The Infiltrator

Year: 2016
Production Co: Good Films
Director: Brad Furman
Writer: Ellen Sue Brown/Robert Mazur
Cast: Bryan Cranston, John Leguizamo, Benjamin Bratt, Diane Kruger, Olympia Dukakis, Amy Ryan, Jason Isaacs

Bryan Cranston returns to the world of drugs in this crime thriller that's more about tension and story than thrills and action.

Cranston is customs official Robert Mazur who specialises in undercover work, and we meet him as he comes off a big score, once more burning fake passports and papers in his backyard barbecue but promising his wife it's the last time – the lying and the danger are just too stressful.

But when a new case comes his way, Mazur realises the only way to stem the drug trade into the gaudy streets of Miami in the 1980s (the same world inhabited and ultimately commanded by Tony Montana in a parallel universe) is to follow the money all the way to the top, and that means kingpin Pablo Escobar.

He refashions himself into shady businessman Bob Musella, calling on a network of respectable bankers and corporations to tempt local players into hiring him as a money launderer, hoping it facilitates introductions to the top.

With nothing but bluster and bravado that belies the middle class family man Mazur really is, his role as Bob opens doors all the way to Escobar's right hand man in Florida, Roberto (Benjamin Bratt), with whom he becomes fast friends.

It's all managed with his long-suffering wife having to put up with yet more secrecy and fear (including an inspired freak-out in a restaurant when Robert realises he has to slip into character) a partner he barely trusts (John Leguizamo) and another posing as his fiance (Diane Kruger).

Narratively it will remind you of Donnie Brasco. There's an ouroboros-like zen to the art of actors pretending to be cops who are being actors to pretend to be someone else, and performers of this calibre make short work of it – all following Cranston's glittering lead. But aesthetically it's Scarface, neon and skin-tinged De Palma all the way (yes, there's a scene in a strip club).

The real hallmark however is that even though it contains some violence, the intent of the characters is to avoid it. It makes The Infiltrator more about a taut sense of danger, and while the lack of a blazing gun battle at the climax to relieve it (like Scarface had) might put some viewers off, there's a lot to like if you look at it the right way.

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