The Infiltrator

July, 2016, Thriller

 

There are certain directors who can deliberately make an A-list film resemble one of those low-budget gangster movies that dominated American movie screens in the 1970’s. Combining sleazy locations, cheaply garish wardrobes and a cinematic style vaguely reminiscent of soft-core porn, the genre came to be labeled “exploitation flics”, often pairing pneumatically-enhanced women with action heroes like Charles Bronson, Jim Brown & Jean-Claude Van Damme.

Director Brad Furman employed this style 5 years ago in The Lincoln Lawyer, an adaptation of Michael Connelly’s bestseller of the same name starring Matthew McConaughey. Never has a defense attorney more richly deserved the epithet “shyster” and the ability to make him appealing was a tribute to the director’s peculiar skills as well as the talents of his leading man.

Furman reprises that special skill in this entertainingly sleazy look at the real-life exploits of Robert Mazur, a U.S. customs officer whose undercover work in the 1970’s lead to the conviction of numerous international bankers who supported the drug running operations of Pablo Escobar.

Bryan Cranston (Breaking Bad, Trumbo, Argo) plays Robert Mazur, a middle class governmental official tapped by a foul-mouthed female superior (Amy Ryan) to go undercover as a bogus money manager offering to launder funds for various drug cartels. Working with an appealingly vulgar partner played by John Leguizamo, Mazur crafts a façade of carefully constructed financial sophistication just slick enough to win the trust of an intertwined group of bankers and intermediaries handling the Columbian cartel’s constant need to turn cocaine cash into bank account balances, real estate deals and other supposedly legitimate businesses. Equipped with an eavesdropping briefcase and a government-issue finance (Diane Kruger) Mazur slowly worms his way into the confidence of Roberto Alcaino, Escobar’s top lieutenant before pulling a criminal house of cards down around his ears in a finale as tension filled and exciting as it is amusing.

Cranston and Leguizamo play off each other’s idiosyncrasies with an offhand aplomb that neatly undercuts the dangerous work they’re doing while Benjamin Bratt shines as the irresistibly attractive psychopath Alcaino whose proximity to Escobar makes him as lethally dangerous as he is debonair. The rest of the cast displays all the character traits you’d expect to find in a collection of thugs sporting impressive rap sheets. Cinematographer Joshua Reis’ cameras capture just the right amount of background material to lend visual authenticity to the grubby world in which the action takes place.

With enough violence and garish behavior to titillate audiences without making them self-conscious about their own appetites, The Infiltrator is perfect summer-time escapist entertainment.

The Verdict? This one will bring out the voyeur in you.

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