of money that the cartels are receiving.
Teamed up with a hot-headed partner named Emir Abreu (John Leguizamo), Mazur helps to work a new informant into a connection that will establish the undercover man as one Bob Musella, a fancy car-driving, flashy suit-wearing, reptile boot-walking mob-connected money launderer with a boisterous personality and some creative ways to clean cartel money. Realizing that he may be over his head in dealing with the severe criminals he'll be dealing with, Mazur makes a deal to spring his old buddy Dominic from jail to act as his assistant, and slowly works his way up through the cartel hierarchy, with an eye on Pablo Escobar, the top dog. Along the way, he also meets the executives from various corrupt banks, including the Bank of Credit and Commerce International, who love the idea of working with a well-established US businessman who can help them with their other clients in need of clean money, uncovering hundreds of millions of dollars flowing across the border at any given time.
It's not all fun, games, and success in undercover land, however, as Mazur encounters life-threatening characters and situations daily, reminding him that he's just a trigger-pull away from having his brains splattered all over his fancy suit. Things aren't going well in his personal life, either, his kids wondering where their father is, his wife horrified as the man she married takes a backseat to the violent Bob Musella, not to mention Musella's new girlfriend; a young, blonde agent that Mazur's bosses have set him up with as a cover fiance. And when "Musella" meets and becomes friends with Roberto Alcaino (Benjamin Bratt), a man who can put him directly into contact with Pablo Escobar, things spin totally out of control with Mazur questioning his own identity and the value of his life.
To get the biggest flaw with The Infiltrator out of the way first would be to discuss the running time and the amount of detail that's been pulled from Mazur's book and packed onto the screen. At 130 minutes, the film is not extraordinarily lengthy, but it definitely feels laggy in places; and that's largely because we see Cranston's character being introduced to player after player after player, either in the cartels or the banks, and it becomes repetitious as characters move in and out of the story. The opening bust and the character of Dominic is strong, and the the film makers do pull everything back together when Mazur meets Alcaino to rally for a pretty strong finish, but the in-between is a problem, lacking focus.
Still, if you're going to flounder in repetition for 30-40 minutes, you couldn't pick a better cast. Cranston nails this role like a pro, breaking out of the Breaking Bad performance that so many now equate him with, and manages to deliver on all three of the personas he portrays in the film, switching between them effortlessly. Leguizamo is solid, if not a little predictable as his wild card partner, and really doesn't have much to do in the film, but when he's on-screen, he's fantastic....most notably in a scene where his cover is almost blown. Benjamin Bratt is both warm and menacing, a characteristic most wouldn't expect him to convey, but he does so admirably, and Gilgun holds his own and then some whenever he shows up to share a scene. All of the actors, right down to the smallest roles are wonderful here, and it's hard to imagine this film getting past mediocre with a lesser caliber of talent.
Director Brad Furman does a decent enough job here, with The Infiltrator fitting in with the flashy drug aesthetic that viewers are going nuts over in Narcos, and utilizes the visual mashup/quick cuts/vignettes accompanied by rock and roll soundtrack that have been fleshed out in films like Blow, Goodfellas, and anything by Guy Ritchie, which makes us think that the film is moving quickly even if it's not...the film looks modern, it looks cutting edge, but Furman also appears to have an eye for what looks good on camera, and what piece of popular music will help accentuate it. Overall, it's a solid effort that could do with a little less fat, but not bad at all.
The Infiltrator comes to Blu-ray in an AVC-encoded 2.40:1 that looks as good as a modern film should, with plenty of crisp detail, good black levels, and dynamic colours, though it does suffer from the over-saturation of blue at times that is common with newer pictures. Still, the picture is rock-solid for the majority of the running time, with no artifacting or other visual issues.
English audio is provided courtesy of a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track that carries dialogue well, but also opens up nicely to make use of the surrounds and LFE for the lively soundtrack, stellar foley work, and action scenes a-plenty. No hisses, distortion, or other issues are present, and the various portions of the soundscape are balanced perfectly with each other. And Ian Jane would certainly love the punch of Rush's "Tom Sawyer" that opens the film. Ian loves him some Rush.
A Spanish audio track is also provided, but in a more lossy format, DTS 5.1.
English and Spanish subtitles are provided.
First up in the supplements are 5 Deleted Scenes (8:52) that are actually worth a watch...there are some good ones in here, and with the running time already past 120 minutes, a bit mysterious why they weren't included.
The Three Bobs (3:18) is a very short discussion of the three identities that Bob Mazur has to carry in the film, with input from both the real-life Mazur and Bryan Cranston. It's interesting to hear Mazur speak, but at just over 3 minutes, we're not getting anything life-changing here.
How To Infiltrate (5:51) is another short piece broken up into 3 sections: The Psychology, The Identity, and The Danger, which features a number of the actors in the film discussing the tricks that agents are taught to work undercover, the conflicts between the characters they create, and the perils of being undercover. Again, it's short and largely throwaway, and one wonders why the two featurettes wouldn't have been edited together to create a slightly longer piece.
A commentary with Director Brad Furman and actor Bryan Cranston is also included, and discusses a wide range of topics, including the advantages of shooting in London, England...which makes for an appropriate Florida, as well as the complexity of maintaining coherence between sets and locations. Furman also talks about the screenwriter (his mom!) who had a heck of a task turning Mazur's book into a film, and the amount of detail included in the film being a potential hindrance for audience comprehension. They also discuss the actors in the film and the real-life characters they portray, and how to best pick songs for a soundtrack. There are a few gaps in conversation and a bit of the old describe-what's-on-the-screen, but it's largely entertaining and enthusiastically done.
A Trailer Reel for Broadgreen Pictures rounds out the extras.
The Final Word:
Though this reviewer felt that The Infiltrator could have used a little bit of a skim off of the running time, it's a decent effort that fits well into the culture of flashy drug films. Top-notch audio and a solid video transfer deliver an enjoyable viewing experience.
Click on the images below for full sized Blu-ray screen caps!