The pleasures of The Infiltrator, based on the true story of the federal agents who brought down Colombia’s Medellín drug cartel in the late 1980s and early 1990s, are the old-fashioned kind, redolent of the days when people would troop to the movie theater for their undercover-drama fix, instead of just binge-watching from the Netflix queue. That’s its strength: director Brad Furman (The Lincoln Lawyer) keeps things moving deftly, and he trusts us to pay attention for the whole stretch, with no pausing to run off to the fridge. This is a summer movie for grownups, the kind that reminds you how gratifying it can be to sit down uninterrupted and watch actors work on the big screen.
Bryan Cranston brings his usual craggy gravity to the role of Bob Mazur, an agent who, as a means of penetrating Pablo Escobar’s drug-trafficking empire, spent a good five years of his life as Bob Musella, a slippery businessman and money launderer. The scheme he and his partners cook up involves a fake wedding (fellow agent Kathy Ertz, played by a silky-smart Diane Kruger, is the blushing bride) and a complicated friendship between Mazur/Musella and drug kingpin Roberto Alcaino (Benjamin Bratt, who adds charcoal shading to an otherwise stock character). But it’s John Leguizamo, as Mazur/Musella’s live-wire partner Emir, who nearly walks off with the show: his gum-chewing insouciance makes him the class clown of federal agents. Leguizamo has played this type of character before–and not just once, but probably dozens of times. Somehow, though, he always comes up with a mischievous, singular tweak. His career itself could be a metaphor for undercover work. You may say, Hey, I’ve seen that guy before. But really, you only think you have.
This appears in the August 01, 2016 issue of TIME.
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