WARNING: The following review contains spoilers, I’m telling you now so you don’t pretend to be outraged later.
The 80s were a much simpler time for society. There was no social media, no 24/7 news channels, no Pokemon Go, no family of useless slags which 25% of the country considered ‘role models’ for some reason, Hulk Hogan, and Bill Cosby were American heroes, and everybody was high on crack…Simpler times. Pablo Escobar was known as the most notorious drug dealer of all time. At one point he was rumored to make nearly a billion dollars a day smuggling drugs into the US. President Ronald Reagan made a career out of fighting the war on drugs and after 35 years, I can safely say that we won that war soundly…However, we weren’t so lucky back in the day and it took good guys like Robert Mazur played by Bryan Cranston (who can’t seem to find a role that doesn’t involve drugs) to turn things and win the war on drugs which leads us to The Infiltrator.
The Infiltrator is based on the book and real life story of Robert Mazur, a former U.S. Customs and DEA agent who spent his life going undercover to bring down the heads of drug rings in the Florida area. After a drug bust leaves him with a wound on his chest due to a bad wire, Robert is given the option to leave and retire with full benefits for his family or go undercover one more time to take down the associates of Pablo Escobar, so, of course, he decides to take the dangerous case involving the largest drug lord in the world and the banks that launder his money, what could possibly go wrong? John Leguizamo plays Emir Abreu, Robert’s partner in crime who tells him about a tip on a major player in town and both of their lives begin to downward spiral as they go deep undercover in the world of Columbia cocaine dealers.
One of the things that sets The Infiltrator apart from your typical crime lord stories is that it doesn’t just criminalize the cartels. We already know the horrors that they cause, but they also look into the world of the bankers who finance their operations. I mean drug cartels don’t hide their money in mattresses and piggy banks after all. While setting up a laundering ring, Robert tells the heads of Bank of Credit and Commerce International (known for its World Class Fraud scandal and ceasing operations in the early 90s) that he needs to smuggle money for cocaine dealers and falsify documents to clear 10 million dollars back to Paulo Escobar, so they do it with no hesitation at all. Negotiating with the banks was the easy part because Robert is forced to jump through a ring of fire in order to establish his relationship with the Colombian cartel. We see him having to create a fake business, a fake profession, a fake fiancé, even a fake wedding to put together the pieces need to pull off this con and expose the criminal element.
Unfortunately, this brings up a major issue. The script seems to gloss over some important details to the story which leads to a lot of questionable motives for the characters. For example, halfway in, we are introduced to Benjamin Bratt who plays Roberto Alcaino, one of the main cash collectors for Pablo Escobar. He develops a relationship between Robert and his fake fiancé played by Diane Kruger who apparently never went undercover in her life. Towards the end, they set up a fake wedding which is used to bust all of the guilty parties involved in the cartel activities, except Escobar of course. The decision to arrest Roberto and his family is portrayed as a difficult decision for Mazur but you don’t really understand why that is. I mean sure there are a couple of scenes where they talk about each other’s backgrounds and he meets his wife and kid but Mazur is a career undercover agent and knew this was the end game from the start and it’s not like Alciano took a bullet for him at any point so the fact that he would personally feel remorse for this seems very unbelievable and out of character. Alcanio even admits to killing his friend and informant in the same car that Mazur was in before it crashed. I would like to think if someone sent a box of blood to my family’s house and my daughter was the first one to find it, I would want the arrest warrant sent in on same day shipping to get the job done. Speaking of his daughter, Mazur has a real family and a real wife but it seems like their sole purpose is to show up every 30 minutes, look disappointed, and somehow not get kidnapped at any point of the film.
The Infiltrator is brilliantly acted by everyone involved. The casting choices are amazing and they all fit the roles based on the true story to the tee. The narrative is built on lies and deception which played well when you are in a world where truth build on lies is the only thing that keeps you alive. The banks played a much bigger role in this story but their involvement is minimized until the end when the main players are taken to prison. For a movie that’s runtime was about 110 minutes, you feel that an extra 20 minutes to clean up the plot holes would have greatly benefited the film and led to a much higher rating. The worst thing I can say about The Infiltrator is that it could have been better. The ending felt a bit too ‘Hollywood’ and the script seemed crippled so they could stay true to the book. I do recommend the book also called The Infiltrator written by the real life Robert Mazur, it offers a lot more insight to the story than the film can, given the runtime. If you love biopics then you will be entertained and if you’re looking to duck Ghostbusters this weekend, then this is a solid choice as an alternative.
Official Rating: ***
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