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Wednesday , March 22 2023

Cranston goes undercover in ‘Infiltrator’ – Damon returns as ex-CIA assassin in ‘Bourne’

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In this image released by Broad Green Pictures, Bryan Cranston appears in a scene from ‘The Infiltrator’. (AP)
In this image released by Broad Green Pictures, Bryan Cranston appears in a scene from ‘The Infiltrator’. (AP)

There’s no shortage of drug trade dramas on the big and small screens, and Bryan Cranston has the unique misfortune of having been in one of the best. It makes his decision to go anywhere near that genre again a curious choice.

“The Infiltrator” starring Cranston as an undercover agent who loses track of himself in the glamour of the lie, is not “Breaking Bad” nor is it trying to be. Yet the shadow of that defining, once-in-a-lifetime role continues to follow the actor as he reaches beyond Walter White.

The film is actually based on a true story — that of federal agent Bob Mazur (Cranston), who in the mid-1980s collected evidence around the money laundering practices of the bigwigs in the drug trade for a number of years by posing as Bob Musella, a fancy business man with mob ties. He followed the money in the most literal sense, befriending those in the drug business and the crooked bankers embroiled in the operation of shuffling the dirty money around legitimate institutions.

The years-long operation led to the arrest and indictment of 85 big time criminals.

But for such an extraordinary story, “The Infiltrator,” from director Brad Furman, feels very by the books. That’s not necessarily a bad thing for those looking for a straightforward crime drama. But passable is not enough to stand out in this already overcrowded genre.


It’s framed as a “one last job” for Mazur, a family man who dabbles in undercover work that has been getting a little dangerous. He’s skeptical of his partner Emir (John Leguizamo, who was in Furman’s “The Lincoln Lawyer” with Cranston), a fellow undercover agent in it for the thrills, but it’s his job and he’s going to see it through. And whaddaya know, Mazur finds out he kind of likes living the high life as Musella — the expensive clothes and cars, the marbled mansions, the all-night parties and the power of being a trusted insider in the high-stakes hustle.

He indulges in nearly everything except for women, which gets him in a bit of trouble when he declines a paid-for prostitute because he says he’s engaged. His boss (Amy Ryan) then has to back up his lie by assigning a green agent, Kathy Ertz (Diane Kruger), to pose as Musella’s fiance.

Kruger’s Kathy is frustratingly underused. She’s little more than eye candy in Bob’s game and then Furman expects us to care when the film inserts a scene between her and Mazur’s real wife Evelyn (Juliet Aubrey) where Kathy has to pick up Mazur’s real wedding tux for his fake wedding as Musella.

I wish there had been a narrative break here like they used in “The Big Short” to tell the audience that yes, this preposterous encounter really did happen. Because the clumsy way in which it’s executed not only doesn’t achieve the emotional depth it thinks it does, but is a glaring and borderline offensive contrivance rooted in some retrograde assumptions about women.

“The Infiltrator” might have done well to take a page from “Argo,” which knew to let the characters service the story, instead of using the story to service the character. Cranston is good and fearsome as Mazur, but he still feels underdeveloped. Also, “The Infiltrator” often feels more manipulative than informative, like the late-in-the-game entry of Pablo Escobar confidant Roberto Alcaino (Benjamin Bratt) and his loving family which sparks a crisis of conscience in Mazur as the clock ticks down to the big bust.


Defaulting to “big and movie-like” just makes everything feel cliched, when interesting and true would have been more than sufficient.

“The Infiltrator,” a Broad Green Pictures release, is rated R by the Motion Picture Association of America for “strong violence, language throughout, some sexual content and drug material.” Running time: 127 minutes. Two stars out of four.

 Actor Matt Damon returns as a troubled former CIA assasin in the latest edition of the hit “Bourne” movie series this month, reprising a role he says was physically tough to get ready for over a decade and a half since he first took it on.

“Jason Bourne” — the fifth installment of the franchise — hits movie theatres on July 27, starring Damon as a conflicted, restless hero who resurfaces at the Greek-Macedonian border a decade after going off the grid.

At the movie’s European premiere in London, Damon said it was a “lot of fun” to be back in Bourne’s shoes as he returned to work with familiar faces. But physically — preparing for a movie that features intense fight scenes and a major car chase — was challenging, the actor said.

“It was hard to get ready for it, much harder than when I was 29 — I’m 45 now, so it’s whole different animal,” Damon, who sat out the fourth movie in the series, told Reuters on the red carpet. “But you know, that’s a good problem to have.”

Asked who would win a tussle between Bourne and another legendary cinematic spy, James Bond, Damon was non-committal. But he had little doubt about who he would back as the next actor to play the MI6 spy: British actor Idris Elba.

“I like Idris – yeah, I think he’s brilliant,” said Damon. “I’ll watch him in anything and he makes everything he’s in better. He would make that franchise better.”

In the latest Bourne edition — based on the novels by Robert Ludlum — co-star Julia Stiles returns as fellow operative “Nicky Parsons” while Alicia Vikander, a longtime “Bourne” fan herself, debuts as a prodigy hacker in the CIA director’s team.

“The Bourne franchise was one of my absolute favourites — I’m a big fan,” Vikander, dressed in a silver sequined dress, gushed on the red carpet. “It was a real pinch-me moment when I actally saw myself, saw the film for the first time a week ago and I was like ‘Oh my God, I actually got to be in one of them!’” (Agencies)

By Lindsey Bahr



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