Bryan Cranston gets involved with drug dealers. Ever since Breaking Bad, that combo of actor and scenario makes perfect sense. So, Brad Furman’s The Infiltrator doesn’t really have to be any good to get made in the first place. But it is good, in a straightforward, character-laden, true-crime dramatic way — greatly helped out by Cranston’s ability to move so swiftly, so convincingly, from mild-mannered family-man harmlessness to cutthroat single-mindedness.
In 1980s Florida, as the Medellín cartel is dumping tons of cocaine and piles of corpses on US streets, a federal government accountant-turned-investigator named Robert Mazur (Cranston) goes undercover as a financial fixer called Bob Musella, with the objective of screwing up Colombian coke king Pablo Escobar’s international money laundering schemes. To do that, Mazur/Musella weaves a complicated web of murderers, snitches, and crooked bankers, and nearly gets killed three or four times. The action scenes — screenplay by the director’s mother, writer Ellen Brown Furman, adapted from Mazur’s book — are quick and ferocious, but never get in the way of the cast, led by Cranston with colorful support by John Leguizamo, Amy Ryan, Benjamin Bratt, Juliet Aubrey, Yul Vazquez, Joseph Gilgun, and a hammy but apt Olympia Dukakis. Plus enough cigars and ugly “Eighties-disco” furniture for ten movies.
Busy actor Cranston should probably keep his distance from dope flicks in general. Walter White is an extremely tough act to follow, and Bob Mazur is nowhere near as conflicted as Dalton Trumbo. But The Infiltrator is an ideal summer popcorn pic, if you don’t mind a little blood on your kernels. All its observations are obvious. If you’re looking for the ironic intricacies of human endeavor in dog-eat-dog Sunbelt America, Better Call Saul.