The Infiltrator

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THE INFILTRATOR—–even if you’ve never had a toke, done a line or had to listen to a cell phone conversation from anyone who still sports a mullet haircut you have lived through (and it ain’t done yet) The War on Drugs. This 2016 true-story about the insanely courageous guy who helped bring down (a portion of) Pablo Escobar’s money laundering end of his drug empire has such an air of been-there permeating the profanity-soaked script that you may burn out somewhere during the first hour (it runs 127 minutes). Thanks to the inherent tension of the scheme, which increases as it goes, and the effective acting, you do get pulled in and it ends up a worthwhile addition to an overloaded genre. *

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In 1986, Miami-based U.S.Customs Agent Robert Mazur (Bryan Cranston) brainstorms a way into the veins of the Escobar cartel, going undercover as a slick ‘legitimate’ businessman who funnels Pablo’s drug cash through banks like BCCI.  In mortal peril, Mazur and associates (Diane Kruger and John Leguizamo) keep up their charade, befriending levels of alternately crude or cultured (and always deadly) underlings on the way to the heart of the web.

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The workmanlike direction (Brad Furman) of a coarse, expletive-saturated script (by his mother, Ellen Brown Furman), with nervous cinematography (note to Joshua Reis: hold the frickin’ camera still for a few seconds) and characterization-chatter are all riffs off what we’ve seen done before, bigger and better, but the good work from Cranston (‘Walter White’ in drag) and Kruger (an oddly undervalued actress) keep you hooked long enough for the narrative to develop sufficient momentum so you’ll stick around. Brown’s screenplay was based on Mazur’s book of the same title.  A brave man, indeed. It’s to the credit of the film that it tackles the role of the banking system in the whole dismal farce our succeeding governments have put us through for generations.

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Costing more than $28,000,000 (and where did that money come from?) to produce, its over-familiarity only brought back $18,300,000 (Pablo would not be pleased). With Benjamin Bratt, Yul Vazquez, Juliet Aubrey, Ruben Ochandiano, Amy Ryan, Olympia Dukakis, Joe Gilgun, Saïd Taghmaoui, Elena Aneya, Carsten Hayes, Jason Isaacs and Michael Paré (as Barry Seal).

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* In the more than four decades since Gene Hackman’s ‘Popeye’ badgered a brother about foot-conduct in Poughkeepsie, we’ve seen enough cocaine snorted on film to get a contact high, and can spot the hierarchy slot of a drug thug by how many gold chains he has tugging on his chest hair.  Apart from benefiting the geostrategic warp of the Deep State and procuring penthouses and hookers for bankers and politicians (wait, re: ‘hookers’—sincere apologies to prostitutes for putting them in the same moral ditch as senators) and blithely destroying numerous societies and millions of lives, this drummed-up crusade at least gave we collaterally damaged voyeurs suspended sentences via Scarface, Donnie Brasco, The Departed, Blow, Breaking Bad, The Wire, The Shield, Traffic, Sicario and many more good crime stories, as well as a penitentiary-load of cinematic and boob-tube swill (“You’re going down!”)  This derivative (nonetheless authentic) but well-acted entry ranks somewhat above mid-range. Put it in Cell Block B, with visitation rights.  Wells Fargo, HSBC, Lloyd’s, UBS and gang?—the guillotine waits.

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