By Elaine Hegwood Bowen, M.S.J., Chicago Crusader
Bryan Cranston of “Breaking Bad” fame plays Robert Mazur in a film that highlights the inner workings of undercover government agents as they track the activity of drug kingpins, but more specifically the money laundering end of the drug dealings. “The Infiltrator” is based on a book written by Mazur, which was called “The Infiltrator: My Secret Life Inside the Dirty Banks Behind Pablo Escobar’s Medellin Cartel” and shares his exploits when he worked for the IRS, U.S. Customs and the DEA.
It’s Florida in 1986, and federal agent 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, Musella must navigate a vicious criminal underworld where one wrong move could cost him everything.
With everything that goes on in this movie, you wonder how much might be made up, as opposed to based on reality. Musella is really up for retirement, but he decides to take one more case—as is often the case with high-performing detectives who need the adrenalin of a case to keep them going. Musella has been married for a while, with two young children, and when he comes home at the beginning of the movie, after ending a case, he burns all the identification that he had associated with that case, because next time he’ll pose as a completely different person.
Mazur is good as Musella, and he’s good at his job. He isn’t thrilled to have Abreu come on as his partner, but he finally relents and tries to trust him a bit.
In one money laundering deal after another, Musella gains the trust of one more person, all in his quest to bring everybody down. But when he finally gets close to Escobar’s employee, who is brilliantly played by Bratt, he is cautious, because one wrong move can get not only him killed but also his family. Bratt, whom I first remember from “Law and Order,” is the best guy to pay a Colombian drug lord; he played a similar role in Ice Cube’s recent film, “Ride Along 2.” Alcaino also has a family, and he becomes so impressed with Mazur’s ability to move money around, undetected by the authorities, that he gets just too close to the undercover wizard.
The activity gets so involved one night that Musella has to claim that he has a fiancée during a night out with his so-called partners. He does this because he is very devoted to his wife and he needs to wiggle himself out of having a sexual encounter with a hooker.
One thing leads to another; the fiancée has to materialize in his “made up” life in the form of a female partner and eventually they plan a wedding, while inviting all the bad guys as guests. Musella does this, because this would be the grand finale, where he’s able to have all the culprits in one room, and the government can swoop in and arrest everyone.
The epic ending is worth the price of the ticket, and the expert acting by Cranston, as he leads a double life—one at home with his wife and children—and the other across the globe trying to put all the ugly drug-dealing, money-laundering, throat-slitting pieces into one pretty package to deliver to the Feds—is right on target.
“The Infiltrator” is playing in theaters everywhere, and the costumes, club scene, automobiles and music of the 80’s is icing on the cake.