Blu-ray Review: The Infiltrator

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Demonstrating that the phenomenal popularity of AMC's acclaimed series Breaking Bad did not make Bryan Cranston a movie star, The Infiltrator came and went over the summer of 2016 with nary an impact at the box office. If audiences are simply more accustomed to Cranston on the small screen, that's great news as The Infiltrator is now available for home viewing on Blu-ray via Broad Green Pictures. In a season dominated by family fare and unwanted sequels, The Infiltrator emerged as one of the best choices for mature audiences seeking great drama.

Cranston dazzles as real-life U.S. Customs Service special agent Robert Mazur who, in the '80s, went undercover to overturn the cartel run by drug kingpin Pablo Escobar. Mazur, a mild-mannered married man, is initially an unlikely candidate for deep cover. Early on he detests his looser partner Emir (John Leguizamo, also sensational) who approaches undercover work as a license to indulge in hedonism. As Mazur gets further and further undercover, he displays a knack for adapting to any environment. His wife, Evelyn (Juliet Aubrey), is understandably scared during their anniversary date when Mazur encounters an associate who only knows him as Bob Musella (his alias). Perhaps director Brad Furman could've explored more deeply the effects that living as "Musella" had on Mazur's personal life, but what we do glimpse is indeed frightening. 
infiltrator john leguizamo.jpg Mazur isn't about to disappear into his Musella identity completely. In an effort to avoid partaking in adultery, he tells his new drug dealing "friends" that he's engaged. Mazur's exasperated boss Bonnie (Amy Ryan, who seems to play this type of character frequently—as recently as her effective comic turn in Central Intelligence) is forced to cast someone as Mazur/Musella's "fiancée." In comes Kathy Ertz (Diane Kruger) as Mazur's even greener (in terms of undercover work) "fiancée." As excellent as Cranston and Leguizamo are, its Kruger who basically walks off with the picture. Though Kathy is portrayed somewhat enigmatically (where did she get her brilliant improv acting skills??), Kruger scores with a memorable supporting turn.

As Mazur gets deeper into Escobar's world, he—as Musella, of course—befriends Roberto Alcaino (Benjamin Bratt, who also shines), one of Escobar's right-hand men. Though director Brad Furman and screenwriter Ellen Brown Furman (Brad's mom) maintain a clear, straightforward storytelling style, they also stick pretty doggedly to a "this happened, and then this happened" approach. In other words, at worst The Infiltrator doesn't push far enough inside these characters' minds to see what really makes them tick, regardless what side of the law they're on. It brings to mind the Black Mass, the Whitey Bulger biopic, another solidly-crafted true crime film that had many positive attributes but didn't quite probe enough. As compelling as The Infiltrator is, it settles for portraying the overall milieu Mazur is embedded within, when it needed more reasons for us to invest more deeply on an emotional level.

Broad Green's Blu-ray offers a solid presentation of cinematographer Joshua Reis' intentionally retro-styled visuals (for a digital shoot, Reis' work offers a richly film-like appearance). Audio is DTS-HD MA 5.1. Special features: director Brad Furman and star Bryan Cranston provide audio commentary, several deleted scenes, and a pair of brief featurettes.

A clearly told true story and suburb acting combine to make The Infiltrator very easy to recommend.

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Chaz Lipp writes for The Morton Report.

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