If there is one thing that Hollywood has been able to seemingly churn out consistently at a reasonable quality ever since cocaine became a fashionable drug, it is crime dramas about cocaine. The Infiltrator happens to be the latest such movie, and it is another very good one, and that is in large part thanks to the brilliant work of Bryan Cranston in the lead role. When something is based on a true story, it always seems to elevate the material in these circumstances, and that very much happens to be the case here as well.

BroadGreen Pictures' The Infiltrator is based on a famous drug sting operation which was headed up by U.S. Customs official Robert Mazur (Cranston), who after a very long time attempting to slow Pablo Escobar's drug operation, gets the idea to follow the money instead of the drugs. This leads Mazur to dive deep undercover and pose as a businessman who launders large sums of money, in order to gain the trust of those high up in Escobar's organization. As one might imagine, things don't exactly go according to plan, because that probably wouldn't make a very good or exciting movie.

Shortly after Breaking Bad ended, Bryan Cranston once discussed the fact that he had been so fortunate in his career that at this point, he doesn't have to work if he doesn't want to, so any project he takes on is something he feels strongly about and genuinely wants to do. After seeing The Infiltrator, I am inclined to believe him. Cranston is absolutely never bad in anything he has done since he became a household name, and even if he is in something that is less than great, it is never his fault and it likely would have been worse in his absence. The Infiltrator has a compelling narrative, there is no doubt about that. But Cranston's specific brand and blend of charisma, range and that odd everyman quality, who can somehow simultaneously be a bit of a chameleon, is what the movie hinges on and why it works as well as it does. Cranston single handedly elevates this movie.

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Director Brad Furman surrounded his leading man with the exact right talent to make this movie so solid. John Leguizamo continues to be one of the most under appreciated, working man actors in the business, who delivers another very solid performance as Mazur's partner. Benjamin Bratt does one of the things he does best by being a very effective, high ranking drug lord and the criminally underused Diane Kruger is another highlight, as Mazur's fake fiance who has to go deep undercover for the operation. Amy Ryan, Jason Isaacs, Juliet Aubrey and many of the other surrounding players deserve a shout out as well. If Furman got one thing right with this movie, it was casting.

I don't think anyone would accuse the plot of The Infiltrator of being streamlined, but outside of a few too many spinning plates and having to sort out some moving parts and jarring edits throughout, the movie was well crafted. Brad Furman hasn't quite hit the nail on the head up to this point in his career, with movies like Runner Runner and The Lincoln Lawyer, but he was aided by very compelling source material and a stellar cast that helped him to finally deliver a very solid, overall movie.

Crime dramas surrounding vicious drug trade always tend to be very interesting, but when it is based on some crazy stuff that actually happened, it always makes it that much more compelling. Such is the case with The Infiltrator. Is this a perfect, finely oiled, Martin Scorsese caliber finely tuned machine of a movie? No. But the performances are so good and the narrative is compelling enough that anything that one could pick apart in this movie is very forgivable, so they aren't even worth diving into all that much. Ultimately, if you enjoy a good crime drama, and could use a break from middle of the road summer tentpole movies or animated features, The Infiltrator is a great way to spend your money at the box office this weekend. The Infiltrator opens on July 13.

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Ryan Scott at Movieweb
Ryan Scott