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Based on a true story, the cops-and-crime drama "The Infiltrator" is a straightforward police procedural that's enlivened by a solid central performance by Bryan Cranston.
Cranston, who won four Emmys as the meth-dealing Walter White in "Breaking Bad," works the other side of the law here. He plays real-life U.S. Customs agent Robert Mazur, working undercover in 1985 to bust drug traffickers in south Florida. But with no sign of the cocaine tide ebbing, Mazur suggests a different approach: Go after the money.
Mazur creates a new cover persona: Robert Musella, a mob-connected financial trader who can launder drug money through various shell corporations. When his fellow Customs agent, Emir Abreu (John Leguizamo), finds a Colombian informant (Juan Cely), Abreu convinces Mazur that this could be a way to get into the organization of the Medellin cartel and its elusive boss, Pablo Escobar.
Mazur/Musella gets deeper inside the Escobar empire and its favorite bankers, the mega-corrupt Bank of Credit and Commerce International. As he does, he becomes uncomfortably close to his targets including Escobar's top distributor, played by Benjamin Bratt and to a fellow agent, Kathy Ertz (Diane Kruger), who becomes his "fiancée" to maintain his cover. All this puts a strain on Mazur's relations with his wife, Evelyn (Juliet Aubrey).
Director Brad Furman ("The Lincoln Lawyer," "Runner Runner") creates an air of gritty immediacy to Mazur's story, aided by Joshua Reis' cinematography and note-perfect period details. Forman's secret weapon is his mother, first-time screenwriter Ellen Brown Furman, a former trial lawyer who adapts Mazur's memoir into a lucid narrative that cuts through the arcana of shady international banking.
"The Infiltrator" also boasts a strong cast, with Leguizamo, Kruger and Amy Ryan (as Mazur's boss) all giving solid turns. In the end, though, it's Cranston's show, and the actor brings a world-weary authenticity to Mazur's struggles to nail the bad guys and protect his real life from his dangerous fictional one.
Bryan Cranston's performance deepens this straight-ahead police procedural about a U.S. Customs agent trying to attack Pablo Escobar's money.
Where • Theaters everywhere.
When • Opens Wednesday, July 13.
Rating • R for strong violence, language throughout, some sexual content and drug material.
Running time • 127 minutes.