Film Review by Fiore
Pablo Escobar was to Latinos in my generation what El Chapo is to today’s – vicious drug lords who occasionally used their ill-gotten fortunes to right the wrongs of their people. This gives them a pseudo Robin Hood persona and causes them to be idolized by mistaken youths. Escobar’s exploits are currently dramatized on Netflix’s NARCOS, now entering its second season. The beginning of the take down of Escobar’s cocaine kingdom is the subject of THE INFILTRATOR; a film centering on the exploits of Robert Mazur, the Customs Special Agent responsible for the biggest drug bust in America, at the time.
Mazur is keenly played by Bryan Cranston. Since leaving BREAKING BAD, Cranston continues to amass a solid body of thespian endeavors including GODZILLA, TRUMBO and ARGO. He is in top form here, though he is dealing with a saw-toothed script.
Outshining Cranston’s performance is the supporting role of John Leguizamo, playing Emir Abreu, Mazur’s sketchy partner. This is Leguizamo’s best performance since playing the Clown/Violator in SPAWN. He was worthy of a Best Supporting Actor nod for that, but did not receive one. Don’t be too surprised if he appears on the short list for similar honors this award’s season. Interestingly, Leguizamo will play Escobar in the film EL PATRON, scheduled for a 2017 release.
Rounding out the cast are: Olympia Dukakis as Aunt Vicky, a key element in the sting; an unrecognizable Michael Pare as Barry Seal; Benjamin Bratt as Roberto Alcaino; Amy Ryan as Bonnie Tischler; and Jasmine Jardot, as the all-important Dancer 2.
KEY SCENES TO LOOK FOR:
2. The wedding
3. The voodoo priest
Technically, THE INFILTRATOR has much going for it. Cinematographer Joshua Reis shoots the movie in a New York mien, often incorporating high grain elements to capture the late 1980’s era. He also stages a circle completion yin-yang sequence with a POV one shot at both the movie’s beginning and concluding scenes.
The film’s difficulties come in the script. Ellen Sue Brown (another of the dreaded three-name people) adapted Mazur’s own treatise for the script and attempted to put too much information into it. As a result, there are gaps in the storyline that seem to leapfrog the viewer. The workflow of the sting operation is given barely adequate time, making the story disjointed. Something as key as the relationship between Mazur and Alcaino comes too late in the film and is not allowed to evolve convincingly. Nauseatingly, Brown also has to insert graphics and commentary which attacks the Reagan Administration and the government and military in a liberal back-hand to a time most consider quite successful. The inclusions have no effect on the storyline and are so obviously inserted as propaganda that it is distracting and disruptive to the film’s flow.
Like most films today, THE INFILTRATOR is too long. At two and a quarter hour, 30 min could easily have been trimmed. Editors Luis Carballar, Jeff McEvoy and David Rosenblum help create a rambling narrative, rather than a sharp, concise police tale.
THE INFILTRATOR presents a much different view of the war on drugs than SICARIO. The former is presented in chess move fashion, whereas the latter was action driven. Powerful performances, and creative cinematography make THE INFILTRATOR worth watching. The editing and scripting undo all the positives.
THE RATING FOR THE INFILTRATOR = C