Title: The Infiltrator
Rating: 4 Stars
I went expecting a pretty typical angst-y undercover cop risking his life, family, and happiness to bring down the bad guys.
In many ways, it was exactly that, but it was so well crafted that it rose above the somewhat trite material.
Bryan Cranston plays Bob Mazur. He’s a career US Customs undercover agent. He just finished an assignment where he was semi-seriously injured, which meant that he could retire with a full pension. However, he has one last idea for taking down the cartel, and despite the misgivings of his wife, he takes on one more case.
John Leguizamo plays Emir Abreu. He is another undercover agent. He’s cocky and street smart, willing to play high risks.
Mazur has the idea of going after the money instead of going after the drugs. Mazur and Abreu team up, reluctantly, to get to the source of the money laundering operation.
That’s the basic setup. Again, not too complicated.
It is based on real life, which gives it some realism. The bank of choice for drug smugglers is BCCI. Some might remember this bank at the heart of the Iran Contra scandal, where it was used to launder funds to the Contras. Clearly, this was a bank that placed profits above simple things like morality.
Mazur gets pulled deep into the undercover. He has to pose as a mafia money launderer. This places him in difficult situations where he must play a violent, immoral part that is foreign to what is basically a decent man. His wife accidentally sees this act that he has to put on and is horrified at the man that he is becoming, creating the somewhat predictable domestic tension.
As he gets pulled deeper into the infiltration, he meets with a high ranking member of the drug cartel. This is Roberto Alcaino, played by Benjamin Bratt. Although a member of the cartel, he is an intelligent, sophisticated, caring man that Mazur builds a close relationship with. Mazur also meets and befriends Alcaino’s wife and daughter. As it comes closer to the point where the operation must end, he has conflicting emotions regarding the betrayal of people that have become his friends.
This is the strength and the heart of the movie. The character interrelationships are well crafted and well acted. You feel the moral ambiguity regarding the choices that must be made. I felt a tension and a realism in it that rises it above the normal cut of the genre.
There were just a couple of discordant notes that seemed artificially inserted into the plot.
Two different times, separately, Mazur and Abreu were nearly exposed. In both cases, the accuser who was about to blow their cover was very conveniently murdered, quite literally as the accusation is leaving their lips.
In another scene, Mazur, attempting to ingratiate himself with Alcaino, introduces Alcaino to his real life aunt, who proceeded to charm him. It just seemed odd to me that the customs service would allow a civilian (an elderly one at that) to participate as part of an undercover operation.
These are real people and the book is based upon Mazur’s book, so maybe truth is stranger than fiction.