I feel like this movie is getting a “highly anticipated” vibe. My guess is because of the obvious star power of Bryan Cranston, thanks to his star-making role on the TV show, BREAKING BAD. Personally, I’m on the skeptical side. Why? A few reasons. Reason one: the screenwriter for this movie is Ellen Sue Brown. Don’t know who she is? That’s because she has no other writing credit to her name. This is her feature length debut as a writer. Untested, and taking directly from a previously published work can really be a hit or miss with new writers, I imagine (I’m one to talk). Reason two, the bigger reason: the director of this flick is Brad Furman. Again, it’s not an accident if you haven’t heard his name as he’s only directed three movies prior: THE TAKE (never heard of it), THE LINCOLN LAWYER (saw it and liked it), and RUNNER RUNNER (heard of it, didn’t see it, and critics panned the crap out of it). Only one of these movies held any high marks and even that might depend on who you talk to. Reason three: the trailer made it seem like the story stole from an 80’s action movie set-up: grizzled veteran of an ass-kicking occupation who is ON HIS LAST MISSION! In short, I felt like this movie was going to be a big ole cliché. I don’t know, the movie didn’t look like it’d be bad, but I wasn’t going in with high expectations. But how did it hold up? Did it infiltrate my brain and blow me away, or did I see it coming a mile away? This is my honest opinion of THE INFILTRATOR.
Based on the autobiographical book of the same name by Robert Mazur. Set during the 1980’s. Undercover U.S. Customs agent Robert Mazur (Bryan Cranston), along with his partner Emir Abreu (John Leguizamo), sneak their way into one of biggest drug cartels run by none other than the infamous Pablo Escobar. But in order to get to the head hancho himself, Robert has to get close to Escobar’s top lieutenants, including Roberto Alciano (Benjamin Bratt).
I couldn’t get into it. I’m not going to go so far as to say that it’s a bad movie, I don’t think it is, but it is pretty boring. Unless you’re familiar with the book or love this kind of exposition, then the length of the runtime will be felt.
In retrospect, it is pretty hard for me write a good review for this one, mostly because in order to write a good review (in my opinion, of course) it’s best to understand the story and know what the story is getting at. I have a general idea, but if I’m right, it means there’s a lot to this story that was left undeveloped.
One issue I had was the lack of stakes this movie had. Look, I was born in 1989. During the height of Escobar’s dominion over drugs and shit, I was most likely still getting used to being bipedal. By the time I’d have been old enough to understand anything that he’s done, the world seemed to have moved on to bigger and badder things. The point I’m trying to get at is I don’t know much about Escobar or really what he was involved in or responsible for. I was a sheltered kid, what do you want from me? So I feel like unless you were following the events of that time and did your homework on it, then you could get lost. This movie won’t really fill in the gaps for you. Despite how much exposition and talking is in the movie, they don’t really up the drama to let you know what happens if Escobar’s cartel smuggles in drugs. I get it, drugs are bad. I watched SCHOOL OF ROCK and it’s various amateur knock-offs in school like most kids, but that wasn’t enough to get me invested. What happens if the bad guys win? What does America lose if Robert fails? I didn’t get any real sense of danger. You could even heighten the stakes by telling me that Escobar wanted to take over the world and I would turn around and tell you that his plan is as complicated as a cartoon sketch from PINKY AND THE BRAIN.
Probably the biggest issues that I took was the plot points that don’t really go anywhere. Feel free to correct me if I’m wrong, but it looked like one of the bigger themes of the story is an undercover agent having to get close to his target and genuinely feeling bad for them, sort of like a more dramatic POINT BREAK. Again, I understand that’s it’s all a facade in the name of justice, but this movie looked like it wanted to go a little deeper than that by portraying the undercover agent feeling bad about inevitably having to put these people that he actually kind of sees as friends behind bars. It’s touched upon and would have been home to some decent drama, but the audience isn’t really given any time to discover any reason to be invested in, say, Roberto. He likes to cook. He thinks that without his drugs and money, the U.S. economy would collapse, and he likes to smoke cigars. That’s… all that I learned and remembered about him. That’s not enough to develop a connection. This brings me also to the criminally underused Diane Kruger as fellow undercover rookie agent Kathy Ertz. Her character is almost specifically tailored to hammer in this theme. “I feel so bad to her [Roberto’s wife, Gloria].” Again, we know Gloria (Elena Anaya) is a mom and loves her family, but that’s a bit of a cliché, isn’t it? We know she supports her husband in his endeavors, so she’s actually just as bad as he is. There’s no real character development for anyone in this movie.
Yes, Cranston is solid in the flick. I buy his acting and him in this role. Leguizamo isn’t bad either. But convincing acting doesn’t make up for an incredibly boring movie that doesn’t make me feel for anyone the story revolves around. I’m never really at the edge of my seat, wondering where the story is going to go, and by the time the first hour rolled on by, I was ready for the movie to end. If you’re a fan of these incredibly complex stories and have no problems with following it, then you’ll probably enjoy it better than I did, or if you’re a Cranston fan, but… yeah, I didn’t enjoy it. Not bad, per se, but I don’t think I could ever watch this movie again.
My honest rating: a weak 3/5
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