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Thursday, July 14, 2016

THE INFILTRATOR Proves That Not Every Good Story Deserves a Movie

For what it's worth, THE INFILTRATOR is a fine movie. It moves fast, the acting is solid, and the good guys win in the end. Neat, huh.

I know what you're thinking, What's the problem? Nothing, if you like watching the 100th iteration of the same movie, but with different actors. Here's the thing: if I can close my eyes and picture Johnny Depp, Al Pacino, or any number of actors who've played characters who've shed their blues to become one with the criminal they're pursuing, you're doing something wrong. As I wrote in a previous post, I was concerned that this would wind up being just another Pablo Escobar chase film based on actual events--and it is. It unfolds exactly the way you expect it to--complete with murder, dangerous liaisons, and unplanned events--which leaves it up to the performances to sustain the audience.

And again, for what it's worth, the performances are all solid. Cranston, who plays real-life federal agent Robert Mazur, who embarks on an undercover operation back in the 1980s to take down one of the most intricate drug cartels and money laundering schemes in U.S. history, is expectedly spot-on in the role--no doubt drawing from his 5-season run as an innocuous chemistry teacher-turned-treacherous meth boss in Breaking Bad. Diane Kruger as Mazur's makeshift "wife," who ultimately helps him keep his cover, is solid as well.  Though, it's John Leguizamo as his savvy, perennially hyped-up partner, Emir Abreu, whose performance steals the show. It's part comedic, part suspenseful, and intensely smart--what you want to see in a movie like this that is otherwise monotonous.

I find it interesting, however, that for the second time this summer we are faced with yet another movie inspired by a true story, from Mazur's own same titled book, that doesn't captivate on the big screen. The first one was Free State of Jones, which I reviewed earlier, and now it's THE INFILTRATOR. Which brings us back to a hard cold fact that Hollywood has not come to terms with: not every good story deserves a movie. It would be easy to say that maybe if Brad Furman's direction or Ellen Sue Brown's screenplay were better, the movie would be great. But I just don't think that's true. The direction and the writing are fine. It just doesn't deserve to be a film, at least not a narrative feature (maybe a documentary could be good?). We've seen this plot before, so it just doesn't have the same zing that it would have, say, before the other 100 undercover films that have preceded it over the last two decades or so.

THE INFILTRATOR is what I like to call a decent Saturday laundry film, something that you can put on, walk away from it and let it run on it's own for about 10 minutes, return to it and not be lost at all. It's a comfort watch. Take from that what you will.

Rating: C+

Watch a new clip from the film here:

THE INFILTRATOR is now playing. 


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